"After hours" lighting ban

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Do you sometimes forget to flip the manual light switch when you leave the office? If so, Board President David Chiu hopes that the prospect of fines will help you break this environmentally unfriendly habit.

Chiu has introduced an ordinance that prohibits commercial buildings from lighting unoccupied interior spaces after business hours. The idea is to conserve electricity and use cost-effective lighting control technology that turn lights off automatically, when the last person leaves the office.

"Not only are lights typically left on in buildings when occupants leave an office during the middle of the day, but the night skylines of all U.S. cities are filled with lights from countless empty offices, and San Francisco is no exception," states the "findings" section of Chiu's ordinance, noting that almost half of the electricity in typical office buildings is used to keep lights on, and commercial establishments account for about half of the lighting energy used in the United States.

"No person may illuminate any unoccupied space in a commercial building after hours except for exit signs, path of travel lighting and utilization equipment lighting," states Chiu's ordinance.

If the ordinance passes, the Department of the Environment will be able to issue warnings to folks, a year after the ordinance becomes effective. If that doesn't change folks' behavior, DOE will be able to fine them $100 for a first violation, $200 for a second violation in the same year, and not more than $500 for each subsequent violation in the same year. Wow, that could add up. Pretty soon folks won't be able to pay their electricity bill, which would be yet another way to turn the lights off.