Almanac

News - September 1, 2010

Portola Valley: More light coming to Town Center at night

by Dave Boyce

The Portola Valley Town Council endorsed a go-slow approach to increasing artificial light at the Town Center, which now is so naturally dark that a recent star-gazing party had a view of the Milky Way.

Seeing the edge of our spiral galaxy with the naked eye is a tall order for most Silicon Valley communities. But such darkness can be a problem for those whose night vision is not what it used to be. Crossing the Town Center to a parking lot under a sliver moon can be an anxious journey.

A working group that included council members John Richards and Ted Driscoll, and Public Works Director Howard Young have devised an approach to improving visibility at night.

The council agreed in principle on Aug. 25 to replace with clear lenses the current light-diffusing lenses on the many downward facing lamps mounted on short posts that mark the Town Center paths at night, according to a staff report. The town will also add reflectors inside the lamp housings.

The entranceways to Town Hall, the library and the community hall will each receive a hanging porch light; the low sitting wall outside the community hall will have a light at each end; and the path through the redwood grove near the Historic Schoolhouse will have five new lights on posts marking the path, the report said.

Before taking the step to permanently light the ends of the seat wall, the town will experiment with portable solar-powered LED lights, Mr. Young told the council.

The town has a budget of $45,000 for this project, but would use only $20,000 for the current proposal, Mr. Young said. If these steps are insufficient, the town can gradually increase the wattage of the bulbs.

"I like the stepwise approach," Mayor Steve Toben said.

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