Meandering
Thoughts

Do You Own One Of These
Unacceptable Lighting Fixtures?
You May Be Ordered To Retrofit!

    The illustration above was used as an exhibit during a Planning Commission workshop.  Included as unacceptable are most all porch lights and any fixture in which the bulb element can be seen.  All light source elements will need to be shielded.  

Posted: June 10, 2021
Updated: June 15, 2021
Newberry Springs Community Alliance
by Ted Stimpfel

Toxic County is social engineering.

Introduction.

    April 1st is long gone, so this isn't an April Fool's joke!

    Get ready to possibly replace all of your current legal exterior lighting fixtures or face civil fines and possibly criminal prosecution!

    We know that BIG BROTHER has gone awry when political leaders start regulating you with their subjective social experimentation. 

    What is going on and who is behind it ?
    (1) The target is to reduce glare from artificial light sources and to reduce artificial light from scattering on atmospheric moisture and airborne particulates.  This creates a halo skyglow that interferes with the viewing of the stars.  Property owners will need to replace all nonconforming exterior lighting fixtures at their expense.
    (2) The supporters are a small special interest group of activists from the Morongo Basin.

1. The leader.

    Leading the pack behind the proposed ordinance is Stephen Bardwell, a resident of Pioneertown.  He is president of the Morongo Basin Conservation Association, and he is the leader behind the county's Third District Dark Sky Committee.  He has been the principal voice behind the initiative, speaking passionately before the county's Planning Commission for the new proposed regulations.

    Q.  So, what is Bardwell's purpose?
    A.  He lives off-the-grid and apparently believes that those who don't believe in his ideology, or who are too slow to react, need to be regulated.

    Bardwell and his Morongo Basin Conservation Association want all manmade lighting shielded.  This shielding would not only reduce skyglow but also darken the cities below the glow.

    There already is an existing Glare & Light Trespass county ordinance.  Bardwell wants to greatly expand it.

2. Damning the beautiful lights.

    One big attraction that draws many urbanites to visit and spend money in the county's mountain resorts is the beautiful city lights enjoyed on the night's drive back.  Mountain roadside lookouts are often busy at night with city light viewers.  For Bardwell, such twinkling lights are a byproduct of glare that must be totally eliminated.

    Business owners want their establishments and their business districts well lighted to warmly attract customers.  Bardwell and his supporters want all exterior residential and business lights reduced and turned off at 11 P.M. or immediately after a business closes.

    Walking on cool summer nights after 11 P.M. will be at one's peril and having exterior residential lights on after 11 P.M. can bring a traumatizing citation.

    Q.  Why should the county go dark at 11 P.M. and retrofit tens of thousands of light fixtures?
    A.  It is to allow a few people, who stay up until after 11 P.M., and who are outdoors, to possibly have a clearer view of the stars.  And, to return to the Dark Ages!

    The infringement upon the masses for this is stupidity that hangs on the fringe of insanity.  When property owners learn that they will have to replace their good exterior fixtures, they're going to be pissed at the County and those responsible.

3. The heavens are drastically changing.

    As I presented at the May 27th Planning Commission workshop, the view of the heavens is drastically changing.  SpaceX's CEO, Elon Musk, has launched over 1,500 Starlink Internet satellites as he is pushing towards his plan of 40,000.

    Other competitors are beginning to launch theirs for an additional 10,000-plus.  And currently, there are 500,000 pieces of space debris, from over 50-years of launches, now being monitored above the earth.  Many twinkling star-like objects are now man-made.

4. Special interests are driving the ordinance.

    Two women from the Morongo Basin testified during the Planning Commission workshop that they have inconsiderate neighbors who have glaring lights that significantly trespass onto their property.

    Rather than personally addressing the problem with their neighbors, or addressing the problem legally as a continued nuisance, they want to inconvenience you and have Code Enforcement have a new bloated Code to remedy their problem.

    From the strong indications from the Planning Commissioners, who are having the Land Use Services Department address some finishing concerns, the Commissioners are expected to recommend the ordinance to the Board of Supervisors who will do the Supes' ♫ Happy Rubber-Stamp Dance ♫ .

    Skyglow and glare do not harm people.  It is not a health nor a safety issue that demands the county's intervention, especially in the remote desert or mountain regions where the proposed ordinance is most targeted.  The proposal is going to upset the norms and the senses of many thousands of people.

5. Unpopular.

    The probability is that 99-percent of property owners DO NOT want the County's infringement demanding that they remove their currently legal exterior lighting fixtures and replace them, and change their lifestyle by turning exterior lights off at 11 P.M. because Stephen Bardwell and his Morongo Basin Conservation Association want to darken the sky for stargazers.

    The County is financially intruding upon property owners unfairly by singling them out for unfavorable and unnecessary regulatory treatment to benefit a small minority special interest group.

    I don't want a few people over 50 miles away in the Morongo Basin telling me how to live in Newberry Springs.  They should remedy their local issues within their own Community Plan.

    The disproportional exercise of the County's police powers on this matter, against property owners, is far too great to be justified on the limited benefit to a few stargazers.  The proposal is not a valid exercise of police powers and the County will need to compensate the property owners for all of the associated costs and damages.

    During my 15-minute workshop presentation before the Commissioners in San Bernardino, I stated that,

    "As the lighting fixtures are legally appurtenant to the structures, and are a permanent part of the design and the ambiance of the structures, the proposed ordinance represents a governmental taking of a portion of the structure.  This makes the County liable for all of the replacement costs."

    I followed up by estimating a potential cost to the county of roughly $50-million to $100-million to have electricians replace the many tens of thousands of lighting fixtures scattered throughout the county.

      "The Takings Clause protects individuals from  
  being forced to bear the full weight of actions that  
  should be borne by the public at large." 
 

  Chief Justice John G. Roberts - Murr vs. Wisconsin (June 23, 2017)

    During the workshop, one Commissioner later asked County Counsel, Jason Searles, whether the County held any financial exposure.  Searles stated no exposure, the proposed ordinance is giving a two-year period (with a possible one-year extension) for the replacement the existing attached lighting fixtures and Searles felt that was sufficient.  That is what other government entities have done.  I was not offered a follow-up opportunity to respond.

    No licensed attorney can be knowledgeable in all areas of the law that includes hundreds of specialties.  I don't believe that Searles understands the basics of Real Estate Law.

6. Point of Law

    A lighting fixture under the law is chattel.  However, when intentionally affixed to a structure, the fixture legally becomes appurtenant.   A permanent part of the structure as the fixture becomes a beneficial use for the functionality and the enjoyment of the entire body of the structure.  The history of this goes way back to early English Law.

    As a point of law, a single appurtenant element (e.g. a light fixture, windowpane, drywall, bedroom, etc.) can not be separated and depreciated of value separately from a structure as the County is proposing in its lighting fixture accelerate depreciation and condemnation scheme.

    Many old homes have the same original porch light, and other exterior lighting fixtures, after fifty-plus years.  The self-serving two-year depreciated life term unilaterally declared by the County to devalue nonconforming light fixtures, and to maliciously label private fixtures valueless, is a blatant theft, abuse of power, and corruption!

    Furthermore, an older attached light fixture has given the structure an associated lighting effect for years that is characteristic of the fixture's design.  This lighting ambiance, whether from a bare bulb or an intricate light pattern, has become a historical characteristic and recognized artistic charm of the structure.

    Lighting fixtures are identified with their structures and they represent an architectural art form that has intrinsic value.  The taking of such an asset represents damages owed to the property owner.

    It is easy to recognize that the County's proposed action is clearly a governmental "Taking" which under the Taking Clause of the State of California's Constitution is illegal unless full compensation is first paid by the County.  (State law is stronger on the matter than federal.)

7. But other governments have done it.

    In chatting with County Counsel, Jason Searles, he seemed to base the legal foundation for his opinion solely in a few small California governments having done a similar ordinance.

    Just because someone else has violated the law without challenge and others have blindly copied, doesn't make the violation legal.

8. State Law already exists.

    As I stated to the Planning Commission,

    "Under the State of California's CALGreen construction regulations, new structures are already mandated to prevent glare and light trespass.  We don't need more confusing redundancy in the Law."

    But this State regulation on new construction is not acceptable to Stephen Bardwell and his Morongo Basin Conservation Association's following activists because they don't want to wait for new construction to replace existing structures.

    They don't want existing structures to be grandfathered in.  They want to force people to immediately meet CALGreen's glare and light fixture standards.  And, like a good child, they want you to have all exterior lights off at 11 P.M.

9. Grandfathering.

    There are many problems with this Glare & Light Trespass proposal.  They range from overt assaults upon mass tourism, safety, and the repression of sacred property rights.  The biggest boner, however, is the lack of a grandfather clause for existing light fixtures.

    Social engineering is being gifted to a special interest group for their ego, political, social, and monetary benefit.  This shouldn't be tolerated in any county.

10. More Systemic Discrimination.

    The County of San Bernardino's government has an organizational culture of systemic discrimination and disenfranchisement against the economically disadvantaged in the rural High Desert.

    This assault on Social Justice transpires through the County's day-to-day operational policies, planning, programs, and the siting of industrial projects in rural communities that the wealthier urban areas of the county do not tolerate.

    In short, the High Desert is the dumping ground for the urban's unwanted.

    The violations by the County against its own Codes and State Law by the Land Use Services Department, the Planning Commissioners, and the Board of Supervisors has demonstrated a callous disregard for the health and the well-being of rural citizens.

    Unfortunately, the County's overriding systemic discrimination is so instilled and rampant within the County's government that it is the bedrock foundation of a culture of willy-nilly discriminatory marginalization that is considered the norm.

    The Planning Commission's expected acceptance of the upscaling of the Glare & Light Trespass ordinance will be yet another example of placing the principle burden upon the High Desert regions and leaving the urban areas, with the greatest skyglow and political clout, relatively untouched.

    I do not find any of the minor Glare & Light Trespass in the desert objectionable.  It has minimal impact, if any, upon stargazing in my community of Newberry Springs.  Rural residents love their independence and value their right to live in freedom.  They are strongly against governmental nitpicking and overreach.

    Living in the open desert with deadly night wildlife, I understand the needs of my neighbors to have security lighting.  A call for the Sheriff's help sometimes requires a dispatch from Barstow over 25-miles away.  I have experienced other response times that have taken hours.  Rural residents are pretty much on their own.

    Lighting discourages two and four-legged predators from entering properties.  Light motion sensors only activate after the preditors are already on one's property and committed!

11. Rural Communities.

    This proposed ordinance will hurt desert communities like economically depressed Newberry Springs.  Newberry homes are on rural parcels of a minimum of 5 acres and many structures utilized barn-style or similar lighting fixtures that are effective and desired for illumination safety.

    The widespread lighting fixtures are used throughout rural America because they are functional for rural living.

    The proposal will not have any noticeable difference to night sky viewing in sparsely populated places like Newberry Springs.  So why should rural residents be saddled in darkness with a flawed County ordinance?

    What Stephen Bardwell argues as unwanted glare is actually valuable surface light-spread which is considered a very important security asset by most rural residents.  Feeling secure on one's property is extremely important and well-lighted properties do deter crime.

    Feeling safe and secure on one's property is a basic that the proposal is Taking.  The County's confiscation of safety not only damages property values countywide but it also intentionally inflicts extreme mental and emotional distress over one's safety that the County may be held liable for.

    People should not be forced to live in darkness.

12. Shielded light vs. floodlight.

    The following two illustrations are undoctored screenshots taken from the County's recorded video on May 27, 2021, at the Planning Commission's workshop.  The video shows two proponents giving a light demonstration of the difference between a shielded light and that of a commonly used floodlight.

    While the demonstration is supposed to support the proponents' position, the demonstration highlights how dangerous it is to restrict visibility.


Video narrative: "This is an example of what is being asked of...
to be accepted by the Planning Commission.
This is an example of shielded light."


Video narrative: "This is a prime example of what
most people are using today." (floodlight)

    While shielded light might have an ambient benefit in a heavily populated urban setting where neighbors live a few feet apart, other than for accent lighting, shielded light offers little benefit in rural areas where homes are on 5 to 100-plus acre parcels.

    Note: In the shielded light illustration above, two people sitting only a few feet from the shielded light are not visible.

    The narration is correct.  Floodlights in rural areas are what "most people are using today."  There is a strong common-sense reason for it.  Floodlights provide the desired illumination.  It is not for Bardwell to tell people that they can not illuminate for safety.

13. County is creating liabilities.

    By forbidding residences and businesses from safely lighting their properties, and by promoting motion sensors that suddenly flash on bright lights that temporarily blind the eyes, the County is mandating requirements that will lead to personal injuries.

    The proposed ordinance will attract litigation to the deep-pocket County that will be legitimately culpable for many nighttime injuries.

    As a single paraplegic claim can run into many millions of dollars, the County's wide-open liability exposure from this proposed ordinance will be substantial.

14. Conclusion.

    This proposed ordinance upgrade has been an open festering cyst that has been oozing pus from the County's Land Use Services Department since early 2020.

    The proposal will only regulate the unincorporated areas of the county and will not include the populated cities where the skyglow principally originates.

    Shielded light and an 11 P.M. curfew also discriminates against the elderly and others who have an eyesight handicap.

    The supporters of the proposal should be addressing their issue by voluntary compliance.  This is a divisive issue that the County should not become involved.

    The responsibility of the chaos stops at the Supervisors' door but others may also be held culpable.  Remember all the players.  They may not have sovereign immunity from Constitutional violations (Stripping Doctrine).

•  end  •

    This blog is a follow-up to the earlier February 16, 2021, news blog warning of the Planning Commission's actions.

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