Lighting Regulation Update

By Phil Trubey

June 27, 2022

The Association hosted a workshop on the lighting regulation last week. About twenty members attended. We were split into three groups each with their own flipboard easel, a designated scribe and a building department employee to help out. Each group talked about what they liked/didn’t like and what changes they’d recommend.

The building department will take this feedback, and produce another lighting regulation draft for further public comment. One possibility I heard in the workshop is that we might get a revised new lighting regulation that tackles largely uncontroversial items (like moving from watts to lumens) with more contentious items left for a future revision.

Landscape vs House Attached Lighting

One of the insights I got from the workshop was the distinction between landscape lighting, and building attached lighting.

The currently proposed lighting regulation limits all outdoor lighting to 500 lumens per fixture. I think this is appropriate for landscape lighting fixtures. Here’s a picture of 400 lumen per fixture landscape lighting.

400 and 425 lumen landscape lights, both path light and uplights.

House attached lighting is actually mandated by San Diego building code and considered a safety issue. Each external door must have a light, and the County permits unshielded luminaries to output 2,000 lumens for such purpose. The reason I bring this up is that the proposed new lighting regulation would restrict these to only 500 lumens (and shielded only), which in my opinion, is too low. Here’s a picture of a 900 lumen light by a doorway. You can see that it doesn’t light up the ground much past the doorway.

I would recommend that we allow at least 1,000 lumens for house attached lighting, if not more. Also, we should allow the Art Jury to accept multiple lights for a primary entrance based on architecture and aesthetics.

900 lumen doorway light.

County Requirements

In the workshop, the Association gave us a very simple summary of County lighting code requirements. However, our lighting regulations have always been more restrictive than County requirements.

Just for completeness, here’s a link to the County lighting regulation. It isn’t long. We are located in Zone B and here’s their summary chart:

As you can see, it allows unshielded 2,000 lumen lighting, which is substantially more light than what the proposed new lighting regulation allows.

Safety and Security

Another area that the County regulations are very permissive on is so called “safety and security” lighting which is allowed to be turned on all night long. Our proposed new lighting regulation also allows this. Excepting commercial facilities, is there a good reason to allow homeowners to leave their house attached lighting on past 11pm? I would argue that all lighting be turned off by 11pm, only excepting motion activated security lighting.

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