UPDATED: Church repositions light in La Jolla

UPDATE: On Nov. 3 the owners of the condominium affected by outdoor ambient lighting from St. James By-the-Sea Episcopal Church reported that the congregation had adjusted the light and it is no longer a problem.

La Jolla residents Wayne and Mary Shuart say it took months of complaining to have officials with St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church agree to adjust an outdoor light on its campus that has been shining through the windows of the Shuart’s fourth-story condo 7:30-10:32 p.m., for the past several months.

Mary Shuart said she had friends view the blinding beam, who agreed they were not overreacting, though representatives from St. James declined a similar invitation to visit.

In e-mails provided to La Jolla Light, the Shuarts recounted their first conversation about the issue with St. James’ Assistant to the Rector, Walter DuMelle, on Sept. 2, 2014.

Although John Norris, chair of the church’s Building and Grounds (B&G) committee, promised to remedy the situation in early September, the light was not adjusted, and the Shuarts say communication from the church was spotty the rest of the month.

“It just seems so very simple to have a man with a ladder and pole reach that one troublesome light and tip it downward a few inches,” Wayne Shuart wrote the church Oct. 6, via e-mail, threatening to file a “neighborhood nuisance” complaint with the city if the problem was not addressed.

The B&G committee discussed the issue on Oct. 14, and Norris e-mailed the Shuarts two days later to let them know the B&G committee would not be taking action.

“The solutions expressed in your e-mail are not that simple,” Norris wrote, adding that the lights, situated 40 feet up in a palm tree, are “too high for anyone to safely climb a ladder that tall and push the lights around,” requiring a “bucket type truck to access the lights, and to provide a stable platform for any work to be properly done.”

Norris said the lights are “securely fastened to their bases with set screws.” To adjust them, he said, they “must be loosened, moved and then re-secured.”

“The church has a responsibility to provide safe lighting,” Norris wrote the Shuarts. “These lights are fixed at their primary targets and any spillage of light may not be avoidable. Because of these realities, there is no guarantee that any improvement can be made to the lighting condition you are experiencing.”

Norris said the church’s B&G committee made a “unanimous decision not to make any changes to, nor incur any expense related to the palm tree lighting set up as it currently operates.”

Mary Shuart countered that, for 15 months she and her husband endured “noise and dust, sometimes starting at 6:30 a.m.” from St. James’ recently completed, $900,000 exterior renovation — and never complained.

Norris later responded that the church would adjust the light “when an opportunity occurs ... to change/repair the palm tree lighting or a need to trim the palm trees (arises).

“At that time, a diligent effort will be made to adjust the light that is causing your discomfort,” he wrote. “The adjustment may not totally correct the issue, but a valid effort will be made to do so.”

Speaking with La Jolla Light last week, Norris said it would cost the church about $1,000 to rent a truck with a lift to adjust the lights.

“That’s why we were trying to coordinate other needs that we may have,” Norris said. “As it turns out we have another need. They need to get up and eliminate fruit from the palm tree that’s dropping on the ground because we are re- sodding (the grass) on Wednesday morning, and we can’t have the fruit underneath the sod.”

Norris said the lights were erected in December 2012, and not part of the renovation. “We have made no adjustments since they went up,” he said. “The wind can’t blow them around. ... Why it became an issue in August, I have no idea, because none of the construction people, roofers, stucco folks, sandblasters, went anywhere near that installation.”

At press time, Mary Shuart said she received a call saying the church would rent a truck and adjust the light Monday night, Oct. 27.

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