Street Lights On the City Council Agenda Tonight

53c4ddb24f2ebby Barbara Clowers

The city council will hear a report on street lights tonight. I managed to get a copy from the city offices. According to Mitch Sears, the council will not take action however I encourage anyone interested in street lights and light pollution to be there.

This project seems to be typical of how we do things in Davis. We have street lights out but don’t want to replace them because we can get grant money to cover the cost. Instead of doing a modicum of research (what are other cities doing? what are the issues?) we seem to have made a decision based on information from the lighting industry and PGE, both of whom want to sell us something, and made a decision based on very little up front cost and very little consideration.

We set up a demonstration project on the periphery of town–4 or 5 neighborhoods that sat on the city’s borders. We didn’t let the public know specifically where the neighborhoods were. We just put them up and figured if people noticed we’d get feedback. If we didn’t get feedback, then the project was a go.

We should have put the demonstration projects closer to the center of town and we should have had maps of where they were. The residents should have gotten mailers requesting feedback. We should have had a sample of the different lamp options on one street so people could see the different types of lights side by side.

We needed, and still need, better objectives. Currently, the stated goals are:
1. replace 200 burned out street lights
2. retrofit the remaining 2,200 cobra head fixtures
3. save energy
4. save money
5. reduce greenhouse gas emissions
6. improve safety

The first objective on a project like this is to take inventory of what we have and determine
1. how much light do we need
2. how little light is sufficient
3. where do we need light
4. when do we need light
5. what are our lighting objectives

This is where community input is critical as well as consulting with people like the California Lighting Technology Center (instead of after we’ve goofed up) and the International Dark Sky Association. We have interested informed citizens. We need to get them involved at the outset not when we are trying to undo the mess we’ve made.

Currently, our city is over lit. In residential areas where there is minimal traffic, our standard says we need one street light every 300′ with .09 foot-candles. We need to begin by verifying that we are meeting but not exceeding that standard, then we need to ask if this standard is current or reasonable.

On arterial Intersections with signals, our standard is one light on each corner. This exceeds the recommendations CalTrans has for lighting freeways. Do we need more light on our roads with a 25 to 35 Mph speed limit than a highway? In my neighborhood, it is common to have at least 6 lights at an arterial intersection with a signal.

Humans have an innate fear of the dark. Culturally, we equate light with the good, with understanding and clarity. We equate the
dark with danger and ignorance. Being near the fire was safe and leaving the light to go into the dark meant going into the unknown. Because we evolved with a diurnal cycle of dark and light, we need to ask ourselves what happens when we take away the dark cycle from the earth and everything that lives and has evolved here.

…more to follow but I will leave you with a picture taken Saturday night. On the bottom is the Super Moon, the biggest brightest full moon because it is as close to the earth as it gets. On the top is one of our new street lights. The Super Moon is no match for our street lights and we are meant to have 2,600 of them.

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18 Comments

  1. Davis Progressive

    “We have street lights out but don’t want to replace them because we can get grant money to cover the cost. ”

    while true, that’s the nature of being flat broke.

    “Instead of doing a modicum of research (what are other cities doing? what are the issues?) we seem to have made a decision based on information from the lighting industry and PGE, both of whom want to sell us something, and made a decision based on very little up front cost and very little consideration.”

    i agree with this point however.

  2. Davis Progressive

    “We have street lights out but don’t want to replace them because we can get grant money to cover the cost. ”

    while true, that’s the nature of being flat broke.

    “Instead of doing a modicum of research (what are other cities doing? what are the issues?) we seem to have made a decision based on information from the lighting industry and PGE, both of whom want to sell us something, and made a decision based on very little up front cost and very little consideration.”

    i agree with this point however.

  3. D.D.

    I urge women to keep the concept of “Take Back the Night” (and the early dawn) in your minds when you decide how much lighting is safe lighting for a college woman to walk home after a long night of studying or partying. You deserve a safe street to use to ride your bicycle or walk your dog on the greenbelt or walk your toddler or walk with a girlfriend late at night or early in the morning. Don’t compromise your safety. Please.

  4. D.D.

    I urge women to keep the concept of “Take Back the Night” (and the early dawn) in your minds when you decide how much lighting is safe lighting for a college woman to walk home after a long night of studying or partying. You deserve a safe street to use to ride your bicycle or walk your dog on the greenbelt or walk your toddler or walk with a girlfriend late at night or early in the morning. Don’t compromise your safety. Please.

  5. Alan Miller

    Brett, Dan, Lucas, Robb, Rochelle,

    I will not be in town tonight to testify regarding the Street Light issue. Though it is on the consent calendar, I have a feeling it may be pulled. Here is my email testimony for your consideration.

    The lights previously considered are too glarish and are not right for Davis neighborhoods. I doubt light hoods are an answer to the whole of the glare issue. Previously I had testified that the sodium vapor light frequency could be duplicated. While this is technically true, I do not know if this can be done “off the shelf”, and getting custom lights even in quantity may be expensive (maybe not if already available).

    However, there may be a simpler, cheaper solution. I was on campus the other day and noticed a long block of street light LEDs that were white in color but did NOT have the intense, unpleasant glare. The place I noticed them was on California Street between North Quad and Hutchison. (Some places on campus have other styles.) I request that if you(s) have a chance at night check these out and compare them. It should be easy enough to obtain the brand and model information from the University. If there must be a change, these lights are far more pleasant than the glare flares previously proposed.

    In our neighborhoods, the lights are further apart, often in trees that block light spread. Therefore, there are larger dark areas in neighborhoods than on arteries. The result is that with the bright new lights your pupils constrict as you pass under the glare flares, and then when you pass into a darker area you are temporarily partially-blinded, as eyes take some time to adjust back to darkness. Though counter-intuitive at first, this is why it is actually more dangerous to have super-bright lights in our neighborhoods. With more pleasant, dimmer light, the eyes stay dilated and it is easier to see as you pass into a dark area either on foot or on a bike.

    I bike a lot in Davis at night, and I dread the thought of a future Davis with those bright torches as our evening atmosphere. The neighborhoods of Davis must be lit, and LEDs are much more efficient; that is great. Please though, do not turn our night into glaring pseudo-day. This will affect the evening atmosphere of Davis for the rest of most of our lifetimes. I for one do not wish to live in a used-car-lot city-light atmosphere in the name of “safety” or “efficiency”.

    The request: mellow neighborhood evening light!

    –Alan C. Miller

    1. DavisBurns

      Street lights were on the consent calendar. I thought they might address the recommendations by the city staff as I had just gotten a copy of those recommendations but there was no discussion. One person spoke in favor of the new lights. In reading the report it is clear that the manufacturer claims there are no warmer color options currently in production, there are no covers or shields to soften the light currently in production, they are planning to make 400 cut off shields available one year AFTER THE PROJECT IS COMPLETED and the cut off shields provide no relief in front of the fixture, just the sides. The recommendation is to just stay the course and finish the job. The council will hear the issue in August and I believe they will rubber stamp it. In other words, they will just wait us out and do what they were going to do anyway.

  6. Alan Miller

    Brett, Dan, Lucas, Robb, Rochelle,

    I will not be in town tonight to testify regarding the Street Light issue. Though it is on the consent calendar, I have a feeling it may be pulled. Here is my email testimony for your consideration.

    The lights previously considered are too glarish and are not right for Davis neighborhoods. I doubt light hoods are an answer to the whole of the glare issue. Previously I had testified that the sodium vapor light frequency could be duplicated. While this is technically true, I do not know if this can be done “off the shelf”, and getting custom lights even in quantity may be expensive (maybe not if already available).

    However, there may be a simpler, cheaper solution. I was on campus the other day and noticed a long block of street light LEDs that were white in color but did NOT have the intense, unpleasant glare. The place I noticed them was on California Street between North Quad and Hutchison. (Some places on campus have other styles.) I request that if you(s) have a chance at night check these out and compare them. It should be easy enough to obtain the brand and model information from the University. If there must be a change, these lights are far more pleasant than the glare flares previously proposed.

    In our neighborhoods, the lights are further apart, often in trees that block light spread. Therefore, there are larger dark areas in neighborhoods than on arteries. The result is that with the bright new lights your pupils constrict as you pass under the glare flares, and then when you pass into a darker area you are temporarily partially-blinded, as eyes take some time to adjust back to darkness. Though counter-intuitive at first, this is why it is actually more dangerous to have super-bright lights in our neighborhoods. With more pleasant, dimmer light, the eyes stay dilated and it is easier to see as you pass into a dark area either on foot or on a bike.

    I bike a lot in Davis at night, and I dread the thought of a future Davis with those bright torches as our evening atmosphere. The neighborhoods of Davis must be lit, and LEDs are much more efficient; that is great. Please though, do not turn our night into glaring pseudo-day. This will affect the evening atmosphere of Davis for the rest of most of our lifetimes. I for one do not wish to live in a used-car-lot city-light atmosphere in the name of “safety” or “efficiency”.

    The request: mellow neighborhood evening light!

    –Alan C. Miller

    1. DavisBurns

      Street lights were on the consent calendar. I thought they might address the recommendations by the city staff as I had just gotten a copy of those recommendations but there was no discussion. One person spoke in favor of the new lights. In reading the report it is clear that the manufacturer claims there are no warmer color options currently in production, there are no covers or shields to soften the light currently in production, they are planning to make 400 cut off shields available one year AFTER THE PROJECT IS COMPLETED and the cut off shields provide no relief in front of the fixture, just the sides. The recommendation is to just stay the course and finish the job. The council will hear the issue in August and I believe they will rubber stamp it. In other words, they will just wait us out and do what they were going to do anyway.

  7. Dave Hart

    Change bad. However, I do remember when the sodium vapor lights with the yellowish hue first came into service and how much I preferred the color to the old, mercury vapor lights. After riding my bike home a few times this summer from downtown late at night, I appreciate the increased lighting. One can see better.

    Every. Little. Tiny. Change. That people in this town like to grouse about. Really, people. Cut it out.

    And when are we going to get our green waste containers, anyway? I was against them originally, but now I can’t wait. Now that I’ve had a chance to think and ponder.

    1. Alan Miller

      I criticize people who criticize people who criticize change.

      Not that all change is bad. That’s the “when did you stop beating your wife” conclusion made of my comments that incorrectly lumped the issue itself into a “change vs. not change” argument. It’s a pathetic debating tactic.

  8. Dave Hart

    Change bad. However, I do remember when the sodium vapor lights with the yellowish hue first came into service and how much I preferred the color to the old, mercury vapor lights. After riding my bike home a few times this summer from downtown late at night, I appreciate the increased lighting. One can see better.

    Every. Little. Tiny. Change. That people in this town like to grouse about. Really, people. Cut it out.

    And when are we going to get our green waste containers, anyway? I was against them originally, but now I can’t wait. Now that I’ve had a chance to think and ponder.

    1. Alan Miller

      I criticize people who criticize people who criticize change.

      Not that all change is bad. That’s the “when did you stop beating your wife” conclusion made of my comments that incorrectly lumped the issue itself into a “change vs. not change” argument. It’s a pathetic debating tactic.

  9. D.D.

    Maybe the vet school could partner with YSPCA and the county shelter to provide temporary guard dogs to people who need protection while they are out on a walk. Perhaps the person would end up fostering or even adopting a furry friend to accompany them and feel safer. Maybe dorms could allow a few such dogs, for their students’ protection, exercise, and stress relief.

  10. D.D.

    Maybe the vet school could partner with YSPCA and the county shelter to provide temporary guard dogs to people who need protection while they are out on a walk. Perhaps the person would end up fostering or even adopting a furry friend to accompany them and feel safer. Maybe dorms could allow a few such dogs, for their students’ protection, exercise, and stress relief.

  11. D.D.

    P.S. Some humans are indeed afraid of the dark. I happen to love a moonlit walk. And I adore star gazing. What I am afraid of is violent human beings hiding in bushes , tunnels, poorly lit driveways & walkways.

  12. D.D.

    P.S. Some humans are indeed afraid of the dark. I happen to love a moonlit walk. And I adore star gazing. What I am afraid of is violent human beings hiding in bushes , tunnels, poorly lit driveways & walkways.

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