Letter: LED Lights update – Please attend and speak up at MCC, Weds, Sept 9

{summary}The LED lights project for the Coastside is still in process and will be discussed at the MCC meeting next Wednesday. While the county seems to be leaning towards the amber colored lights they have not agreed to diffusing covers or shields to prevent overflow to adjacent homes and yards. The proposed solution for the overflow and glare into homes and yards is to hand manufacture and install shields after the fact, when requested, despite availability for factory installation. There will be no diffusing covers to soften the glare. A couple of MCC members support the existing lights. Others do not. Many comments and letters to Don Horsley or on the county comment web page have stated that the existing lights are too bright and glaring. They are noticeably emitting more glare than the existing lights due to the lack of covers. The MCC has informally requested a dimmer sample light be put up and considered as a mitigation for the glare. The county has not responded to this request. The MCC will be discussing a formal letter on this issue. The County is claiming there is little public interest in this issue. Despite the request for public input, letters to DH have not been acknowledged by his office and there is no way of knowing they were received or read. I received no reply to a long letter I sent early this year until I inquired weeks later. While comments made on the County website are on the mcc website, there has been no comprehensive gathering of all public comment. I know several people who wrote directly to Supervisor Horsley and did not comment on the county webpage which required a multistep registration and was problematic. To influence this decision It is critical that we have speakers at the MCC meeting next week at the GSD office. Please come and speak up for dark sky and soft light in our rural community. I personally have a light next to my home and yard that will pollute my night sky views unless it has a shield. The current fixture has a bulb that directs the light away from the property. Anyone else near a fixture will be impacted by this. Also while the County asked for public input, the numerous complaints about the glare have not responded to with an effective solution. Please let me know if you have any questions and whether you will be at the meeting. Deborah Lardie Montara
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://coastsider.com/site/news/letter_led_lights_update_please_attend_and_speak_up_at_mcc_weds_sept_9

Here are the details on that meeting:

Agenda for September 9, 2015, 7:00 PM
GCSD meeting room, 504 Ave Alhambra, 3rd floor, El Granada
Midcoast LED Streetlights: draft MCC letter - background & data

There’s a lot of opinion and emotion on this subject. I do want to correct one factual error. The county is not “claiming there is little public interest in this issue”. To the contrary, they have said that they received more feedback on this issue than any other recent issue. In the online forum, there were more comments than on the Highway 1 crossings and safety issues. That’s why the installation of new streetlights has been delayed, to accommodate the feedback.

For those who have not been part of the discussions, please review the comments, documents, etc., on the MCC website, and I request (as Chair of the MCC) that you try to come with new comments or issues, rather than re-hashing those already discussed. If you feel you need to emphasize something that’s already been discussed, try to add something new to it. The history and documents can be found here on the DPW issues page

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Here is the MCC’s current draft letter to the county, which I copied from the council’s web site. If you disagree with the letter, or its request to the county, I recommend you speak to the MCC on Wednesday.

September 9, 2015
Supervisor Don Horsley
James Porter, Director SMC Public Works
Subject: LED Streetlights for Midcoast
Supervisor Horsley and Director Porter:

Residents of the Midcoast have requested that the Midcoast Community Council (MCC) work to ensure that the Midcoast is Dark Sky compliant and that we actively work to minimize light pollution.

On March 26, 2014, at the regular MCC meeting, Nicholas Calderon of Supervisor Horsley’s office presented the County’s plan for replacing existing high-pressure and low-pressure sodium streetlights on the Midcoast with more cost-effective LED lighting as part of the PG&E LED Streetlight Turnkey Program.

During May through June 2015, the County conducted a pilot project to determine if residents of the Midcoast support conversion to LED streetlights. Two LED streetlights (one standard white light and one light with amber chip) were installed near each Midcoast post office so residents could see their nighttime effect.

In addition to comments received at regular MCC meetings and comments expressed directly to MCC members, the County’s SpeakOut online forum received public comments for 40 days during May/June. The amber light had the most support.

Some commenters noted that the intensity of the test lights was too high, creating unwanted glare. Other comments touched on the range of area illuminated by the lights and the process for selecting the the color, intensity, and specific models for the LED test pilot streetlights.

The MCC requests that the County install a new test light with the lower intensity setting of 2200K amber (Model #ATB0-20BLEDE53-MVOLT-R2) near each Midcoast post office and allow additional time for public review and comment. The MCC further asks that the County present a clear and detailed process for attaching shields to individual lights after new LED streetlights have been installed.

Thank you for your consideration.



@daveolsonmcc, I noticed that the letter from the MCC doesn’t consider the possibility of installing shields on streetlights by default. I’ve lived here for fifteen years with a light outside my bedroom window and I had no idea that was an option.

Also, did you consider adding motion detectors to some/all of the lights? I’m not sure whether I’d want that, but it does appear to be an option that some communities have exercised.

I addressed the shield issue in a Nextdoor reply to Deborah. The lights are already designed with a pretty well defined footprint. To do further shielding is on a case by case basis; there is no way to do a universal shield, it has to suit the issue being addressed. In general a shield will increase brightness in the unshielded area, and also increase the amount of light being reflected (usually upward) because the light is being directed into a smaller area.

Many people weren’t aware that requesting shielding was possible, even some affected (by older streetlights) MCC council members. Hopefully that aware is increased by this whole process.

In terms of motion sensors for streetlights, I think it’s a generally bad idea. You would have to make the sensor work for a large area, for cars, pedestrians, and bicycles. For that to work, it would have to be extremely sensitive, to the point where branches, wind-blown debris, etc. would all set if off. Also, part of the rationale for streetlights is that you can see areas before you reach them. Having the lights on motion sensors would defeat that. No doubt solvable, but I don’t think it’s practical.

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Is there an update from Wednesday’s meeting?

I’m a photographer and would be interested in taking light meter readings of the sample light and of a few other lights in the area. Is the post office light the current option or has it been superseded in some way?


Just in case it hasn’t already been mentioned, the Dark Sky Society has an excellent set of links to lighting guidelines, including ones for municipal street lights. They’ve been working on this issue for a long time.

Here the link: http://www.darkskysociety.org


@daveolsonmcc, can we get an update on the meeting?

I had hoped to make it, but a combination of a late work day and demands at home made that impossible.

I’m still working on the minutes (our secretary Lisa couldn’t make it, so I took notes) but the very brief summary is that mostly the same issues were raised, with a few calls for delaying. The letter was approved without amendment, and sent the following day. We didn’t have an update by the time of the meeting on when we’ll see the lower intensity lights.

The PCTV video is already up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtRWAv4TuEY

The one at 6th&Main is closest to what will likely be installed, but we are asking for a new demonstration light that is about 25% lower intensity, and likely that lower intensity light (the lowest intensity of that model) will be selected, but we’ll see what the feedback is like. The light at 7th&Main is higher intensity, and whiter (4000K color temperature vs 2200K for 6th and Main, and also for the requested lower intensity light).

Yes, it’s been posted and emailed many times. All 3 of the test lights are dark-sky compliant.

I got the minutes done really late, but they are now up on the website. Some of you have probably seen the Half Moon Bay Review article quoting Jim Porter that they will be installing demo streetlights that are 50% less bright. I’m still trying to get details on what that means.

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Thanks, @daveolsonmcc. Here’s a link to the September 9 MCC minutes.

See my followup in regards to new, dimmer streetlight installation under the Agenda for Wednesday Sep 9, 2015 Midcoast Community Council topic;

I just checked out the light at 6th and Main in Montara. I approached from the back of Montara, heading west on 6th. This gave me the chance to observe a few lights on 6th on the way.

The light is still harsher than I would like, but it’s definitely an improvement over the earlier, brighter LED. The LED’s are deeper in color than the existing street lights. I’m having a hard time imaging the effect of having one of these on every pole in Montara, but I don’t think they’d be any worse in general than what we have now. And they’d be an improvement over those existing lights that have diffusers that spread their glare for long distances.

So, if the new lights will be somewhat dimmer than these, and the county and PG&E can provide us with glare shields in a responsive manner, I think they will be an improvement over existing fixtures.