Owners and tenants on private land in the city of San Diego may soon be able to install brighter and more energy-efficient outdoor lighting under proposed policy revisions unanimously approved Wednesday by the City Council's Land Use and Housing Committee.
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According to a staff report, city officials want to restore balance to outdoor lighting regulations that no longer meet goals of the general plan for public safety and energy conservation. The report says the last changes, made in 2008, were overly influenced by astronomers and "dark sky advocates."
Scientists who view the heavens from observatories atop Palomar Mountain and Laguna Mountain have complained for years about worsening light pollution from San Diego's rapid growth.
"As outdoor lighting increases, the sky gets brighter and brighter and you see fewer and fewer stars," Mt. Laguna Observatory director Paul Etzel told 10News.
He added, "Reflected light from man-made sources, whether off our streets or cars or bad light fixtures that shoot light into the sky, all of them contribute."
The proposed changes still need final approval from the City Council.
City staffers have worked with astronomers and others with a stake in the issue to identify a satisfactory level of illumination.
According to the report, the city has already seen a savings of $1.2 million in energy costs, plus maintenance reductions, by installing new induction lights in public areas beginning two years ago. The rule changes would allow private interests to achieve similar savings.
Kelly Broughton, the city's director of the development services department, told 10News, "Obviously, it saves taxpayers money by using the lighting and reduces energy costs and does so without impacting the environment."
Councilman Todd Gloria said supporting the item was "a no-brainer" because of potential cost-savings and lower energy consumption, which will help the environment.
New city guidelines would regulate color temperatures for outdoor lights and maps would be drawn to make sure lights are dimmer within 30 miles of the observatories on Mt. Palomar and Mt. Laguna.
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