New Lighting Regulation Would Make Rancho Pitch Black

By Phil Trubey

March 4, 2022

The last time the exterior lighting regulation was revised was back in 1998, twenty four years ago. So there is no doubt that we need a new lighting regulation. Work on this go-around of the lighting regulation was started over two years ago. A first version of the proposed regulation was posted for member comment about 1 1/2 years ago. Right from the get go, there was disagreement between the Board and Art Jury with regard to landscape uplighting.

I ran a poll about this issue, results here.

I wrote a backgrounder about “Dark Skies” and what it means here.

I wrote about one of the debates the Board had amongst themselves here, and I must say I still think that was one of my best debate summaries I have ever written. It still makes me chuckle.

Anyways! Here’s the link to the very latest, most freshest lighting regulation that the Board just voted to be posted for member comment. Without substantial member input, it is likely this new regulation will be voted to be put into effect at the next board meeting, so please review and send your comments to

Landscape Lighting: Only Path Lighting Is Allowed

In a nutshell, the only exterior landscape lighting going forward is downcast path lighting, which is a big change from the current regulation which allows up to twelve uplights. No tree or bush uplights are now allowed at all. No decorative lighting (like tree wraps) unless used for holiday decoration (and must be removed December 26 if for Christmas).

Even the International Dark Skies suggested regulations don’t prohibit landscape uplighting.

Patio Lighting

Patio lighting must all be downcast only and have tight beam angles. Also no chandeliers or more ordinary room illumination lighting above an enclosed patio table.

Again, the Dark Skies association has no restriction like this in their suggested regulations.

Zero Light Trespass

Zero, and I mean zero “light trespass” from one property to the next from outdoor lighting, verified by a photometer. Is that even physically possible? That would mean as you drive around Rancho, you would see nothing but blackness.

Security Lighting

I found an oddly specific item in the regulation:

14.0404.05 Security and Safety Lighting. Limited use of flood or spotlights may be permitted, provided that the lights are motion-activated and equipped with an automatic timing device that turns the lights off automatically after 10 minutes. Light systems shall be controlled by a lighting transformer with a controller unit that can turn lights off and on by diming and transitions. Most major lighting manufacturers allow the resident to control all lights by way of a smartphone. Security lighting shall allow for gradual illumination upon activation. The activation control shall allow for a at least 5 second transition from dark to maximum light. The device shall also use the 5 second transition to turn off the light.

So you can’t install regular old security lights that have a motion and photo sensor? This requirement of a 5 second on to off and off to on transition is something you’d see in high end lighting control systems, which seems like overkill for a typical security light.


Even with these major changes, one Board member tried to make the case that it wasn’t restrictive enough. The regulation does allow for landscape lighting, which now means only path lighting, to be lit until 11pm. In the Board meeting, Director Laurel Lemarié made a case for that to be changed to only allow lights until two hours after sunset. I guess we would all need to carry flashlights when visiting friends in the winter months.

When we did our own RSF poll, it was clear that the existing restrictions were felt to be adequate by almost 2/3 of residents. This proposed regulation is a major change in policy for Rancho. Just as we had a community wide vote on things like roundabouts versus traffic lights, and for spending our dues on large projects, I would hope that such big regulation changes would also go to a member vote.

If implemented fully and consistently, this regulation would make Rancho appear to be a black hole (zero light trespass). Is that what we want or need?

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