Malibu officials move forward on citywide lighting ordinance

The shift from incandescent to fluorescent is on.

Amid pressure from the community to correct outdated and vague lighting standards in the city’s current zoning code, the Malibu City Council on Monday voted unanimously to get the ball rolling on the drafting of a citywide lighting ordinance.

The council voted 5-0 to direct the hiring of a lighting consultant and public meetings to be held on the drafting of the ordinance.

Malibu dealt with several lighting issues in the last year, including parking lot light plans at the Trancas Shopping Center, 70-foot stadium lights on the football field and parking lot light fixtures at a new proposed parking lot at Malibu High. The stadium lighting resulted in ongoing litigation among high school neighbors, the City of Malibu and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

Present at the meeting were three sitting members of the Planning Commission, which recommended the update.

“We have struggled with this all the time on the Planning Commission,” Commissioner John Mazza said. “We can’t in a meeting sit there and try to decide what kind of fixture to have and what kind of light bulb…especially when codes have things like 60-watt light bulbs.”

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The council’s 5-0 vote does two things in particular. One is to schedule at least one and possibly several public meetings of the Zoning Ordinance Revisions and Code Enforcement Subcommittee (ZORACES) to mold a citywide lighting ordinance and receive more community feedback from residents and commercial landowners.

The city will also issue a request for proposals (RFP) to hire a lighting consultant who will draft the ordinance and, in turn, ease the workload for the city’s planning department.

Planning Commissioner David Brotman, speaking in favor of the overhaul, asserted that current city standards would be useless in a matter of years if the city does not update them.

“Current lighting regulations listed in the [Local Implementation Plan], the [Land Use Plan] and the municipal code are woefully inadequate and fur thermor e obsolete,” Brotman told the council. “References are made throughout the code to a 60-watt light bulb as the maximum allowed … The federal government is out to get rid of the use of incandescent light bulbs, and when they do we won’t have anything to use as a law.”

Councilmembers Skylar Peak and John Sibert sit on ZORACES, which has not met since October 2012.

Planning Director Joyce Parker-Bozylinski said a ZORACES meeting would be scheduled within the next month before the city hires a consultant.

“We would first have a ZORACES meeting and, based on direction from ZORACES, that will help us develop the scope of work for the consultant,” she said. After passing through ZORACE, the Planning Commission and the City Council, the California Coastal Commission would also need to approve a Malibu lighting ordinance, Parker-Bozylinski said.

With the planning department working on other projects such as a controversial chain store ordinance and several big development projects in Malibu’s Civic Center, Parker-Bozylinski said, “Our plates are full right now.”

Had the council opted not to hire a lighting consultant, the planning director warned the department would have had to prioritize its most important projects and knock off others currently less pressing for the city.

Other speakers urged the council to adopt the Model Lighting Ordinance (MLO) written by experts in the International Dark Sky Association and Illuminating Engineering Society.

“The Model Lighting Ordinance is an outdoor lighting template designed to help municipalities develop outdoor lighting standards that reduce glare, light trespass, and sky glow. The standards also reduce expenses, save energy, and cut greenhouse gas emissions,” according to a staff report prepared by Parker- Bozylinski.

James Benya, one of the MLO’s co-authors, said the MLO took seven years to develop and was “tested against all known scientific standards” to assure it was a fair template.

Councilmembers agreed that city standards were not up to par and the MLO could serve as a strong model, but opted to move forward with caution and what they hope will be plenty of community input.

“[The ordinance discussion should go] to ZORACES only because we have homeowners who should be alerted this is coming up,” said Mayor Pro Tem Joan House. “I also think commercial property owners should be brought in to have a chance to go over it.”

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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