Office of Sustainability
Dark Sky Policy Evaluation

SA Tomorrow

What is Dark Sky?

The Dark Sky denotes a place where the darkness of the night sky is reasonably free of interference from artificial light to reduce light pollution. Dark Sky lighting is lighting provided where it is needed, while reducing unnecessary scattered light and glare. Dark Sky focuses on only using as much light as is needed and when it is needed.

Dark Sky Benefits

The advantages of reducing light pollution include an increased number of stars visible at night, reducing the effects of light on the environment, and cutting down on energy usage. Scientific studies have shown that light pollution, the inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light negatively impacts the environment, human health, military nighttime activities, and is wasting energy and financial resources. Thousands of cities across the world have adopted codes as a tool for a community to use to control light pollution, including glare, light trespass and skyglow.     

Components of Light Pollution
  • Light pollution is excessive, misdirected and/or obtrusive outdoor light. 
  • Glare – excessive brightness that causes visual discomfort 
  • Skyglow – brightening of the night sky over inhabited areas 
  • Light trespass – light falling where it is not intended or needed  
  • Clutter – bright, confusing and excessive groupings of light

Dark Sky and SA Tomorrow Sustainability Plan

The SA Tomorrow Sustainability Plan, adopted by City Council August 11, 2016, is a road map to enhance a community’s quality of life, build overall resilience, and balance impact of expected growth of over a million additional people by 2040 with our economic, environmental, and social resources.

Charge from SA Tomorrow Sustainability Plan

Green Buildings 10 Strategy. Working with a broad stakeholder group, study and consider whether to update San Antonio’s Dark Sky Ordinance.    

Description. The current ordinance only applies to areas around military bases. An update to this ordinance, if deemed necessary through a broad stakeholder process, could expand the reach and leverage newer technology to promote energy savings in addition to the other environmental and health benefits associated with dark skies.    

Existing City Dark Sky Policies

The current Ordinance that is considered for evaluation is the Military Lighting Overlay District Ordinance that was adopted in December 11, 2008.

Military Lighting Overlay District

On December 11, 2008, City Council approved an ordinance that amends Chapter 35 of the City Code by adding “Military Lighting Overlay Districts” and “Violations of Military Lighting Overlay District Regulations” that requires downward lighting shape fixtures for outdoor lighting, and restricts outdoor lighting after 11:00 PM with some exceptions (i.e. security, safety) within 5 miles of Camp Bullis/Camp Stanley, Randolph Air Force Base, and Lackland Air Force Base. However, each overlay district requires adoption by City Council and the properties within the district are rezoned through a public process. The Camp Bullis Overlay District is the only Military Overlay District that has been adopted at this time. 

COSA Dark Sky Evaluation Process and Timeline

The Dark Sky Policy Evaluation Process includes bringing a broad stakeholder group to evaluate if an update to outdoor lighting ordinance. The Dark Sky Policy Evaluation Work Group represents various sectors including Military, Development, Human Health, Education, Astronomy, Public Utilities, Environment, and various local government agencies. The objectives for this work group are: 

  • Review current dark sky ordinance to evaluate the: 
    • Need to expand geographic application of dark sky standards 
    • Effectiveness of the current standards and determine if they need to be updated 
  • Evaluate national best practices related to Dark Skies and outdoor lighting
  • Evaluate pros and cons of expanding the dark sky ordinance 
  • Discuss scenarios for expanding dark sky ordinance 

If determined to proceed by City Council

  • Determine resources needed to develop a citywide ordinance
  • Develop process timeline


How can the public provide input?

You opinion is important to us, let us know your thoughts on outdoor lighting and the process. Provide your comments.

For questions please contact the Office of Sustainability at 210.207.6103.    

Working Group Materials

Meeting #1: February 21, 2017 

Meeting #2: April 18, 2017 

Meeting #3: May 23, 2017 

Meeting #4: Rescheduled for September 15th, 2017 

Next Steps

  • Based upon the working group process, the Office of Sustainability and the Development Services Department have initiated a process to update the Military Lighting Overlay District (MLOD) Ordinance. View the current MLOD Draft Update (PDF)
  • Following the UDC Amendments DSD will begin to process and apply the updated MLOD up to a 5 mile perimeter to Camp Bullis, Lackland AFB, and Medina Training Annex Military Installations.

Proposed Timeline

The proposed timeline is as follow and please view the City's Calendar for specific meeting times and locations.

  • Nov. 13th – Task Force Meeting
  • Nov. 13th – Planning Commission Briefing (no action taken)
  • Nov. 27th - Technical Advisory Committee
  • Dec. 5th – Zoning Commission Briefing (no action taken)
  • Dec. 13th – Planning Commission Action
  • Dec. 19th – Zoning Commission Action
  • Jan. 25th – City Council Sub-Committee briefing and action
  • Feb. 1st – City Council Action