PALM SPRINGS – A high school stadium, with all its bright lights and noisy football action would be feet away from homes at a quiet Rancho Mirage neighborhood.
The Tuscany neighborhood close to Ramon and DaVall is next to where Palm Springs Unified wants to build a new high school.
Resident Emma Moreno says, “Until about a year ago, I worked at Cathedral City High School and I know how much noise the school can make. I’m really upset because it’s going to be in our neighborhood. And between the lights, the kids, the marching bands, football games, parades, it’s a lot of noise, a lot of lights and a lot of confusion.”
So the homeowners raised money to sue, calling themselves the “Committee of 1,000.” Even the city of Rancho Mirage joined in, calling it an “easily avoidable lawsuit.”
They took issue with the district’s massive environmental report, saying the best location for the high school stadium was close to the homes.
“The district wouldn’t even respond. They wouldn’t acknowledge that we had sent the settlement offers,” said the homeowners’ attorney Raymond Johnson.
The district fought back, losing in a local court but winning round two on appeal.
Assistant Superintendent James Novak adds, “The school district will do whatever we can, within reason, to be a good neighbor to the Tuscany homeowners now and for the next several years.”
This year-long legal battle has cost the district more than $180,000. Now, it may go to the California Supreme Court where the legal costs may skyrocket.
Johnson explains, “If this goes to the Supreme Court and they decide in the favor of the Committee of 1,000, then the total attorney’s fees that they would be looking at probably would be $700,000 to $750,000.”
This is taxpayer money we’re talking about, and with 123 teachers receiving new layoff notices recently, we asked if a district loss would mean more bad news for teachers.
Novak says, “It would come out of the facilities budget. It would not affect any of the teacher’s salaries or custodial staffing, anything like that. It’s a necessary part of doing business. The alternative of not defending a lawsuit that you know that you’re right and is the best location and has the best plans is to start from scratch.”
It’s said that good fences make good neighbors. Whether any fence will be good enough for these residents, and the courts, remains to be seen.