Planning Commission Chair Jo Ruggles and Commissioner Charleen Kabrin overreached a bit in the eyes of their colleagues and Planning Director Craig Ewing when they sought last week to limit the proliferation of bright light emanating from the inside of hillside homes.
Ruggles and Kabrin said residents are regularly complaining to them that glare from the interior lighting of hillside homes — particularly the more contemporary homes that feature floor-to-ceiling windows and track lighting — are creating a visual blight and interfering with views of the nighttime sky.
“You look at the hills and they are no longer dark,” said Kabrin. “There are just lights everywhere.”
Residents are also saying a home’s bright interior lighting can invade the privacy of adjacent homeowners, when light is cast onto the patio or decks of a neighbor’s home.
Frank Angel told commissioners, “Some houses that I have seen, in my neighborhood, in particular, are becoming a real disturbance to neighbors.”
Ruggles and Kabrin had hoped to include language in the proposed hillside housing design guidelines requiring property owners to minimize the impact of bright, outwardly beamed interior light in their home designs.
But they did not win any support from their colleagues, and the proposal was met with resistance by Ewing. The planning director said he would have to know the interior lighting plans of a home to know the impact the light would have outside of that home.
“Few planning directors and few planning commissioners like to get inside the house and say how things should look inside,” he said. “But when you’re dealing with the issue of interior lighting, you’re doing exactly that.”
Commissioner Ed Lipnick and Ewing agreed alternatively that the local nuisance law could be amended to include bright interior lighting that invades the privacy of nearby property owners.
“I’m making enemies in other departments of City Hall as we speak,” said Ewing.
While an attempt to regulate interior lighting of hillside homes did not go far, the commission approved, on Ruggles motion, additional restrictions on exterior lighting.
Under the design guidelines for hillside homes, exterior lighting can not diminish views of the night sky, disturb natural habitats or disturb nearby property owners.