Golden Inn lighting appeal 2

Six parking lot lights on the south side of the Golden Inn & Village in Santa Ynez will be changed to project a warmer color even though the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission denied an appeal filed by neighbor Mark Brooks over the light pollution the lights are causing.

A second appeal of the exterior lights at Golden Inn & Village in Santa Ynez was denied March 13 by the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission, but as with the first appeal, a change ordered by commissioners may provide neighbors with some relief from glare.

Commissioners unanimously denied the appeal filed by neighbor Mark Brooks over glare from parking lot and driveway lights at the affordable senior apartment complex on the southeast corner of Highway 246 and North Refugio Road.

But commissioners directed the owners of the complex to change the color temperature of the lights on six poles, which the project’s electrical engineer said could cost “thousands of dollars” each.

The brainchild of noted entertainment reporter Rona Barrett, the Golden Inn & Village was approved by the County Board of Supervisors in December 2014 and developed by the County Housing Authority and the Rona Barrett Foundation.

During construction, changes were made to a number of features, including the lighting, and following the opening of the complex in November 2016, neighbors complained of light pollution from the project.

The Planning Commission retroactively approved the changes to the approved plan in September 2017, a decision that was appealed the following month by Mark Books and Patti Stewart, both of whom live on Lucky Lane adjacent to the site.

Their appeal focused on light pollution in their neighborhood from the 20-foot light poles that replaced the approved 8- and 14-foot poles and flooding of their properties allegedly caused by a failure to construct the stormwater basins as approved.

The Board of Supervisors denied their appeal in March 2018, although the decision required the developer to install a motion sensor to activate the playground light at 50 percent luminosity after hours and add screening along the south side of the lot to block vehicle headlight glare from the Lucky Lane neighborhood.

As required by the development plan, the changes were considered by the County Board of Architectural Review and given preliminary approval in December 2018 provided two light poles on the south side of the senior apartments had new heads installed to control the spread of the light and to reduce the color temperature from 4,000 degrees to 3,000 degrees Kelvin.

Color temperature is a method of describing the appearance of light, with 5,000 degrees K equivalent to daylight — a “cool,” very white, almost bluish color. As the color temperature drops, it becomes “warmer” and more yellowish, which is sometimes referred to as a “softer” light.

The light heads were replaced but with 4,000 K fixtures that did little to reduce the glare, according to Brooks, who then appealed the Board of Architectural Review’s approval of the lighting, and that brought it back to the Planning Commission.

Appeal issues

Brooks’ appeal said the lighting on the south side of the Golden Inn did not meet the specifications of the Santa Ynez Valley Community Plan Design Control Overlay, the Santa Ynez Valley Outdoor Lighting Ordinance and the Board of Architectural Review bylaws and guidelines.

“The lighting head changes … have made little difference, if any at all,” he told commissioners March 13, adding that with the 20-foot poles located 15 feet from the building, light is reflecting off the yellow walls and the white PVC railings on second-floor balconies.

“Lighting has always been an issue with this project,” Brooks said.

But he said a bigger issue is the county process that resulted in the changes to the plan not being reported by developers, not caught by inspectors during construction and then approved after construction was complete.

Brooks also claimed notices were not sent out about the Board of Architectural Review hearings.

“How can anybody trust this commission or the (Board of Architectural Review) if the rug is pulled out from under our feet,” he said. “I’m concerned about the process.”

Third District Commissioner and Chairman John Parke expressed some confusion over what remedy Brooks was seeking.

“What do you want?” Parke asked.

Brooks responded, “I really don’t know what can be done.”

He said the poles could be lowered, but that would cost $60,000 to $80,000 each.

“I don’t understand why there can’t be something that’s just retrofitted around the light head to help shield the light from going onto the building,” said 2nd District Commissioner Cecilia Brown.

Heather Gray, principal electrical engineer and president of Gray Electrical, said that solution was mocked up, and they found it would cast a dark line on the side of the building.

Gray said any external element would modify the LED optic controls and would not result in a favorable outcome, adding that even the neighbors would not like it.

When commissioners suggested that changing the color temperature of the light was simply a matter of “changing a light bulb,” Gray explained the lights didn’t use bulbs but consisted of LEDs in a housing, which meant the entire head beacon would have to be replaced at a cost of “thousands of dollars.”

She pointed out the lighting design was meant to provide continuity throughout the project while meeting standards for illumination and safety, and she argued against changing the color temperature, which she called a “design aesthetic.”

“I think, visually it would draw attention to this area if you change it, because it would be different,” Gray said. “I feel like it would be distracting, my personal opinion.”

She also said changing the color temperature would not have any effect on the performance.

Brooks disagreed, asserting it would be less glaring, and commissioners agreed.

The replacement light beacons, however, will have to go back to the Board of Architectural Review for approval.

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News Editor

Mike Hodgson is news editor at the Santa Ynez Valley News, where he writes about local government, special events and the people who live in the Valley. He has been a photographer, writer, news editor and managing editor at weekly newspapers since 1972

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