Save Our Stars

Dark Sky Friendly & Neighbor Friendly 

Outdoor Lighting

Photo of the Santa Ynez Valley at night

Photo of the Santa Ynez Valley at Night

[Photo courtesy of Inept Creations]

“What is needed is a cultural change – the expectation that an
essential part of a safe and aesthetically pleasing community is
outdoor lighting that is energy efficient, dark sky friendly and
neighbor friendly.”  
Susan Musgrove, SOS Member

We invite you to learn how using dark sky compliant outdoor lighting fixtures will:

  • Improve your home or business lighting.
  • Save money and energy.
  • Enhance everyone’s view of our Valley’s night sky and its stars.
  • Protect our nocturnal animals.

dark sky fixtureA. What is a “dark sky” outdoor light fixture? 

It is a fully shielded fixture where the bulb (lamp) is not visible. Fixtures are available to complement varied architectural styles at prices comparable to unshielded fixtures.

Hillside locations face the additional problem of being above other properties.  The lamp in the fixture must be recessed even more to prevent light pollution.

Mercury vapor yard/farm lights need to be removed throughout the Santa Ynez Valley. The type of light they emit makes it impossible for astronomers to use spectography at the UCSB Sedgwick Reserve observatory – one of the most valuable tools for studying the night sky.

Lighting fixtures


B. What can I do about problem lights in my neighborhood?

If a neighbor’s lights are causing problems for you, please contact the Save Our Stars Committee for assistance via email:

Leave a telephone number and name and one of our volunteers will call you.   We have found that providing information as part of a non-confrontational, informal contact can often motivate neighbors to correct the problem.

If informal contact does not resolve the problem, you can call a Code Enforcement Officer.

neighborhood lightingCode Enforcement: If there are problems with light trespass, depending on where you live, contact either city or county Code Enforcement staff.  They will determine whether the outdoor lighting ordinances can be used to help correct your problem.

If in Buellton, contact Planning, 805-688-7474 and in Solvang, contact the Code Enforcement Officer, 805-688-4414 X220.   If in Santa Ynez Valley townships or other unincorporated areas within the Community Plan boundaries, contact County Planning, North County Office, 805-934-6250.   (See “Work with Local Government-Ordinances and Design Guidelines for links to these documents.)

street lightsIf a streetlight in Buellton or Solvang is beaming light into your home, contact PG&E.  Before phoning its Call Center at 1-800-743-5000, obtain the pole number from the pole plus the street and nearest house number.  Then report the problem and request either a shield or a replacement flat-lens light fixture.

Streetlights fitted with shields can be seen on Riverview Drive in Buellton and on Alamo Pintado Road, Holly Lane, Kolding Avenue, and Viborg Road in Solvang.

CALTRANS has installed flat lens streetlights at intersections with traffic signals on Highway 246  across the Valley.

C. What is the Save Our Stars Committee Doing About Light Pollution?

The long-term goal of the Save Our Stars Committee is to make the Santa Ynez Valley a “dark sky region,” as defined by International Dark Sky Association (IDA), with a nighttime sky full of visible stars.   All will win – residents, astronomers, tourists and the natural world.  Working since 2000, our tools for achieving this goal have been education, awards, work with local government and building professionals on outdoor lighting issues.


Education and Awards

Astronomy in the Schools

In California, science standards require astronomy in Grades 3, 5 and 8.   We sponsor astronomy presentations for these grades in all the public and private schools in our Valley. Chuck McPartlin, Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit member, presents these programs and the Save Our Stars Committee provides books and instructional materials for teachers plus Planet T-shirts as prizes for randomly selected students.

school awardsmore school awardsWe cosponsor an art-music project “Visions of the Night Sky” with the Wildling Museum.  Classroom art and music experiences as part of teachers’ astronomy units culminate in a student art exhibit at the Museum.  Please click here to view our music video presentation “Turn the Lights Down, Please”.

Night Sky Protection Awards

The Committee periodically presents awards to all categories of buildings and installations that achieve model outdoor lighting.  Awards have been given to the individuals, businesses and organization pictured below.

Community Presentations and Publications

Committee members offer presentations on Protecting the Night Sky for community groups. Free brochures and bumper stickers are available.

Please contact our committee by e-mailing if you are interested in a presentation or any of our free items.

Work with Local Government

Outdoor lighting and sign ordinances and/or design guidelines are the primary tools for controlling outdoor lighting for new construction or remodeling projects which require governmental approval.    Education can motivate other property owners to retrofit existing lighting.

Ordinances and Design Guidelines

1. The City of Buellton, as requested by our Committee, included outdoor lighting requirements in its Community Design Guidelines, adopted in 2006.   However, the older sections in the Municipal Code have not been revised to reflect the updated information in the Design Guidelines.   The Municipal Code section can be accessed via,  Go to Municipal Code, Title 19 Zoning, Chapter 19-04.130 Lighting.

2. The City of Solvang, as requested by our Committee, revised its Exterior Lighting Ordinance in 2006.   The Save Our Stars Committee made recommendations regarding sign lighting, which were included in the 2006 and more recent Sign Ordinance Update.,  Go to City Code, Title 10 Building Regulations, Exterior Lighting, Chapter 11-12-18 and Sign Regulation, Chapter 11-13- 4-V and 5Q.

3. Santa Ynez Valley Community Plan Area. An Outdoor Lighting Ordinance is included in the Santa Ynez Valley Community Plan Update, which was approved by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on October 6, 2009.  It applies to the townships and other unincorporated areas of the Valley included in the Community Plan area.

The Outdoor Lighting Ordinance is Appendix H in this document.   The Plan’s map is the first item in the Table of Contents.

4. Santa Barbara Countywide Ordinance.  The County Long Range Planning Department plans to begin work on a countywide Outdoor Lighting Ordinance in 2015, which would apply to all unincorporated areas of Santa Barbara County.

5. Monitoring Use of Ordinances.  SOS Committee members monitor the work of the Central County Board of Architectural Review (CCBAR), the Buellton Planning Commission and the Solvang Board of Architectural Review and the Planning Commission.

6. Communication with architects, contractors, electricians.

We provide information to building industry professionals about outdoor lighting issues.

Photo credit: International Dark Sky Association

How Can I Help?

Looking at the urban photo above, you may think, “Our Santa Ynez Valley is nothing like Los Angeles.”   However, light pollution has dimmed our view of the stars significantly over the years.   Each family or business with non-compliant outdoor lighting makes it harder to see the stars.

Working together, we can achieve darker skies and brighter stars while preventing neighbor problems due to light pollution.

1. You can begin by correcting lighting problems on your own property.   

Some solutions are simple:

  • Buy low wattage, energy efficient light bulbs when the current ones burn out.   (Much lower wattages needed for fluorescent and LED light bulbs.)
  • Angle lighting fixtures so light shines straight down toward the ground.
  • Use as few fixtures as possible with minimum height.

lightsTo fully correct some problems you may need to:

  • Buy sensors or timers for existing light fixtures.
  • Buy shields for existing light fixtures or
  • Replace non-shielded light fixtures with fully shielded ones.

Where can I buy fully shielded outdoor light fixtures?

Within our county, lighting and home improvement stores carry some fully shielded, architecturally attractive outdoor lighting fixtures and security fixtures. Lighting stores can order many others from online resources.  In addition, hardware and electrical supply stores may carry some fully shielded security light fixtures, sensors and timers.

Online, query “ dark sky” or “dark sky compliant outdoor lighting” and you will find many retail and manufacturing firms listed.  You may order directly from many of them.

If you have an extensive lighting project, you may wish to contact local lighting designers or engineers for assistance. Many local architects, landscape designers and contractors support the use of dark sky compliant fixtures  required by local outdoor lighting ordinances in the Santa Ynez Valley.

2. In a positive way, educate family, friends and neighbors about neighbor friendly outdoor lighting and the benefits of dark skies with bright stars.

3. Contribute to W.E. Watch’s Astronomy in the Schools Fund to buy student T-shirts and instructional items.  (W.E. Watch, P.O. Box 830, Solvang CA 93464)

4. Join WE Watch and its Save Our Stars Committee.

E. Glossary 

1. Light pollution:  Any adverse effect of human made light (See 2,3,4).

2. Glare: Light shining into the eye that results in discomfort or reduced visual performance and visibility.

3. Light trespass:  Artificial light that produces unnecessary and/or unwanted illumination of another property.

4. Sky glow:  Brightening of the night sky due to man-made lighting.

5. Safety:  Freedom from the risk of injury.

6. Security:  Protection from criminal activity.

7. Fully shielded light fixture:  fixtures, with a solid barrier, that emit no light rays above the horizontal plane and effectively obscure the visibility of the bulb (lamp).  Describes “dark sky compliant” light fixture.

8. Lumen:  Amount of light emitted by a light bulb (lamp).

9. Watt: Amount of electrical energy used by a light bulb (lamp).

F. More Information

idaFor more information about fully shielded light fixtures and why it is so important to prevent light pollution, visit the International Dark Sky Association’s website:

We endorse the  IDA’s mission:   To preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting.

WE Watch and the Save Our Stars Committee sponsor the Santa Barbara County Chapter of the International Dark Sky Association (IDA). astronomical unit

Also, the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit,, has helpful astronomy information and links.