By Miriam Raftery
Photo: Night sky in Borrego Springs, by Dennis Mammana
November 18, 2020 (San Diego) – San Diego Supervisors today voted to approve amendments to the county’s Light Pollution ordinance which will provide “Dark Sky Community” designation to both the Julian and Borrego Springs community planning areas. The action aims to prevent light pollution, enhancing astronomy viewing and related tourism.
The action comes after the Julian Dark Sky Network asked Supervisors in 2018 to create a way for Julian to meet International Dark Sky Association recognition. Borrego Springs was the first California community to receive that designation in 2009.
"Our community is part of the 1% of the U.S. that can still see the Milky Way. Our distance from the urban glow of San Diego's skies and the surrounding mountains help with our sky quality, but preservation must be intentional," the Julian Dark Sky Network's website states.
Existing county regulations established in the 1980s created protection zones for 15 miles around observatories atop Palomar Mountain and Mount Laguna. The original ordinance had Zone A and B classifications, Z one A being the most restrictive on outdoor lighting for residences and commercial use.
Today’s action creates a third level, Zone C. The new ordinance regulations light shielding, levels, color, and sign illumination.
Residents and businesses in the Julian and Borrego Springs planning areas will have 10 years to comply with the new standards. The estimated costs for residences is estimated to be between $50 and $460, while a retailer could face costs ranging from $110 to $2,600 and a hotel between $580 and $9,500. However, the county analysis notes, since light fixtures typically reach the end of their useful lives within ten years, many of those costs to change lighting fixtures would be incurred anyway by homeowner and business owners over the next decade.