Guest Commentary: PG&E Won’t Install Davis’ Choice Residential Streetlights


By Alan C. Miller

Hundreds of Davis streetlights are set to be converted to energy-saving LEDs, but these lights are not the 2700k Green Cobra lamps that Davis residents overwhelmingly chose in a 2014 survey.

Residents in Davis’ older neighborhoods were spared the conversion to harsh LED streetlights that rocked the city in 2014, when glaring 4000k blue-white streetlights replaced the mainstay sodium-vapor lamps in the 2200k warm-amber light spectrum.

After numerous complaints, the city stopped the installation of streetlights, having already installed 650 lights. The city then decided to allow residents to view a demonstration of multiple streetlights and “vote” for the light most appropriate for Davis. This is an example of city responsiveness to citizen concerns at its best!

Many lights in the demonstration were in the 3000K range. Though technically the same light frequency, different lights produced vastly differing light quality, output, coverage and “pleasantness.” Citizens chose the Green Cobra as Davis’ streetlight of choice for residential areas.

Those running the streetlight program saw a clear preference toward the 2200k “amber glow” of the sodium vapor lamp. After the vote, a 2700K Green Cobra lamp came on the market that was clearly a deeper hue of amber — even closer to the warm glow of the old sodium vapor lamps.

The city chose these newer lamps on the belief that these lamps had even more of the light quality that the citizens were looking for. Test lamps of the 2700K Green Cobra were added to the field
survey area in West Davis, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.

What many people didn’t realize — and the city failed to inform — is that about 300 streetlights in Davis are the responsibility of PG&E, not the city. This includes most of Davis’ classic neighborhoods including Old East, Old North, University, Oeste Manor, Davis Manor, Huntwood Park, the Miller Addition, Central Davis and a small part of South Davis.

After the city announced that the program was completed and no new LEDs turned up in our neighborhood, I inquired and discovered our streetlights were not maintained by the city. Few noticed or complained, as the old neighborhoods continued to enjoy the warm amber glow of sodium-vapor, and would until PG&E got around to changing the lights.

What no one considered was that PG&E would not honor the choice of Davis citizens when it changed these streetlights to LEDs.

Those of us in the old neighborhoods received a letter from PG&E just after Christmas announcing that our streetlights would be changed out over the next few weeks. Few gave that letter a second thought.

However, I became concerned because PG&E made no mention of light frequency or the Davis streetlight program. The letter included a small before/after picture showing a vastly whiter light and an increased area of illumination, two of the very concerns that led residents to reject the initial Davis LED lamp.

Upon inquiry to PG&E and the city, I learned that the installation by PG&E would be a 3000K model, quite a different light than the one chosen by Davis residents.

City staff did ask PG&E to install 2700k Green Cobras, but PG&E refused as Davis’ lamp of choice was not available in its LED replacement program. Residents of affected neighborhoods were not told of test lights installed by PG&E, nor given the opportunity to evaluate or compare the light.

We appreciate PG&E supporting replacements that, at least technically, meet American Medical Association and dark sky standards, and we support LED replacements, as such, for their energy-saving qualities. However, PG&E’s LEDs are not the lamps chosen by Davis residents in the survey, nor are they visibly warm and amber like the Green Cobra lamps.

In directing many neighbors to compare PG&E’s proposed lamps and the residents’ 2014 choice, everyone I talked to prefers the 2700k Green Cobra lamp. One of our neighbors said of PG&E’s proposed replacement lamp, “They just aren’t appropriate for our neighborhood.” Another said, “The new lamps are more like task light.”

Following concerns expressed to the city and PG&E last week, the city asked PG&E to halt the replacement program for two weeks. With no further intervention, installation could resume as early as Jan. 29.

I and many other residents of the old neighborhoods ask that city officials work further with PG&E to find a way to install the 2700k Green Cobra streetlight fixtures on our residential streetlights. If this cannot be done within the current PG&E program, then it should be done outside that program.

If the city has to buy more Green Cobra lamps, then that should be done. Buying Green Cobras for approximately 300 PG&E-maintained lights on residential streets will be much less than the cost of replacing the 650 blue-white LED lamps in 2014 following citizen complaints. Better to do so now than after the PG&E-proposed lamps are installed; Davis has been down that road before.

Our evening wish — and our request of PG&E — is simply to retain Davis’ warm amber glow!

Alan C. Miller is a 38-year Davis resident and a 31-year resident of Old East Davis.

Map of Streetlight Locations Subject to Lamp Replacement by PG&E:

To Compare Streetlight Types:

PG&E’s proposed lamps: Along Eighth Street between A Street and Eureka Avenue

Lamps chosen by Davis residents: Corner of Antioch and Eureka drives; Antioch Drive and Douglass Avenue

Spoken Comments may be given at:

Tuesday’s City Council meeting; open public comment begins at 6:40 p.m.

Written Comments may be sent to:

  • The City of Davis

City Council members:
City Manager Mike Webb:
Brian Mickelson:
Mitch Sears:

  • PG&E

Kristen Silva:
Geoff Pollard:
John Costa:

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for


About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

Related posts

18 thoughts on “Guest Commentary: PG&E Won’t Install Davis’ Choice Residential Streetlights”

  1. Tia Will

    With Alan Miller as my guide, I recently did a comparison of the lights being installed by PG&E and the city installed 2700 Green Cobra lights. He pointed out to me the difference between the visual adjustment needed between the two types of lights when one is walking or biking at night. This brought up a point I had not noted previously. I do not bike, but walk almost everywhere. The sidewalks in OEDNA ( and other older neighborhoods) are in very poor repair meaning that there are multiple tripping hazards. The best (safest) lighting for me is one which provides the least contrast as I move in and out of the lighted areas. I have written to the City Council requesting an intervention to have all our neighborhoods provided with the 2700 Green Cobras and would recommend that others who have noticed this difference in safety do the same.

    1. Howard P

      The best (safest) lighting for me is one which provides the least contrast as I move in and out of the lighted areas.

      Award for public education!

      No streetlights… half to full moon… low lighting values… excellent visibility… because it is uniform lighting… little contrast in open areas.  Backpackers know this.

      Most folk don’t realize that street lighting is really primarily needed at conflict points, generally intersections.

      Elsewhere, because of the anatomy of the human eye, additional lighting can be a hindrance when you move from a well lit area to a darker area… takes the eye awhile to adjust… heard it called ‘visual purple’.  Why many people use red filters on flashlights… it greatly reduces the effect… but doesn’t help (actually hinders) ability to discern color, but if you’re only needing to recognize objects/hazards.  Hence, as Alan refers to “color temperature”…  hence the XXXX k referents.

      Low pressure sodium street lights were more energy efficient than the older incandescents… problem… at an accident scene, near such lights, it was difficult to distinguish between motor oil and blood, by sight… one of the reasons there are rarely LPS fixtures in place… HPS lamps improved that, but only to a “degree” (k, color temperature).

      Sorry for the digression… but beyond the immediate issue, Alan and Tia have done a public education gift.

      1. darelldd


        May I contribute to the digression into the public education arena? (especially to somebody who’s been in Public Works?)

        The quality of light “at an accident scene” is irrelevant. Because in order to determine what incident is an accident requires knowledge of cause. Why not call the incident what it is factually: A crash or collision?

        (and I apologize for the font changes. I have NO idea how to apply a consistent font when I past from another post).

        1. Howard P

          My bad… you and I have both stressed the terms collision or crash in the past… still am in agreement with our previous points.   I slipped… mea culpa…

          My main point is it is hard to tell what happened, and what needs to be done (in the moment), in an incident where the color temperature of the lighting doesn’t allow you distinguish between blood and motor oil (without sniff, touch tests)

      1. Howard P

        Two different things… contrast with uniform lighting is one thing, and good… the way our eyes work, going from bright light to significantly lesser, there is no contrast.

      2. Tia Will


        Falls are precisely my concern. “Common sense” would agree with you that contrast is better. But “common sense” is often wrong.Because of the visual changes we experience ( or fail to in time as we age) when we change light “zones” brighter lighting is frequently less safe as Howard stated and as Alan demonstrated to me on our brief tour of the lighting options.

    1. Howard P

      Give them some credit… they are 5% more cooperative than UPRR… said as a PW guy…

      The key is to know who to call, when to call, and how to word things…

        1. Howard P

          EXACTLY!  Was just trying to do the SNL thing…

          But, there is still the fact that with both UPRR, and PG&E if you have the right contacts, pick your time, and how you word the issue, things can get done… two mantras I have come to believe in… “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”… and “time, place, and manner”.  Combined, it can be powerful.

          By ‘who you know’, you have to establish honesty and trust… an “emotional bank account” as it were. Hard to do, doesn’t always work, but when it works, it’s “golden”.

  2. Tia Will


    It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”

    Agreed. So do you have any recommendations about to whom to address my public safety concerns about which I had chosen to remain silent since I believed the issue to have been settled satisfactorily, only to become aware it had not 3 days ago.

    1. Howard P

      Contact the City, (or PG&E).   Alan cited Brian M. ,  and others… I assume he (Alan) vetted that before he posted.

      Understand the part about “tone” (‘manner’) when communicating.  Huge.

      I need to be at ‘arms length’ on some matters… hence, my semi anonymous posting… if you wish to pursue with me, David or Don can offer to connect us, off-line… just not “here”, not now.

      It is not just MD’s who operate under confidentiality… hope you understand that… think you will… (pun unintended)…


      1. John Hobbs

        “Understand the part about “tone” (‘manner’) when communicating.  Huge.”

        Yup, I made a dozen or so contacts on the inside of other PW type agencies that made my job much easier and I was always grateful and happy to reciprocate.

    1. Howard P

      Wrong question… will elaborate off-line, but gist is, most if not all PG&E lights are on PG&E joint poles.  Put a light on a City pole to replace, PG&E is happy camper.  They don’t want City fixtures on PG&E poles.   Logical.  In one case, they are responsible for mast arm and luminaire maintenance/replacement costs and liabilities… and they charge the City for that.  For city poles/lights, they only charge for electricity.

      Next question:  if City installs new streetlights to resolve this, is OE and other neighborhoods willing to cover the capital costs, or do they expect all the rest of us to fund that for them?  I’m disinclined to do so… we all pay a premium for their lights, as it is… for decades… GF money…

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for