TELL OUR BOARD OF SUPERVISORS YOU SUPPORT THE DARK SKY ORDINANCE
Ventura County Supervisors need to hear now from Ojai Valley residents who support the proposed Dark Sky Overlay Zone Ordinance. The Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on the ordinance at their September 25 meeting. Comments should be received by September 19 and it would be great to pack the board meeting with voters who support the ordinance. (Details below.)
Most of the unincorporated areas of the Ojai Valley, including Oak View, Casitas Springs, Mira Monte and Meiners Oaks, are on the threshold of joining the City of Ojai in having a Dark Sky ordinance that will significantly reduce harmful light pollution and expand our night sky view of its celestial gems .
Virtually all of the Ojai Valley residents who spoke at two Ojai Valley Municipal Advisory Council meetings and the July 16 County Planning Commission meeting strongly supported the proposed Dark Sky ordinance. The County planning commissioners recommended it with minor tweaks. The Ojai Valley County Planning Commissioner supported it and our County Supervisor Steve Bennett supports it. Moreover, there have been virtually no complaints about the City of Ojai Dark Sky ordinance since it was approved in April 2013.
Nevertheless organized opposition from business and industrial interests outside of our valley who would not be affected by the ordinance are using disinformation to fight it. For example, a county planning commission member (a commercial real estate broker outside the valley) voted against the ordinance, based on urban commercial development security arguments that were refuted by statements from Ojai law enforcement.
Thus, it is critically important that all Ventura County Board of Supervisors hear from the residents and businesses in the Ojai Valley who support protecting the Dark Sky. Send your e-mail by September 19 to the Clerk of the Board at firstname.lastname@example.org in order for it to be posted on the official agenda provided to the Supervisors and the public. Deliberations on this item start at 1:30 pm in the regular meeting room on the first floor of the county offices at 800 S. Victoria Ave. in Ventura. We also encourage you to speak at the public hearing.
To help with messages we are providing information and talking points below. Additional background information on the proposed ordinance and its benefits are available for review at the County Dark Sky webpage – vcrma.org/ojai-valley-dark-sky-ordinance. Links to previously submitted letters of support from your fellow Ojai Valley residents can be found on the webpage by scrolling down to the July 26 Planning Commission meeting notice and clicking on the link.
The proposed County Dark Sky ordinance is similar to the one already enforced in the City of Ojai. It requires lighting to be less intense, not spill over into neighboring properties, and be shielded and directed downward. Residences will have one year for their existing lighting to be upgraded to meet the new standards, but will immediately be required to turn off all exterior lighting after 10 p.m. (or whenever people are no longer present outside as in an event that goes past 10 p.m.). The exception being security or other essential lighting where motion sensors would be required. The new standards would be required for existing lighting in commercial and industrial zones within three years of the ordinance taking effect, with the same 10 p.m. exterior light shut off requirements as residences. Existing agriculture uses were given additional exceptions.
DARK SKIES TALKING POINTS
- Overwhelming community support – Ojai MAC voted unanimously in favor and every resident who spoke or wrote the county supported the ordinance. The Ojai Dark Sky ordinance was approved five years ago without opposition and no complaints since. County Supervisor Steve Bennett, who lives and represents the Ojai Valley, requested this ordinance four years ago. Phil White, the planning commission member representing the Ojai Valley made the motion to recommend approval of the proposed ordinance. Four years is a long time for a community to wait for approval of a measure that has overwhelming local support and will bring the entire Ojai Valley under equal dark sky protection.
- Ojai ordinance is working great –It’s time for the entire Ojai Valley to enjoy the benefits of the Dark Sky with a measure that covers the areas outside the city limits where residents also support the concept. Local law enforcement wrote that the Ojai ordinance has not presented any security problems. Additionally, the City of Malibu, Kern County and rural areas of Los Angeles have approved similar dark sky ordinances and no serious complaints from their residents have been reported.
- Reduces harmful effects of light pollution on natural cycles that support animal and plant habitats and ecosystems vital to the Ojai Valley’s uniquely protected rural communities, nature preserves and the surrounding Los Padres National Forest. For example, light pollution can cause trees to bud early, disrupting their natural growth sequence, lead to massive loss of insects critical to food development, and negatively effect to biological rhythm of birds.
- The draft ordinance has already been modified to meet the concerns of raised by organized agricultural interests.
- Having an unfettered view of the night enhances our quality of life and our local economy. People live and visit the Ojai valley because of its natural beauty, outdoor music and arts events, wilderness hiking and biking and, yes, its unique dark night sky. This makes our region special and needs to be protected and enhanced with approval of this ordinance.
- This is a local issue proposed and supported by local residents – Ojai Valley should be able to have stricter control of its night sky as long as those affected by it support it. This is a local measure that does not affect any other communities beyond the Ojai Valley. If other communities want or don’t want to protect their night sky, that will be decided by residents and businesses of those communities. Our ordinance and our experience implementing it can be a model for others, if and when other communities in the county are interested.
- There is no evidence that outdoor lighting deters crime. In fact, a number of law enforcement studies have found that bad outdoor lighting can decrease safety by making victims and property easier to see, especially in rural areas where most other properties are not lighted.
- Outdoor lighting can cause safety hazards for drivers due to glare from commercial or residential unshielded bright lights.
- Research cited by the county planning department suggests artificial outdoor lights can negatively affect human health, increasing risk of obesity, depression, sleep disorders, diabetes, breast cancer and more.