Corona, CA: County Cracks Down On Shining Too Brightly

The new ordinance proposes penalties for property owners who allow their exterior lights to shine too brightly and infringe on neighbors' lots.

Are your neighbor’s lights shining too brightly?

There’s probably going to be an ordinance against that very soon.

Riverside County supervisors today tentatively approved an ordinance mandating fines as high as $500 for residents of unincorporated communities whose outdoor lights create a nuisance.

Supervisor John Tavaglione's “light trespass'' measure was unanimously accepted by the Board of Supervisors and set for a public hearing on Nov. 15, when it's expected to be formally adopted.

The proposed ordinance stipulates that all outdoor light fixtures “shall be located, adequately shielded and directed such that no direct light falls outside the parcel of origin, or onto the public right-of-way'' and “shall not blink, flash or rotate.''

“This ordinance will give us the tools necessary to deal with individuals who want to harass neighbors through lighting, or who have lighting in place that impacts communities,'' Tavaglione said.

The ordinance proposes penalties for property owners who allow their exterior “luminaires'' to shine too brightly, infringing on neighbors' lots. Tavaglione said excess lighting not only wastes resources but can also “jeopardize the health, safety and welfare'' of those exposed.

Corona-area resident William Larsen inspired the supervisor to start researching a light trespass law more than a year ago when he presented pictures to the board demonstrating how a neighbor's security lights were illuminating the second-floor of his home every night, all night.

“This glare lighting ... has been keeping me awake,'' Larsen told the board today. “I don't have a problem with security lights, as long as they shield down. It's a sorry state that we have to put some of these laws into effect.''

Tavaglione noted that the last time the board addressed the issue was in 1988, but that was mainly to regulate light fixtures emitting rays that seriously disrupted star-gazing and research at the Palomar Observatory in northern San Diego County.

Today’s proposed ordinance does provide for some exceptions, including street lights and lights utilized by public safety agencies, as well as lights used for public or private monuments and those activated for special occasions.

The ordinance would exempt “luminaires used for a holiday decoration, provided it is used for no more than 30 days in a 12-month period, and is off between the hours of 11 p.m. and sunrise.''

Supervisor Jeff Stone expressed concern that there was no exemption for public recreational facilities, such as athletic fields. Tavaglione said he will incorporate that exemption before the next hearing.

A complaint of light trespass would have to be filed with the sheriff's or code enforcement departments, whose personnel would conduct a follow-up investigation to confirm a violation.

The first two violations in a six-month period would be classified as infractions. A third offense in a six-month period would be treated as a misdemeanor, according to Tavaglione.

The minimum fine for a first offense would be $100. The penalty for a second offense would be $250, and the penalty for three or more offenses would be $500 -- with the possibility of up to six months in county jail, the supervisor said.

Every night that the trespass continues would constitute a separate offense.

Property owners who have committed light trespass prior to adoption of the ordinance would have three to six months to rectify the problem, or face penalties.

“The ordinance is a step in the right direction,'' said Supervisor John Benoit, an amateur astronomer. “It's becoming ever more difficult to find a location (for star-gazing) ... This could do a lot to limit light pollution in the Coachella Valley.''

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