Lights in the Darkness of Mount Soledad

by on June 19, 2012 · 12 comments

in California, Columns, Environment, Popular

By Frances O’Neill Zimmerman

A veterans’ group led by the owner of the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club wants to light up inky-dark Mount Soledad nights and is seeking official approval next week for this unprecedented alteration to the highest viewpoint on the west side of the city of San Diego.

At stake is encroaching light pollution within our urban area and maintaining Mount Soledad as a sacred dark space for viewing the night sky — shooting stars, unusual planetary alignments, spectacular moonrises, eclipses of the moon. Generations of San Diegans and visitors to San Diego have experienced the beauty of the nighttime sky and the 360-degree panorama of the city below from atop Mount Soledad.

If you want to keep Mount Soledad dark, you need to weigh in with your opinion now. Contact Mark Moncey at  or call (858) 581-9716
Or show up on Monday June 25 at 4 p.m. at the La Jolla Recreation Center on Prospect Street across from the Museum of Contemporary Art.

La Jolla Parks and Beaches Committee, which is advisory to San Diego City Council, will hear the matter on that date for the second time.  It was first proposed on May 21 by Bill Kellogg of the  Beach and Tennis Club and member of the Mount Soledad Memorial Association and was then held over to allow for wider public comment.

It seems that  Memorial Association veterans no longer wish to raise and lower the American flag located there twice daily as they have done for many years. Apparently if the flag is illuminated, protocol allows it to be flown 24/7.

News stories about this proposal first appeared in the weekly La Jolla Light on June 7 and in the U-T San Diego on June 8, but they seem not to have gained much public notice during this end-of-school/graduation/beginning-of-the-Fair season.

In years past, Kellogg’s  Memorial Association also has lobbied on behalf of the controversial Mount Soledad Cross and was instrumental in transferring  the land on which it stands to the federal government. That Cross will be the subject of a Supreme Court decision this week about whether or not it will review, once and for all, its constitutionality. At present, the Cross has been found unconstitutional by the lower U.S. Ninth District Court.

UPDATE: I forgot to say that Kellogg and the Memorial Association also want to wire the summit of Soledad for a public address system. Like French nighttime shows at architectural landmarks, “Son et Lumiere” may be coming soon to your Mount Soledad Natural Park.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

john June 19, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Well at least this is a logic based argument against the theist promotion side, instead of just not wanting to see a cross on a mountain.
A couple of thoughts, though, one is that in reality most people go up there at night to view the city of san diego panorama, not the night sky- and for that view from almost the entire parking lot a lit cross wouldn’t have much effect as it’s at your back and the lights pointed skyward.
Secondly from a public safety standpoint I don’t think they keep that parking lot pitch black anyway, nor would they want to. Many night time visitors arrive in limos and other public and private conveyance inebriated, and could easily stumble and fall off those bluffs if they couldn’t see where they were walking.
Finally on the “unprecedented” nature of this I may be entirely mistaken but I’m pretty sure it was lit in the early ’80’s when I was up there? Anyone else recall this?
Again though this is an argument of substance you’ve raised worth consideration.


Frances O'Neill Zimmerman June 19, 2012 at 4:28 pm

The issues are neighborliness and unnecessary light pollution at a place where urban people and visitors frequently go to see the night sky above and the lights of the city below. I have never seen drunks in limos falling off cliffs, but I have seen moonrise, shooting stars and lunar eclipses up there with my grandchildren. As I understand it, the proposal is to light the American flag there, so that volunteers don’t have to raise and lower it twice daily. Why is it necessary to mess with a status quo that has been working for everyone?


unWASHEdwalmaRtthONG June 19, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Oh, jesus, just tear the damn thing down. It is the ugliest memorial to war & religion ever to be designed by anyone. How many times do these people have to be told the location of the icon is not legal? Apparently, the People will be in this battle in perpetuity. A garden would be so much nicer than the rocks & fence & asphalt & nakedness of the park’s present condition.
Or leave it up, but there must be a granite plinth w/ a bronze shield itemizing all the crimes committed by the christians for centuries. Leave it as a reminder. Teach the children.


john June 19, 2012 at 8:39 pm

I may not agree with your opinions but you have an entertaining way of expressing them.
If you’re referring to the crusades, well it helps to keep in perspective that everything back then was done with a certain measure of brutality-remember this was the exact times also of the conquests of Genghis Khan- as opposed to the ethnic genocide in Rwanda in the 90’s, which was particularly brutal in an otherwise civilized world.
You may not need the threat of burning in hell for eternity, or being told imaginary bearded deities dwelling in the clouds will see your every heinous crime and punish you for it to stay on the straight and narrow and not succumb to your primal urges, nor do I. Spend a few days in Texas and you’re sure to encounter plenty of people who do. (nothing against Texas, just sayin’, well….)


unWASHEdwalmaRtthONG June 20, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Thanks, John. How long has it been since the first lawsuit was filed regarding the icon? Every court in the state has declared this monument to be illegal in its present location. How is it that Xians love to dominate any summit anywhere by placing their icon where all can see?

In reference to crimes committed by religious groups, it’s quite difficult to list them all in one teensy post. Those of us who have read history know the atrocities performed in the name of one god or another. Superstition kills knowledge as often as it kills people.


Frances O'Neill Zimmerman June 20, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Hello? If we could focus for a moment on something other than deeply satisfying personal tirade, this is about preserving starshine at the summit of Mt. Soledad Natural Park.


"starshine" is my new fav word... June 20, 2012 at 8:12 pm

…thank you FONZ.

and btw, unwashedwalmartthong’s comments were spot-on and hilarious! no need to knock ’em just because your own deeply satisfying personal tirade involves a slightly different topic.


john June 21, 2012 at 4:53 am

I didn’t realize we had such serious astronomy buffs here. Do you prefer the value of traditional Newtonian telescopes, or have you taken the plunge and invested deeply in the newer Schmidt-Cassegrains or Maksutovs? If I wasn’t in the city I’d have a big Dobsonian Truss, at least 8″. You can’t beat ’em for light gathering for the price.


unWASHEdwalmaRtthONG June 20, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Shall we simply continue to add upon the clutter already established at the site? Pretty soon the place will look like the windows of a liquor store w/ lights, monuments, icons, plinths, stelas, totem poles, & little jockeys holding lanterns.

If Hubble Station is not maintained, then Palomar Observatory may increase in importance.
I say remove all that crap up there & lobby for increased funding to support Hubble.
Put in some chaise lounges & dim the city once a month so we all can see the freakin’ stars.
We are part of the Milky Way, people; let’s act like it.


Frances O'Neill Zimmerman June 20, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Now you’re talking: “We are part of the Milky Way, people; let’s act like it.”
Monthly chaise-lounging in a dim city sounds like something Mayor Michael Bloomberg might do: sounds good to me. Are you Bob Filner?


Anna Daniels June 20, 2012 at 4:07 pm

There are actually places in this country that have been established as “dark parks.” These are generally national and state park areas that have been established as natural night preserves.
We almost exclusively talk about environmental degradation in terms of our threatened oceans, air and land. There is a loss to all of us when the night sky is obliterated to our view. Those views into space, into the heart of the Milky Way, remind us of who we are and offer a much needed perspective about our place in the big scheme of things.
There are places where we need to keep the light switch on “off,” and the speakers unplugged. Our very own Mount Soledad is one of those places.


unWASHEdwalmaRtthONG June 20, 2012 at 4:09 pm

To pay for the lights the groups responsible for maintaining the site & the darn lights should be required to install a zip line from the icon on Soledad to the icon on Mt. Helix. $10 plus tax to ride from one icon to the other. No discounts for veterans, religious, bureaucrats, handicapped, locals, volunteers, or Obama.


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