About the Dark Skies Project

Purpose, background, and timeline for the Dark Skies project.
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Project purpose 

Light pollution produced by poorly designed and poorly shielded outdoor lighting negatively affects human and wildlife health and safety. It also impairs our ability to see the night sky. But it’s possible to have a vibrant and safe city at night with well-designed lighting that directs light on the ground, where it is needed, and not skyward, where it is not.

The Dark Skies Project will result in recommendations to reduce light pollution in Portland to reduce negative impacts on human and ecosystem health and safety, reduce energy waste, and increase our ability to see the night sky. 

The Dark Skies Project is exploring the following strategies and actions: 

  • Manage outdoor lighting on public and private property. Many jurisdictions across the country and in Canada have established dark-sky ordinances, including Multnomah Co., Tucson, AZ, Boulder, Colo., and Toronto, Canada. 
    • Action: Develop a comprehensive regulatory program for outdoor lighting associated with development in Portland.  

  • Reduce the amount of light pollution created from City-owned buildings and facilities, including streetlights. 
    • Action: Update city policy documents and code to apply current best practices for reducing light pollution.  

  • Increase public education and awareness. Participation in a Lights Out program is an important way that cities like Chicago and New York reduce light pollution from tall buildings. 
    • Action: Promote and incentivize property owner participation in a Lights Out program in Portland.

Project background 

As part of the 2019-20 City budget, City Council directed the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability to explore actions to mitigate light pollution in Portland. The project supports adopted City policy in the Central City 2035 Plan, the 2035 Comprehensive Plan, and the Green Building Policy. BPS staff have been working with internal and external stakeholders as well as experts to research and analyze potential actions and develop an action plan that addresses light pollution. 

Project steps and timeline 

  • A public review draft of the Dark Skies report will be available in July.  
  • A public hearing on the report will occur at City Council in early September. 

This project will not immediately affect development; however, the strategies include a recommendation that the City apply regulations to all outdoor lighting in the future.