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.