Light Pollution

Light Pollution
New field lights at Hoover High loom over Talmadge, but pose no risk to aircraft every 4.5 minutes.

Many residents think light pollution will be the worst aspect of unfettered nighttime use of the PLHS athletic facilities. In fact, the School District’s redevelopment czar offered Loma Portal residents free window blinds in an unsuccessful negotiation prior to the School Board’s project approval. What, no free earplugs?

The School District will use eight lighting towers, four of them seven stories tall, or 72 feet above grade and 245 feet above sea level, near the highest point of Loma Portal surrounded primarily by a single-story residential neighborhood that is mostly dark at night. Additional light poles with rise above the existing grandstand and above the new 500-seat aluminum bleachers.

These poles will hold a total of 46,036 watts of LED lights (Page 1-13 of the Draft EIR), roughly equivalent to 460,360 watts of incandescent lights, or 46,036 traditional 100-watt light bulbs, a shocking change for a neighborhood that is minimally lit with very few street lights (including those few quaint, remaining decorative lights in the middle of intersections). Loma Portal sits atop a peninsula that is bounded by the dark ocean to the west, mostly dark Mission Bay to the north, mostly dark San Diego Bay to the east (with mostly lit Downtown four miles distant), and dimly lit residential neighborhoods, unlit Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery and the Pacific Ocean to the south.

About 10% of the field lights will be pointed upward to illuminate the football, increasing the glare for aircraft pilots overhead.

This will be the brightest lighting project in Point Loma history, easily visible from Mount Soledad in La Jolla and Tijuana, Mexico. The lights will serve as a navigation aid to mariners and a legal hazard to aircraft using Lindbergh Field, requiring at least nine red lights atop the new light towers and atop the new press box above the grandstands in order to meet federal aviation warning requirements.

The lights will utterly change the nighttime character of Loma Portal.

Was the School District sensitive to PLHS neighbors’ anxiety over light pollution? It was sensitive enough to the Federal Aviation Administration’s order to lower the height of the lights from 90 feet.

Maybe the School District will become sensitive to a judge’s order.

But for now, the District No. 1 concern regarding lights is this gem:

“The primary environmental concern associated with sky glow is whether it would interfere with the nighttime astronomical observations, particularly at Mt. Palomar Observatory,” the School District was told by its own experts in its own EIR. “It is unlikely that the uplighting would result in a substantial change in the amount of light pollution or sky glow in the surrounding area.”

Whew.

The EIR didn’t mention any uplighting impact on aviation safety as even a secondary environmental concern.

If the District is implying PLHS stadium lights will be visible from Mt. Palomar, we agree.

And if you live within a mile or two, it will be visible from your home.  If you live with a block or few, it will be visible inside your home. Maybe a set of free window blinds isn’t such a bad idea after all.

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