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Supervisors OK 'dark skies' designation for Julian, Borrego Springs

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Posted at 3:47 PM, Nov 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-18 18:48:33-05

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The San Diego County Board of Supervisors Wednesday gave final approval to a measure to reduce light pollution in two rural communities.

The amendment to the county's Light Pollution Chapter ordinance covers the Julian and Borrego Springs Community Planning Areas. Both will now be considered "Zone C" to receive a Dark Sky Community designation, which limits the total amount of light per acre and has more restrictive standards for signage or nighttime sports.

During their regular meeting on Oct. 28, supervisors approved the ordinance amendment on first reading, and also found it to be exempt from the state's Environmental Quality Act, as it does not affect land use or density.

Taking effect in January, the ordinance will support Julian in becoming an International Dark Sky Community and update Borrego Springs' light pollution standards.

According to the county, changes willinclude new lighting standards (for color type, levels and shielding) and sign illumination. The county will give existing developments 10-year grace period to come into compliance.

Dark skies are important to astronomers for better viewing in rural communities, along with businesses that benefit from related tourism. San Diego County adopted a light pollution policy in 1985.

Public outreach sessions found that residents in Borrego Springs and Julian were supportive of new regulations, according to the presentation to the board.

Ordinance enforcement will cost an estimated $20,000 in fiscal year 2021-22.

The cost for residential property owners to upgrade their lighting ranges between $50 and $460, while a retail store owner might pay between $110 and $2,600, according to the county.