The Coastside Fire Protection District stood by the modifications it made to the lighting outside the new El Granada Fire Station after the Midcoast Community Council wrote a letter suggesting the changes weren’t satisfactory.
The MCC letter, in response to community complaints about the lighting and a site inspection from some council members, objects both to the modifications and the process under which they were made. The council’s main concern is the effect of significant light on the surrounding neighborhood and ocean view corridor, and claims that the modification process wasn’t transparent.
In response to complaints that the lighting outside of the new El Granada Fire Station 41 was too bright and causing glare, the district made $40,000 worth of modifications. They included dimming equipment for 13 pole lights, a pole replacement and switches to allow staff to turn off the lights when not in use.
But MCC leaders, in a letter to the district and San Mateo County Planning Department, said the lighting still doesn’t comply with local regulations and that the process to change the lighting violated the spirit of the public permitting process.
“To be sure, the MCC recognizes and values the importance of safety,” the letter reads. “However, we feel that adequate safety can be fully achieved without allowing direct light and glare to trespass off the property and without impacts to the protected view corridor.”
Jonathan Cox, who is deputy chief overseeing fire operations for the San Mateo County Division of Cal Fire, said the level of existing lighting is based on industry recommendations to allow first responders to see substances like blood in high detail under outdoor lights. A motion sensor modification would have been more intrusive to neighbors, Cox said, but a dimmer could still meet the recommendations. As far as the public process, Cox said, the fire district followed the county’s lead.
“We’ve gone above and beyond what we’re required to do by the permit to be a good neighbor,” Cox said.
The San Mateo County Planning Department did not respond to a request for additional comments on the modifications, but Planner Summer Burlison has said previously that the county's review of the original lighting found it in compliance before the station was built. After seeing the lighting in person, however, county planners agreed it wasn’t appropriate.
A June 25 letter from Coastside Fire Protection District President Gary Burke says no further adjustments to the station’s lighting will be made.
“... the District is not able to further adjust lighting at the station because doing so would cause the station to be non-compliant with industry standards and hamper operations at Station 41 from which fire and emergency medical services are provided to the citizens and businesses we serve,” Burke wrote.