Cedar Mill
Community Website

Cedar Mill News
Volume 6, Issue 11


November 2008

Dark-sky friendly lighting comes to Washington County

dark-sky good
The Good, Bad and Ugly of outdoor lighting illustrates how different fixtures produce useful or wasted light. These are good...

by Bruce Bartlett, Chair, Citizen Participation Organization #1

The International Dark-Sky Association (www.darksky.org) fights light pollution, which it defines as any adverse effect of artificial light including sky glow, glare, light trespass, light clutter, decreased visibility at night, and energy waste. They estimate that Americans waste $2-4 billion dollars a year, and create 38 million tons of carbon dioxide, in addition to other pollutants, through wasteful lighting uselessly pointed at the heavens. And there are effects on wildlife, and aesthetic effects as well, leading many local residents to ask, “where did all my stars go?”

Efficient street lighting directs the light toward the things that need to be lit. CPO 1 member Erik Mace recently wrote a typical comment: “A developer just completed phase 1 of a project in Westhaven, right behind St. Vincent’s, and the lights are horrible at night!” In terms of public safety, very little crime occurs above the streetlights so why are the second stories of so many houses brightly lit? Up until now, the answer has been tradition, ignorance, and the lack of specifications in the Washington County Community Development Code requiring non-polluting lights.

Dark-sky bad
These are bad...

Now, the good news is that Washington County has recently revised its street light illumination standards to require “Dark Sky” compliant fixtures on all streets in both new developments and on county roadways. Design requirements include level of lighting and type of fixture. Some of the important considerations are: no light projected above the horizontal; properly designed lighting layouts; only the level of lighting needed for the designated use; minimized glare and “light trespass.” Washington County requires lighting layouts by licensed lighting designers which are reviewed by County for consistency with County standards for the roadway classification and specific application.

According to Tom Tushner, the Washington County Traffic Engineer who is responsible for the new standards, the new standards apply to the full range of functional roadway classifications (arterial, collector and local streets). “We will be working with the cities in examining a range of fixtures that meet our standards and make transfer of jurisdiction of roadways at the lower functional classifications (local and neighborhood streets) because the long term plan for the County is that these will be city streets eventually,” Tushner said. “There will be circumstances where we have to match or closely match existing fixtures that will not in totality meet the new standards. For example, on the Murray project from Cornell to Highway 26 the consultant has come up with an acorn fixture that is dark-sky friendly, and nearly matches the look of the fixtures used in the adjacent Cornell Road project.”

Dark-sky ugly
and these are UGLY!

The county adopted Dark Sky standards for major road projects last spring, but they have now been extended to all public roads. There are many already-approved development plans using the old standards that will have to work their way through the system, so it will take several years before the new standards are fully implemented. Existing lighting systems will not be affected, although CPO 1 may do some research to identify simple and relatively inexpensive fixes for problem lights.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about problem street lights, contact Nancy Schmidt. the county’s Street Lighting Coordinator, at  (503-846-7619, or nancy_schmidt@co.washington.or.us.



Sign Up Now to receive
The Cedar Mill News by email each month

Cedar Mill News Subject Index
for past articles

Published monthly by Cedar Mill Advertising & Design
Publisher/Editor:Virginia Bruce
12110 NW West Rd
Portland, OR 97229