The Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission on Thursday approved changes to an influential policy that governs the use of athletic fields by the city's busy sports community.

Among the commission's adjustments to the field-use allocation policy, which will be forwarded to the City Council for final approval, was language that would permit portable lighting at several fields, most of which are owned by the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.

The campuses include Costa Mesa, Estancia and Back Bay high schools, Kaiser and Woodland elementary schools, Harper Preschool and the Lindbergh Child Development Center. Athletic field lighting would also be allowed at the state-owned Fairview Developmental Center.

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City staff warned that lighting infrastructure is often a sensitive topic for neighbors of the schools because of concerns about increased use and noise associated with the fields. Any proposal to add field lighting would involve notifying all residents within 500 feet of a facility and holding community meetings.

Lighted fields are viewed in Costa Mesa as a hot commodity, given their high demand and scarcity.

The policy was also changed slightly based on council direction from last summer, which stipulated lower field-use priority for organizations that compensate their local executive staff or board members.

The rule aims to give nonprofit groups run by volunteers higher priority than for-profit sports organizations.

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Capital improvements

The commissioners also reviewed the city's list of capital improvement projects for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which begins in July.

The bulk of the commissioners' recommendations related to funding the lighting of athletic fields.

Chairman Byron de Arakal, who was reappointed by his peers Thursday, stressed that the city should look into adding lighting and buying the 10-acre Balearic Park from the school district. The budget for the two is $80,000.

City CEO Tom Hatch, however, recommended only the lighting proposal for Balearic, not its acquisition. De Arakal said the idea of the city spending money to improve a school district facility doesn't make sense.

"Why make a capital improvement on land you don't own?" he said, adding that the school district has indicated its willingness to sell Balearic to the city.

"We've got to get on that and start that discussion," de Arakal said.

The commission also suggested a $1.175-million upgrade for the Jack R. Hammett Sports Complex that would add artificial turf to one of the facility's fields. The artificial turf could be used year-round and not need a rest and renovation period, like the natural grass fields require.