Public deprecation of the overly intense lighting at the new Chase Bank at 310 Broadway St. seems to have cast a shadow on a ribbon-cutting ceremony planned at the branch for next week and prompted an informal inquiry by city staff.
Residents and business owners spoke out at the City Council meeting Tuesday, deriding what Vic Opincar referred to as “light pollution” that is emitting an “eerie glow” from the corner of Broadway and Beach Streets since Chase transformed an existing building that glows at night. “I have hard time believing that meets our city codes,” he said.
Glaring lights from the branch signs and ATM machines “has horrifically changed” the atmosphere in Nirvana Grille restaurant, owner Lindsay Smith-Rosales testified. Beyond fielding “angrily voiced concerns” from disgruntled diners seeking a quiet haven in her normally low-lit eatery, Smith-Rosales said she’s picked up $200 worth of tabs to compensate diners that complained about the ruined ambiance.
When she placed a 6 by 18-inch sign — a simple lighted coil of the word “open” — in her window last year, Smith-Rosales was told to take it down within a week. Meanwhile, the Chase property remains unabashedly illuminated night after night. “How this can be possible is dumbfounding to me,” she said.
Besides that the lighting must violate the city’s dark sky policies, resident Jack Lynn, who owns the business adjacent to Chase, predicted the branch’s illuminated signage will set a precedent that other businesses will duplicate.
City Manager John Pietig conceded that the Planning Commission had oversight of the project. “Clearly the lighting plans that were reviewed did not contain the information necessary to, I think, foresee this type of impact on the community,” he said, adding that Chase officials have been contacted and agreed to test the lighting for compliance, he said.
As it turns out, the Planning Commission did question the lighting in approving the bank’s design and sign permits last July with the condition staff would investigate and ensure that lights in the parking lot were no brighter than the minimum required.
The lighting plan included eight fixtures that were to be fully shielded, in accordance with design guidelines, a staff report says. Two wall signs with the bank name and logo and a third sign of just the logo, all to be illuminated by halo lighting that comply with the city’s sign luminance standard, the staff report described.
At the time, Commissioner Norm Grossman felt the proposed logo lighting looked lit from within, rather than the permitted “halo” while chairman Rob Zur Schmiede called for a reduction in parking lot lighting to the minimum needed.
At the time, a bank representative said illumination plans were designed to meet state safety standards for ATMs. “It just seems like you’ve got more light here than you need,” insisted Zur Schmiede then.
State code requires 10 candle-foot power lighting at the face of ATMs and extending five feet, and a minimum of two candle-foot power within a 60 foot radius and parking area.
In its application, Chase representatives submitted a grid of candle-foot measurements across the parking lot, ranging from 2.8 to 6.4.
“It’s going to take a little bit of time to find out what the better solution is,” said Pietig at the Council meeting Tuesday.
Mayor Pro Tem Bob Whalen suggested that since the bank is not yet open, perhaps they might at least turn off the lights until they are.
Due to the dispute as well as some disorganization by the branch managers, Laguna Beach’s Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday decided to postpone the ribbon cutting until the matter is resolved, said executive director Tamara Campbell.