Riverside County supervisors introduced an ordinance Tuesday to regulate outdoor light pollution and trespassing. A public hearing is set for Nov. 15. Members of the Riverside Astronomical Society are seen here last year in Beaumont.

BY DUANE W. GANG
STAFF WRITER
dgang@pe.com

Published: 25 October 2011 09:23 PM

Tired of the bright light from your neighbor’s house keeping you up at night?

Riverside County supervisors are trying to help. The board took the first steps Tuesday toward adopting new rules regulating light “trespass” and pollution.

“This is an ordinance that will give us the tools necessary to deal with individuals who want to either harass their neighbors through lighting or just unintentionally have lighting that should not be in place,” said Supervisor John Tavaglione, who sponsored the measure.

The county has long had light ordinances, but they have been limited to certain areas. For instance, one ordinance regulates outdoor lighting within 45 miles of Palomar Observatory in northern San Diego County.

Tavaglione’s proposal, which comes back before supervisors at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 15 for a public hearing, would cover all unincorporated areas.

According to the proposed ordinance, all outdoor lighting must be located, adequately shielded and directed in a such a way that “no direct light falls outside the parcel of origin” or onto the public right of way.

Light trespass, according to the ordinance, occurs when light is observed from the complaining party’s property.

Several residents welcomed the board’s action.

Bill Larsen, who lives in an unincorporated area near Corona, said a former neighbor had a massive light in his backyard that kept Larsen up at night. Larsen complained to supervisors last year, a move that helped prompt the board’s current action.

“I have had blare lighting coming in at all hours of the night and keeping me awake,” Larsen said.

Even offenders should like the proposed law, because it will translate into savings on their electric bills, he said.

“It keeps lights from being used in an offensive manner,” Larsen said.

Wildomar resident John Garrett also told supervisors he supports the measure. He is a member of the International Dark Sky Association and the Temecula Valley Astronomers.

The proposed ordinance will allow residents a better view of night skies and give them a legal remedy for light trespassing.

“You guys get it,” Garrett said. “I hope it becomes a model for our cities to adopt as well.”

The proposed ordinance would not apply to outdoor lighting used to illuminate public streets, signs and sidewalks or authorized public and private monuments. It also would exempt holiday decorations, provided they are used for no more than 30 days in any 12-month period and are off between 11 p.m. and sunrise.

If finalized, the ordinance gives residents three to six months to comply.

Any person who violates the law once or twice in a 180-day period would be guilty of an infraction, according to the measure. More than two violations would constitute a misdemeanor.

Fines range from $100 for the first violation, $250 for a second offense, or $500 or up to six months in jail for additional violations.