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FPUD rescinds Dark Sky Community endorsement

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

The Fallbrook Public Utility District rescinded its previous endorsement of establishing Fallbrook as an International Dark Sky Community.

FPUD’s board voted 5-0 March 27 to rescind its support to add Fallbrook as a International Dark Sky Community. FPUD’s board had issued a letter of support for the process at the district’s September 2022 board meeting.

“We’re better off not to take a position on that,” said FPUD board member Don McDougal.

The rescission does not place FPUD in opposition to International Dark Sky Community status for Fallbrook but rather eliminates the previous position. “It doesn’t involve water,” McDougal said. “We did not want to endorse one way or the other because it doesn’t fit into the purview of the water district.”

In August 2022, the Fallbrook Community Planning Group voted 13-0 to write a letter to the International Dark Sky Association expressing the planning group’s interest in becoming a Dark Sky Community and to request an update to the county’s Zoning Ordinance to add Fallbrook to Zone C of the county’s Light Pollution Ordinance.

Two planning group members have spouses on the FPUD board; Stephani Baxter supported the motion and Lee DeMeo was absent from the planning group meeting. Other members of the planning group asked FPUD to support the initiative, and the September 2022 FPUD meeting included the letter of support.

“When this was originally presented to us back last year it was noted that this was a voluntary program,” McDougal said.

Since 1988, the International Dark Sky Association has recognized communities on all six populated continents as dark sky communities. A Dark Sky Community shows dedication to the preservation of the night sky through the implementation and enforcement of a quality outdoor lighting ordinance, dark sky education, and citizen support of dark skies.

A Dark Sky Community also excels in its efforts to promote responsible lighting and dark sky stewardship and to set good examples for surrounding communities. Borrego Springs and Julian are currently the two San Diego County communities with International Dark Sky Community status.

The county’s Light Pollution Ordinance has three zones. Zone A is for the areas within 15 miles of Palomar Observatory or Mount Laguna Observatory. Zone B applied to the rest of the unincorporated county before Zone C was created for areas eligible for International Dark Sky Community certification.

All three zones have three classes of lighting: Class I addresses color-important lighting, Class II is for safety and security lighting, and Class III covers decorative and aesthetic lighting. In Zone B, which currently includes Fallbrook, unshielded Class I lighting is prohibited while fully shielded Class I luminaires of any type or intensity are allowed.

The Zone B standards for Class II lights allow unshielded luminaires activated by motion sensors or entrance luminaires not exceeding 2,000 lumens. Allowed fully shielded Class II lighting fixtures in Zone B are luminaires up to 4,050 lumens, low-pressure sodium or narrow spectrum amber light emitting diodes or another light source with the same limited spectrum of any intensity, and high-pressure sodium on private roadways.

In Zone B illumination of up to 2,000 lumens is allowed for unshielded Class III lighting while shielded Class III lighting permits low-pressure sodium or narrow spectrum amber LED or another light source with the same limited spectrum of any intensity along with luminous tube lamps.

In Zone B, all Class I and Class III lighting must be turned off between 11 p.m. and sunrise except for on-premise signs which may be illuminated while the facility is open to the public, off-premise signs which may remain lighted until midnight, outdoor illumination of a sales or other business area which is in use, and sports or recreational field lighting.

Lighting for on-premise signs must be shielded where feasible and focused to minimize light spill into the night sky or onto adjacent properties, and all lighting for off-premise signs must be aimed downwards and fully shielded.

For Zone C, a maximum of 50,000 lumens per gross acre is allowed on a site which may include one or more lots as determined by county building officials. Correlated color temperature lighting must be used and the illumination must utilize low-pressure sodium or narrow spectrum amber light emitting diodes or another light source with the same limited spectrum.

All Class I lighting in Zone C must be fully shielded while for Class II and Class III all luminaires emitting more than 1,000 lumens must be fully shielded. Class II lighting which is not fully shielded must not exceed 10% of the maximum allowed lumens per site or 10% of the 5,000 minimum lumen allowance, whichever is greater.

For Class III lighting, regardless of shielding status, lighting must not exceed 20% of the maximum allowed lumens per site or 20% of the 5,000 minimum lumen allowance, whichever is greater.

In Zone C, all Class I and Class III lighting must be extinguished two hours after sunset or within 30 minutes after the close of business, whichever is later, until one hour before sunrise except for on-premise signs which must be extinguished one hour after sunset until one hour before sunrise unless the business is operating, off-premise signs which must be extinguished one hour after sunset until one hour before sunrise, outdoor illumination of a sales or other business area which is in use, and sports or recreational field lighting.

All off-premise signs in Zone C must have a luminance of no more than 100 candelas per square meter between sunset and sunrise; for electronic signs the luminance shall be measured under the conditions of a full-white display. The illuminated surface area of an individual sign may not exceed 200 square feet.

New installations of outdoor lighting on public properties and rights-of-way in Zone C may only be installed upon determination by the director of the responsible department that the lighting is necessary for the safety and welfare of the general public and that the result can only be achieved through the provision of outdoor lighting and not through other passive means such as reflectorized roadway paint or markers. All new public lighting must be regulated with adaptive controls so that the lighting is restricted to times, places, and amounts required for safe occupancy or use.

If an area is added to Zone C, all outdoor lighting must comply with the requirements within 10 years of the Zone C adoption. “It ended up being a mandatory program that they would have 10 years to phase this in,” McDougal said.

That only applies to properties under county land use jurisdiction. Federal property is exempt from the county’s Zoning Ordinance. Camp Pendleton is also exempt from county zoning including dark sky requirements.

The properties not exempt from county land use would need to retrofit their lighting to meet Zone C requirements. That would create problems for the Fallbrook Sports Park and for nurseries, who expressed their concerns to McDougal.

Not only would the retrofit be at the property owner’s expense if other funding is not provided, but the standards might impact safety and security for the sports park and might adversely affect growing lighting at nurseries as well as nursery security. The safety and security issue was also expressed by Downtown Fallbrook merchants.

“I started becoming an opponent of it,” McDougal said.

 

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