Inyo residents April Zrelak and the late Earl Wilson waged a long campaign to get a dark sky ordinance on the books in Inyo County. They argued that the County was unique in that star-gazers could actually see the stars in the Valley but unless measures were taken, light pollution would overpower those stars.
The issues go beyond simply attracting star gazing tourists to the area. Plants and
critters are wired to respond to seasons; a distinct characteristic of seasons is the variation
from day to night. Artificial lighting messes with that process. In our high desert climate, hours
of daylight signal a change of seasons sooner than temperature changes.
In late fall of 2019, Inyo’s Board of Supervisors wanted to deal with the issue by
recommending rather than regulating. Fast forward to April 12 of this year, the Board will hold
its first discussion on the Planning Department’s proposed outdoor lighting ordinance as an
addition to the County Code. The discussion is an 11 a.m. timed item.
The following are the highlights of the ordinance:
U.S. and California flags have to be taken down at night or be illuminated but limited to the
area of the flag without light trespass. Any up-lighting has to at a temperature no more than
Existing lighting that does not conform to the ordinance can remain but cannot be altered
to extend its useful life. The County can require the light be shielded, filtered, redirected or
replaced to eliminate pollution or trespass.
Outdoor lighting will be installed to prevent glare, light trespass and pollution.
Fixtures are limited to 100 lumens (equivalent of one 10-watt bulb) without shielding.
Fixtures with a maximum of 600 lumens (one 40-watt bulb) have to be partially or totally
shielded in addition to an opaque top.
Planning Department staff took the concept of dark skies one step further with a
recommendation to change the County’s lighting areas.
Lighting Zone 1: developed portions of government designated parks, recreation areas and
Zone 2: rural areas
Zone 3: urban areas
Zone 4: special use districts that may be created by a local government through application
to the Energy Commission
The full ordinance is available on the Inyo County website by going to the April 5 agenda