This article is excerpted from a letter submitted March 1, 2021 by Ron and Christine Bieg to the Mayor and Council of the Town of Qualicum Beach and the Town’s Director of Engineering and Capital Projects, Bob Weir. Editor
We add our names to the growing chorus of Qualicum Beach residents opposed to the high intensity, high output LED street lights that have been installed throughout our town.
In particular, we are requesting replacement of the high-intensity 4000K fixture across the street from our home with a lower wattage (and thereby dimmer) and warmer 3000K lamp. We are also requesting the installation of shielding around this fixture to restrict and direct the light emitted by this street lamp down onto the intersection where it belongs, and not far and wide up and down the street and into neighbours’ yards and windows.
We have already spent tens of thousands of dollars on our ongoing project to improve our home’s curb appeal and create a warm, inviting yard for both our own benefit and the benefit of the many neighbours who walk or drive by on a daily basis. We live on a very popular walking route, and countless passersby have stopped to comment on what a beautiful job we have done to improve the streetscape and their view of our front yard.
Unfortunately, our significant investment of money and hard work is being undone by the harsh, cold glare of the new street lamp.
This new lamp casts its cold, extremely bright light far and wide up and down the street, across the boulevard and directly upon the front hedge and gate of our property. The light emitted by this fixture literally hurts the eyes. Its painfully bright, cold, blue light saps the warmth out of all vegetation and any other surface it touches. It throws its industrial glare not only over the boulevard, but also above our hedge and across our landscaped front yard. It washes out the warm, ambient glow cast by our 3000K low-voltage garden accent lights.
The light shines directly onto our newly refurbished south facing patio, where we like to spend our summer evenings with a glass of wine while enjoying the view of our warmly-lit garden and the night sky. Apparently this is no more, as the bright new street light now shines directly into our eyes, uncomfortably obliterating our night vision and the stars in the sky.
The impact of this light is not just limited to the outdoors.
It also shines directly into our front bedroom, ruining what was until recently a beautiful night-time view of our front garden. The light finds its way through, around and between the slats of our blinds while trying to sleep. It shines through our glass front entry doors and into our entry foyer. It shines directly into our eyes as we stand at the kitchen sink and is even visible when seated at our dining room table on the opposite side of the house! There is no avoiding it. The new harsh light is a far cry from the warm, soft, much dimmer street light that served its purpose without issue or complaint for many years.
Not that it should matter, but we are not alone in being negatively affected by this new street light.
This one street lamp also shines directly into the yards and windows of at least three of our neighbours. It shines directly into the living room and upstairs master bedroom of the neighbour across the street. In fact, he told me just the other day about the moment he discovered the street lamp had been replaced. While sitting in his living room one evening, he noticed a cold, extremely bright light shining in from outside. He thought that someone was parked at the intersection and shining his high beams directly through his window. When the headlights didn’t dim or move after a few minutes, he squinted through the glare only to discover the true source of this obnoxious intrusion into his living space.
Our neighbour to the east is also directly affected. While her main floor and front yard are partially shielded by our hedge, her entire upper floor (where bedrooms are located) is directly in line of sight of this fixture. The entire west and south side of her house, a beautiful two-story Craftsman painted in earth tones and with natural wood trim, is now bathed in the bright, cold, stark, industrial light cast by this new fixture. Even the property further to the east is in line of sight and directly affected. This property is slated for redevelopment. The new home is planned to be built significantly higher and closer to the road than both the aforementioned neighbour’s home and the existing house on the property. The light cast from this fixture will shine, unimpeded, directly upon the west facing facade of the new house and into the upstairs bedroom windows.
We are not writing this letter merely to complain, however it is necessary to relay to you the significant impact this seemingly innocuous light replacement has on nearby residents. The aggravation is real, and we are merely requesting that the Town mitigate the impact of its choice to install such bright industrial lighting, even on quiet residential streets where night-time traffic is the exception rather than the rule.
A quick perusal of the BC Hydro website confirms our understanding that 3000K lights are appropriate and recommended for residential neighbourhoods and environmentally sensitive areas, while the 4000K lights are typically used in commercial and industrial areas, and in non-residential roadways and intersections (our emphasis).
BC Hydro also offers different wattages that would not only save electricity, but also reduce the intensity of the light emitted no matter the colour (presumably much like how a dimmer switch operates). External shields are also available from the manufacturer of the lights, which would eliminate the worst of the spillover light pollution that reaches way up and down the street, upon people’s gardens and into their eyes from far and wide.
It is one thing to not seek any meaningful prior input from the “uninformed” taxpayers and residents of the Town. It is another to completely ignore the very obvious, practical recommendations and mitigating options offered from the outset by the experts at BC Hydro.
Finally, we take exception to the flippant suggestions that people “get used to it”, that this folly is somehow “progress,” or that we should just quit whining and install blackout curtains.
To state the obvious, blackout curtains are a red herring and do nothing for the outdoors. We have considered planting trees to shield ourselves from the glare of this light, but the fixture is too high and casts its glare too wide for this to be feasible or effective. The only option is shielding the light closer to its source.
It is not an exaggeration to state that the quaint nighttime ambience of our little town has been ruined by your choice in street lighting, to say nothing of the ambience of our streetscape, front yard, patio and garden. Our request is very simple: fix the problem the Town has created. We pay an exorbitant, disproportionate amount of taxes and receive very little in return. This is not too much to ask.
Again, our simple request is that the Town have shielding installed around this offending light fixture, reduce the wattage (and thereby intensity) of the light, and replace the 4000K light with a 3000K option that is designed and intended for residential areas. These are all easy, feasible fixes to mitigate the impact of the Town’s choice in light fixtures, and can probably be initiated by a simple telephone call or email from you to someone at BC Hydro.
We thank you for your prompt attention to this matter and look forward to this issue being resolved.
Ron and Christine Bieg, Qualicum Beach, BC