La Jolla Tennis Club removes lighting shrouds, which neighbor says ‘destroys The Village night view’

A view of the La Jolla Tennis Club from John Johnson's house. He says the club's lights are “obtrusive.”
A view of the La Jolla Tennis Club from John Johnson’s house. He says the club’s lights are “obtrusive” now that shrouds placed over them earlier this year have been removed.

With tennis being labeled a sport “conducive to social distancing” by the U.S. Tennis Association, more and more players are visiting the La Jolla Tennis Club. And to accommodate them, shrouds that were placed over the lights earlier this year, diminishing the light that illuminates the courts, have been removed, yielding brighter courts — and brighter skies.

The shrouds were added in the spring after coronavirus-related stay-at-home orders went into effect. At the time, local recreation centers were shut down and the tennis courts were not in use. When they reopened in the summer, days were longer and provided enough light, even with the shrouds in place.

“When it started getting dark earlier, we had a host of complaints about the lack of sufficient lighting,” said Bob Brobst, president of the La Jolla Tennis Club at 7632 Draper Ave. “That’s when we did the study that showed that indeed the lighting was far from sufficient.”

“The shrouded lights made the courts almost unplayable. We made measurements that showed there were places on the courts where the lighting was only 20 percent of what it should be. With the shrouds removed, measurements were made, and while the lighting is much better at a maximum, it’s only about 70 percent of that which is allowed for tennis clubs.”

Not everyone is pleased with the brighter lighting.

John Johnson, who has lived in La Jolla since 1988, said the lights are “obtrusive” and “create a nuisance for neighbors and destroy The Village night view.”

He said he bought his home overlooking The Village for its views and sunsets. “I may as well be next to a stadium. It is unacceptable. It is so bright,” he said.

Johnson said he often photographs the sunsets and that he has seen a difference in his photos.

When asked if this is the first year in which the shrouds were put on — and taken off — and why the lights were not this perceptively bright before now, Brobst said, “I’m not sure what to say about prior years.”

A photo from 2018 shows the view from John Johnson's house.
A photo from 2018 shows the view from John Johnson’s house before the La Jolla Tennis Club installed — and removed — shrouds on its lighting.

The San Diego municipal code states that “outdoor lighting fixtures shall be installed in a manner that minimizes negative impacts from light pollution, including light trespass, glare and urban sky glow, in order to preserve enjoyment of the night sky and minimize conflict caused by unnecessary illumination.”

In an email between Brobst and Johnson that was viewed by the La Jolla Light, Johnson told the tennis club management that “in my opinion, the reason the lights are not effective is because most of the light is directed skyward and not onto the tennis courts. The best option is to replace the lights with modern down-projecting LED lights, which would be more effective for members and not create glare for your neighbors. Absent that, I believe it would be most reasonable to return to the pre-2020 lighting configuration which was tolerated for years by neighbors and members.”

In the same email thread, Brobst stated that he is “truly sorry that this has caused a problem,” but “I’m not sure what we can do.”

“Our own members were having to go to other courts to play at night,” he wrote. “So that’s when we gathered the data that said that the lighting was far from good enough for a tennis club. Even now, there are many places where the lighting is insufficient but more playable.”

Johnson told the Light that he found the response to be “not neighborly.”

“On top of that,” he said, “Californians are protected by code that someone can’t create a nuisance that keeps you from enjoying your home. They have created a nuisance.” ◆