Neighbors complain about field overuse

Residents of Costa Mesa's Monticello and Newport Landing communities are facing off with Vanguard University over what they say is excessive use of the school's soccer field.

Bright field lights, early morning and late-evening play, noise, music and parking are among the annoyances they ascribe to the Costa Mesa-based youth soccer club using the complex.

Vanguard last year entered into a 10-year joint-use agreement, with the option to extend to 20, with Pateadores, allowing the group to use the university's soccer field on Vanguard Way, said Kelly Kannwischer, vice president of university advancement.

As part of the agreement, the club assisted the university, which is located near Costa Mesa City Hall, in paying for improvements to the complex.

Vanguard broke ground over the summer on the new soccer complex, which includes grandstand seating for a turf playing field and three futsal courts — soccer on a hard surface with a less-bouncy ball — and grandstand seating for spectators, over the summer.

Construction is expected to be completed by the end of February or early March, Kannwischer said.

"We've been in the process of updating and improving the facility over the past several months," she said. "We'll go back to the soccer joint-field use that we've had for years with Pateadores."

The university and soccer club had an informal arrangement for three years before the more-formal agreement to make improvements now in place.

However, the increased parking problems and noise from practices are a new problem for residents living next to the field, said Dominique Secrest, a member of the Newport Landing homeowner's association.

Newport Landing homes are just a few feet away from the edge of the pitch, making residents more subject to noise and lights shining into their windows at night.

Practices start as early as 8 a.m. and go until 10 p.m. seven days a week, Secrest said.

"Even people with double-paned windows can hear the soccer whistle and music starting up at 8 in the morning," she said.

The club members also park in the limited space next to the field, making an already-troublesome parking situation for residents even more difficult, Secrest said.

"We all bought by a university," she said. "We understood that there was going to be activity, but we didn't buy in for this additional noise and traffic."

The city is open to making the area next to the residences permit-only parking, but nothing has been decided, said Raja Sethuraman, transportation services manager.

Permit parking is implemented when there's an overwhelming use of parking by drivers coming from outside the community, he said.

"A majority of parking is used by the residents, and the people that come to the soccer games take up what little spaces are left over," he said.

However, university officials contend that they instruct all visitors to park in campus parking lots.

"We've done our best to over-communicate," Kannwischer said. "Of course, we can't make anyone do anything."

Residents also complain that the lights from the field shine into their windows late into the night, rendering their children unable to sleep. Some have placed foil on their windows.

"At this point, the neighbors are looking to find a way to restrict the hours of use," Secrest said. "An 8 a.m. start time is way too early. The hours should be 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. with lights off at 8 p.m., at the latest."

Vanguard operates in accordance with city ordinances, which require field lights to be turned off by 11 p.m.

"We work very hard to be good neighbors and comply with every city regulation," Kannwischer said.

Vanguard, a Christian college, was once suffered financial problems and was burdened by millions in debt.

Though the university has recovered, residents speculate about whether money was the motivation for the agreement with Pateadores, Secrest said.

Kannwischer declined to disclose the terms of the agreement between Pateadores and the university, including how much money Vanguard received.

"The terms of the contract are between the university and Pateadores," she said. "There is a financial investment on both sides. Our value is creating a facility that is safe and is something that the community can be proud of."

A news release issued by the soccer club said the agreement was a multi-million dollar endeavor.

"This complex will serve as our flagship location and help keep the Pateadores positioned as one of the top soccer clubs in the nation for many years to come," Pateadores President David Barry wrote in the release.

Pateadores board members declined to comment further.

Members of the Monticello homeowners' association were not immediately available for comment.

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