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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Proposed Dark Sky Ordinance Is Sent to ZORACES

• Planning Commissioners Urge Swift Adoption of New Standards

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council, at its meeting this week, directed the staff to start “the preparation of a comprehensive citywide lighting ordinance,” by sending the proposal to its Zoning  Ordinance Revisions  and Code Enforcement Subcommittee and to consider hiring a consultant or expert to help planners.
The city's planning commission recently approved a recommendation to the council to initiate a citywide lighting ordinance.
Some planning commissioners came to council chambers to urge members to move forward.
Commissioner David Brotman told council members that current regulations “are woefully inadequate,” and that no standards have been established.
“We need to have an ordinance,” he said.
Commissioner Mikke Pierson agreed. “It just makes sense,” he said.
Commissioner John Mazza noted that it is very easy for planners and the planning commission to comply with standards. “It really helps,” he said on the matter. “The lighting guys agree with the dark skies guys. It should not be controversial. Pretty soon our codes won’t apply,” he said.
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 only has general lighting standards, which require 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, stadium lights, followed by renewed focus on a lighting plan for the Trancas Market shopping center.
The council 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 council 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,” said Benya. “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.”
Benya, who said he thought a consultant would cost no more than $5000, 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, he said.
The council deliberated for some time and discussed the four options the planning director had suggested.
“There is a lot more detail [to consider],” said Councilmember John Sibert.
Councilmember Joan House said, “Malibu is unique. Malibu is not one size fits all.”
“I have to agree with that. Malibu is different. It is best to start with ZORACES. I support option one,” said Mayor Lou La Monte.
“Yes, we can take it up quickly,” said ZORACES member Sibert.
“I think we all agree,” said Councilmember Laura Rosenthal, who made the motion for option one.
The planning director had advised that if the council wanted 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, which they decided to do. 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, which the council also wanted to consider and was included in the motion
Most, if not all of these options will require funding for the amount of staff or specialist work required, according to the planning director.
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, according to experts.
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, according to Benya
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, according to the planning director.
Each city and county ordinance differs in the level of detail. The county ordinance regulates the 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 is a relatively new ordinance,” Parker Bozylinski told the council.

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