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Wednesday, April 03, 2013

City Council Members to Consider Enactment of Dark Sky Ordinance

• Comprehensive Lighting Measure Discussion Follows Contentious Local Debates Related to the Issue
BY BILL KOENEKER

Planners are scheduled to ask the Malibu City Council at its meeting next week how it wants to direct the staff on “the preparation of a comprehensive citywide lighting ordinance.”
The city’s planning commission recently approved a recommendation to the council to initiate a citywide lighting ordinance.
Neither the city’s Local Coastal Program nor the Malibu Municipal Code have detailed lighting standards, according to the city’s Planning Director Joyce Parker Bozylinski.
The LCP has general lighting standards, which requiring all lighting to be minimized and shielded as it relates to Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas or scenic areas, according to the planning director.
The issue was a hot topic all of last year after battles erupted about lighting for various high school projects including parking lot lights, ball fields and renewed focus on a lighting plan for the Trancas Market shopping center.
The commission also heard from lighting expert James Benya, a professional engineer and lighting designer, who was one of the authors of the International Dark Sky Association/Illuminating Engineering Society’s model lighting ordinance.
He talked to the commission about the impacts of night lighting and the model lighting ordinance.
“The MLO is an outdoor lighting template designed to help municipalities develop outdoor lighting standards that reduce glare, light trespass and sky glow,” wrote Parker Bozylinski, in a staff report. “All types of properties, including residential, are covered by the ordinance. The MLO is considered a valuable guide for environmentally responsible outdoor lighting in North America.”
The planning director went on to say such standards reduce expenses, save energy and cut green house gas emissions. The MLO was developed jointly by the IDA and the IES over a period of seven years; the most recent version was adopted in June 2011.
The partnership between the IDA and the IES encouraged broad adoption of comprehensive outdoor lighting ordinances.
“Any community, regardless of size, can use the MLO to develop proven, comprehensive and environmentally sound outdoor lighting practices. Several unique features allow the MLO to be customized. The first innovation is the use of lighting zones to classify land use and to implement appropriate lighting levels for each zone.
“Zones range from LZO, designed for pristine natural environments and limited outdoor lighting to LZ4 for limited application in areas of extensive development in the largest cities.
“The second innovation limits the amount of light used for each property. An individual parcel is given a lumen allowance based on the lighting zone, the size of the property and the degree of development on the property. Third, the MLO uses the backlight-upright glare rating system for luminaries which provides more effective control of unwanted light,” the planning director noted.
“Many cities and counties in California have adopted dark skies ordinances including Los Angeles County. The county’s rural outdoor lighting ordinance was adopted last year and covers the area directly adjacent to the city. Each city and county ordinance differs in the level of detail. The county ordinance regulates he maximum height of light standards, hours of operation, shielding and total lumens. Staff is not aware of any city or county in California that has adopted the standards found in the MLO since it s a relatively new ordinance,” wrote Parker Bozylinski.
The planning director advised that if the council wants to move forward with the preparation of a citywide lighting ordinance, there are four options. Refer the ordinance concept to the city’s Zoning Ordinance Revisions and Code Enforcement Subcommittee for initial feedback. Direct staff to prepare an ordinance.  Include a lighting ordinance in the zoning code update that is currently underway. Hire a consultant, with expertise in lighting to prepare an ordinance..
Most, if not all of these options will require funding for the amount of staff or specialist work required, according to the planning director.

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