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RSF Association seeks input on new regulations on lighting, residential gates

An illustration from the RSF Association's regulation on entry gates.
(Courtesy)

The Rancho Santa Fe Association has posted two new regulations for public input: one on exterior lighting and one on driveway features of gates, fences and pilasters. The regulations will be posted for 30 days for member comments and the board may approve the new rules at its April board meeting.

Chapter 14 on outdoor lighting hasn’t been updated since 1998 and the Association has been working on it for the last two years, trying to find a balance between preventing light pollution on neighboring homes without being too restrictive. It was last posted for comments in summer 2020.

The lighting regulation is very detailed, covering everything from outdoor chandeliers to maximum lumen output, a measurement of a light’s brightness. The regulation addresses appropriate light shielding, uplighting (generally prohibited), downlighting and tree lighting.

Per the proposed regulation, all exterior lighting except for security and safety lighting, and address markers shall be turned off from 11 p.m. through sunrise.

No entry pillar lights are allowed, no unshielded bistro lights, no lights wrapped around tree trunks, nothing that flashes or changes colors (with an exception made for the holiday season). Outdoor chandeliers may only be used in shielded and fully covered patios.

The limited use of flood lights for safety and security is permitted, provided that the lights are motion-activated and equipped with an automatic timing device that turns the lights off after 10 minutes.

All tree lighting is prohibited except within the immediate 25 feet from the residence. Tree lighting is limited to five trees throughout the site and must not be visible from any neighboring property or public roads.

Commercial lighting, such as those on village business, is limited to those necessary for safety, security and identification. Backlit signs, window light boxes, LED displays, iPads or similar devices would be prohibited in the windows of commercial buildings. Currently many village real estate offices use lights to display available properties in the windows at night.

Discussions about lighting in Rancho Santa Fe have often included references to the “dark skies policy” but there is no mention of the phrase “dark skies” in the Protective Covenant. Dark skies are mentioned in the Association’s residential design guidelines and the existing and proposed regulatory code, described as “the maintenance of a predominantly rural darkness characterized by limited and controlled emissions of light that distinctly differ from more intrusive suburban lighting patterns.”

RSF Association Director Laurel Lemarié was the sole vote against approving the lighting regulation for posting at the March 3 board meeting—last year she gathered 88 signatures on a petition opposed to the new rules. Lemarié believes that the regulation has the potential to forever change the community’s character by abandoning the dark skies policy: “We do not want everyone’s lights on until 11 p.m., like some suburb.”

The revised Chapter 42 addresses fences and walls, gates and pilasters at the entrances to residential homes, at the end of driveways that per the regulation, should meander.

“The introduction of prominent entry features, i.e., gates, pilasters and/or wing walls, detracts from the rural open feel,” the regulation states. “The intent of this regulation is to permit entry features that are safe, functional and do not detract from the rural character of Rancho Santa Fe.”

Per the regulation, gates should be open in form and not solid, and not exceed six feet in height or 16 feet in width. Gates should be simple and understated: “Gates shall not be ornate or eye-catching, not too modern or contemporary.”

Pilasters that are not used for gate support are not allowed and must be no more than three feet wide and six feet tall.

Wing walls, smaller walls attached or nearby the entry gate, are also not allowed: “Wing walls lend an appearance of formality and grandeur that is not in keeping with Rancho Santa Fe’s rural atmosphere,” the regulation states.

Comments on the regulations can be submitted to the Rancho Santa Fe Association at memberinput@rsfassociation.org.


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