January 2020

Canyon Beat:

Lighting “upgrade” sparks complaints

By Scott Breeden


What takes 10 minutes to put up, but over two months to take down?

Some might say “Christmas tree,” but the answer for certain Silverado residents seems to be “street light.”

Back before Halloween, a little truck went around town replacing pole-mounted street lights with LED versions. This included two lights on Grundy Lane and Anderson Way that had been nonfunctional for decades. But current residents liked that, since they could enjoy the stars and holiday lights better. So when the new lights came on, people complained.

Grundy homeowner Melanie Flegal contacted the County of Orange and Southern California Edison (SCE), and was told that the county had ordered LED lights in 2016, when the pole near her house was replaced. Three years later, SCE was just getting around to installing the lights.

Pat Buttress, aide to Supervisor Don Wagner, provided an update at the Dec. 3 meeting of the Inter-Canyon League (ICL) in Silverado. “Nobody knew it was private property,” she reported. SCE would take those two lights “off the county books” and remove them if residents signed a petition. Flegal, along with Anderson resident Paul Dixon, promptly began gathering signatures that evening, which ICL President Geoffrey Sarkissian then attached to a letter to SCE.

That may be the end of one problem, but Buttress agreed that the other Silverado replacement street lights seemed too bright, like one that now reportedly shines right into someone’s house just around the corner from the Grundy light. Buttress suggested trying to get SCE to use lights like those near the Palomar Observatory in San Diego County.

Switching to LED lights is actually a good idea as far as saving money and energy. The problem comes from assuming that all light is basically the same, and that more is always better.

But the American Medical Association concluded in 2016 that “white LED street lighting patterns [may] contribute to the risk of chronic disease in the populations of cities in which they have been installed.” Birds, fish, insects and other animals are also adversely affected by artificial light. Bluish light pollutes the night sky much more than amber light. And statistics indicate that increasing light does not reduce crime.

If Silverado’s street lights are indeed brighter than before, one advantage of LED is that it can be dimmed. LED lights are also now available in amber, similar to the older lights.

The Silverado-Modjeska Specific Plan actually states that “curbs, gutters, sidewalks and street lights shall not be allowed unless necessary for safety purposes.” If glare from the new lights makes driving in Silverado at night more dangerous than before, then perhaps their use needs to be curbed.

Additional light information is at darksky.org.

Snow job
Since it almost never snows here, some of our native shrubbery tries to make up for it by producing fluffy white pseudo-snow to simulate the winter scenery depicted on calendars and postcards from regular America.

One plant that does this is scale broom. It is a rounded, spreading bush up to six feet high, and twice as wide, that grows in gravelly, sandy, and occasionally flooded spots in California, Arizona and Baja California.

Scale broom usually appears to have no leaves — just clumps of green twigs and branches that Native Americans reportedly used for brooms. On the branches are tiny bumps, or scales, no more than a couple of millimeters long. Those are the leaves. They start out grayish-white, fuzzy, and rounded, but shrivel in the first hot season and hug the branch tightly. Scale broom is covered with small yellow flowers in late summer, but these turn into seed-bearing white fluff later, just like on dandelions.

In spite of its fuzzy benign winter appearance, though, scale broom is still a wild plant. That is why OC Public Works constructs stout timber and steel barricades around known infestations like the one near the bridge, just west of the Silverado Community Center: to protect motorists from marauding gangs of scale broom.

No, not really. Of course scale broom does not attack cars. It attacks houses. From Pam McKay’s book “Mojave Desert Wildflowers: A Field Guide to Wildflowers, Trees, and Shrubs of the Mojave Desert, Including the Mojave National Preserve, Death Valley National Park, and Joshua Tree National Park”, page 205:















This is the plant that ate Corona! A wash with scale broom in Corona was filled with dirt to make a level pad on which numerous homes were built. This plant lives in washes, so it is accustomed to being flooded and buried. It responded to burial as usual, sending up shoots that penetrated through concrete foundations of garages, living rooms, sidewalks and driveways, causing millions of dollars worth of damage. Newer laws require scale broom surveys before construction.