Halt the installation of LED streetlights in SF neighborhoods until residents weigh in

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In just a few months, that moody SF glow will be gone. Neighborhoods are being  rapidly transformed as the city replaces the old tangerine street lights with harsh, white, ultra-bright LEDs. 

San Francisco's Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which has pursued the project without public input, chose to install high intensity, blue-emitting, unshielded LEDs that are both an assault on San Francisco's citizens and a public health concern.

The new lights are nothing short of "mass civic vandalism," according to one novelist leading the charge against these new lights. SF residents describe the lights as turning their neighborhoods into "a construction zone," "a used car lot, and "a prison yard." And doctors warn that the lights damage eyes, interfere with circadian rhythms, and impair mental health. In short, San Franciscans HATE these lights.

What's the problem?

  • The new ultra-bright LEDs are far brighter and whiter than the orange sodium lights they replace. Certain streets now appear to be bathed in daylight 24/7.
  • White LED's emit blue light, which is known to suppress melatonin, disrupt circadian rhythms, and interfere with sleep patterns. 
  • The PUC ignored the American Medical Association's warnings about high intensity street lights, including their recommendation to properly shield then to reduce glare -- which can be blinding to motorists and pedestrians. The PUC also failed to follow the AMA's guideline to install smart LED lights that dim at off-peak hours. 
  • The streetlights shine light in a much wider radius than their predecessors, casting a cold white glow into homes. 
  • The new lights increase light pollution across the city.
  • The new lights are ugly! They're invasive. They're cold. They're depressing. They ruin the night and they diminish our city.

LEDs are not evil - but they have to be done right.

LEDs are part of our future. They reduce costs and energy consumption. They don't have to be ugly. LEDs can emit any color profile desired, including warmer orange hues. Unfortunately, the particular fixtures installed by the PUC are not the result of caring human-centric design. They are the result of a bean-counting bureaucracy that failed to consider quality of life for the city's residents.

As other cities have shown, there ARE alternatives and we CAN fight back:

  • In Berlin, residents protested a similar streetlight conversion. As a result, local engineers designed warm orange LEDs that mimic the color and tone of the city's traditional gas lamps.
  • In Davis, California, a citywide streetlight replacement was halted after outcry from residents. Davis then gave residents the opportunity to choose the type of LED lamps that should be installed. Residents chose a warmer light, with less brightness, than the city had originally planned, actually saving the city money.

Berlin, Davis, and many other cities prove you do not have to sacrifice the energy-savings of LEDs to achieve great outcomes for residents. We want the same opportunity.

So what do we demand?

  1. An IMMEDIATE STOP to LED street light installations until the public and our representatives can weigh in.
  2. For residents to have a voice in the type of lighting that is installed in our own neighborhoods and public streets. 
  3. For lawmakers to create a set of requirements for street lighting that reflect the wishes of SF's communities and not just its bureaucracies. 

These steps will likely lead to better lighting with the right temperature and brightness for the vast majority of people in our city.  We have to act FAST. Once the lights are installed across San Francisco it will be difficult to reverse course. Send a message to our representatives that we want them to pay attention and DO something to protect our city. Let's stop these terrible lights from taking over. Let's save the night!

 

 

 

Additional links

The best essay on the subject:

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/18/opinion/sunday/ruining-that-moody-urban-glow.html?_r=0

SF complaints:

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Are-San-Francisco-s-new-LED-streetlights-too-12317593.php

Health effects:

http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2016/06/22/led-streetlights-could-led-to-sleepless-nights/

https://www.ama-assn.org/ama-adopts-guidance-reduce-harm-high-intensity-street-lights

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side 

Citizens push back:

http://www.darksky.org/citizens-push-back-on-led-lighting/

 



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