Save Our Stars

Is Light Pollution Causing Problems for You?

Photo Credit: International Dark Sky Association

Many outdoor lights are extremely powerful and not designed to control the light they emit.  In addition, some of these fixtures are installed and used improperly.  Light from such fixtures has the ability to travel, causing glare and light trespass for nearby and distant neighbors.   (See Definitions below.)

If a neighbor’s lights are causing problems for you, please contact the Save Our Stars Committee for assistance via e-mail:   Leave a telephone number and name and one of our volunteers will call you.   We keep a file of informational materials and have a free brochure about outdoor lighting.   We have found that providing information as part of a non-confrontational, informal contact can often motivate neighbors to correct the problem.  Also, see section on Code Enforcement in What Are We Doing About Light Pollution, Work with Local Government.

If 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.

ABC’s of Dark Sky & Neighbor Friendly Outdoor Lighting

(See D. Definitions, for information on technical terms used below.)

A. Why should I install dark sky and neighbor friendly outdoor lighting?

1. Prevents glare, light trespass and sky glow.
2. Conserves energy, saves money.
3. Provides needed safety and security.
4. Restores healthy human circadian rhythms.
5. Protects nocturnal animals.
6. Enables all to enjoy the stars at night.
7. Maximizes usefulness of the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope observatory at UCSB Sedgwick Reserve in our Valley.

B. What does dark sky and neighbor friendly outdoor lighting include?

1. Fully shielded fixture positioned so no light shows above the horizontal plane.
2. Motion sensors and/or timers to keep lights off when not needed.
3. Energy-efficient light bulbs (lamps) with low watts and lumens.
4. Fewest number of light fixtures possible with minimum height.

Dark Sky Friendly Lighting Gallery – USE THESE

Photo Credits Internaional Dark Sky Association, Poulsen

Rogue’s Gallery of Problem Lighting –  REPLACE OR SHIELD THESE

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Mercury vapor yard 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

C. Where can I buy fully shielded outdoor light fixtures?

Within our county, California Electric Supply and most hardware and home stores carry a few security light fixtures that are fully shielded or can order them .  All carry light sensors and timers.

Santa Barbara lighting stores such as The Lighting Boutique (Everything Electric) and Tri County Lighting carry some fully shielded, architectural outdoor lighting fixtures and are glad to order such fixtures for you.

Arcadia Design and Earthform Design encourage clients to use fully shielded landscape lighting as does Chaparral Enterprises’ owner-contractor.  Locally, All Around Landscape Supply can order fully shielded landscape fixtures.

Starry Night Lights, a Utah online firm, focuses on sky friendly lighting.  Their website,, provides educational information as well as a very extensive line of appropriate lighting, including light shades (shields).  If ordering from them, use the code, SOS, for a 10% discount.

D. Definitions

Photo credit: International Dark Sky Association

1. Glare: Light shining into the eye that results in discomfort or reduced visual performance and visibility.
2. Light pollution:  Any adverse effect of human made light.
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).
8. Lumen:  Amount of light emitted by a light bulb (lamp).
9. Watt: Amount of electrical energy used by a light bulb (lamp).

More information? International Dark Sky Association

For more information about fully shielded light fixtures and outdoor lighting, visit the International Dark Sky Association’s website:

Photo credit: International Dark Sky Association

W.E. Watch and the Save Our Stars Committee sponsor the Santa Barbara County Section of the International Dark Sky Association (IDA).   We endorse the  IDA’s mission:   To preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting.


What Are We 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 IDA, with a nighttime sky full of visible stars.   All will win – residents, astronomers and tourists.  Working since 2000, our tools for achieving

this goal have been education, awards and work with local government and building professionals on outdoor lighting issues.

Los Olivos 5th graders and teacher with Chuck McPartlin

1. Astronomy in the Schools

In California, science standards require astronomy in Grades 3, 5 and 8.   For these grades, we sponsor astronomy presentations in all the public and private elementary schools in our Valley.  Chuck McPartlin, 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.

2. 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 our free items. Please click here to view our new video presentation “Turn the Lights Down”.

3. 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:

4. 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 requires governmental approval.    Education can motivate other property owners to retrofit existing lighting.

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.

Home Connection - Solvang

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 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.

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. Go to Santa Ynez Valley Plan Update, Appendix H.

Code Enforcement: The above regulations apply to outdoor lighting installed after the effective dates for the regulations.  If  there are new problems with light trespass,  contact government staff who deal with code enforcement.  Staff will determine whether the regulations apply.  If in Buellton, contact Planning, 805-688-7474 and in Solvang, contact the Code Enforcement Officer, 805-688-4414. If in townships or other unincorporated areas within the Community Plan boundaries, contact County Planning, North County Office, 805-934-6250

5. Communication with architects, contractors, electricians.

We educate and consult with building industry professionals about outdoor lighting issues.

How Can I Help?

Photo credit: International Dark Sky Association

Compared to urban areas, the Santa Ynez Valley has beautiful night skies but light pollution has dimmed the stars significantly over the years. Working together, we can achieve darker skies and brighter stars while preventing neighbor problems due to light pollution.  We welcome your help.

1. Correct 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 light bulbs.)
  • Change the angle of your lighting fixture, so light shines down toward the ground.

To 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.

2. Positively 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 help buy student T-shirts and instructional items.  (W.E. Watch, P.O. Box 830, Solvang CA 93464)

4. Join W.E. Watch and its Save Our Stars Committee.

Who does not know that it is on the darkest nights
that the stars acquire their greatest splendor?
Dom Helder Camara, Brazil