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Costs Of Streetlighting Services

Streetlights are predominantly funded by an Assessment for a designated Street Lighting Maintenance District. California state laws and the City Charter provides the authority for the Bureau of Street Lighting to collect approved Assessments from established Street Lighting Maintenance Districts. In addition, the Bureau of Street Lighting is also funded by:

  1. The General Fund for streetlights that are of general benefit (e.g.: Streetlights on a bridge or in a tunnel)
  2. Special funding sources such as Measure M in relation to its work on transit
  3. Grants tied to specific projects

An assessment is a monetary imposition levied upon real property. The assessment amount for street lighting varies and depends upon the specific benefit of the assessed property. The street lighting maintenance assessment is based on land use and acreage. The annual street lighting maintenance assessment cost for the majority of residential streets in existing lighting districts that have been frozen since 1996 is $53. The annual cost for a typical single family residence with a newly formed maintenance assessment is currently $95. The maintenance cost is billed to property owners as an assessment item on their L.A. County Property Tax Bill.

The cost is distributed by a calculated percentage of the residents who are benefitting from the newly installed street lighting system. For more information please visit our Prop 218 section of the Bureau Of Street Lighting website.

California voters passed Proposition 218 “Right to Vote on Taxes Act” in November 1996 and became effective on July 1, 1997. Proposition 218 impacted the City of Los Angeles, Bureau of Street Lighting and made changes to our assessment law. Prior to Prop 218, a voter approval process was not required by local governments to impose assessments. Proposition 218 is an amendment to the California Constitution (Articles XIIIC and XIIID) requiring local governments to conduct a voter approval process amongst benefitting property owners to impose or increase any street lighting maintenance assessment before it could be levied.

Special Benefit is the direct street lighting benefit to a property, and to its owner or users, based on the existence of the nearby street lighting systems that is designed to illuminate the roadway and sidewalk adjacent to the specific property at night. When there is a single streetlight in front of or near the property in question, there is special benefit to the extent that the roadway and sidewalk are illuminated, notwithstanding that the street lighting system for the block is incomplete. Proposition 218 allows the assessment of properties which receive special benefit, to the extent that the assessment is not greater than the reasonable cost of the proportional special benefit conferred on those parcels.
General Benefit is defined as a benefit to properties in the surrounding community or a benefit to the public in general resulting from the improvements, activities or services to be provided by the assessment levy. These benefits include the benefit from street lighting systems for locations that do not benefit specific properties, as well as interim lighting for minimal traffic safety on wooden power poles and permanent lighting at intersections with mast arm or traffic vehicular heads. Any special benefit from these lights will be intangible and not quantifiable in relation to their General Benefit use. Proposition 218 requires the City to finance general benefit costs from other than property assessments. These costs are financed from public funds.

The City is required to show that a valid method was used to identify the special benefit from the improvement because only special benefits are accessible. Costs associated with general benefit must be paid with other resources. Procedures for new assessments require us to identify all affected property owners and determine the proportionate special benefit to each property. Notices of Hearings are then sent to affected property owners. The content of the Notice includes an approximate annual assessment, a reason for an assessment, information regarding public hearings, and a summary of voting procedures.

The street lighting maintenance assessment is not a tax, it is a levy (charge). This charge is for a special benefit conferred upon specific properties, and is used to finance all costs related to street lighting maintenance, operation, and services. If the portion of roadway and/or sidewalk adjacent to the property - regardless of ownership (i.e. Federal, City, etc.)is receiving significant illumination from the lighting, the property is considered receiving a special benefit from the street lighting system. Lighting which does not benefit specific properties is considered General Benefit and is not assessed to property owners. The City is not responsible for lighting front yards of properties.

The Bureau’s ability to do more is constrained by its resources. Ninety percent of Bureau of Street Lighting’s main source of revenue – the Street Lighting Assessment – has been frozen since the passage of Proposition 218 in 1996. In other words, revenues have remained fairly static while expenditures have risen. The table below is an example of our main revenue source vs theft and vandalism related expenditures:











FY 16-17





FY 17-18





FY 18-19





FY 19-20





FY 20-21





FY 21-22





FY 22-23





This past fiscal year (23/24), the Mayor and Council added nearly $17M to the Bureau in order to combat theft and vandalism. Without this funding and staffing it would take us between four to ten years to accumulate enough funds base on the current Assessment to repair a light out related to theft and vandalism. Note that the funding added by the Mayor and Council is not guaranteed annually. Only the Assessment is a steady source of revenue.

Streetlighting Assessments

Properties adjacent to a public sidewalk and/or roadway receiving light from a street lighting system are considered to be benefiting from the street lighting system. Therefore, property owners who benefit from street lights pay costs for installing, operating and/or maintaining streetlights in the City of Los Angeles. The City groups these properties into “Lighting Districts” that are created when an Assessment is formed to pay for the streetlights.

A street lighting district is an administrative border created by the City to pay for costs associated with illuminating public streets, sidewalks, highways, parks and alleys. The lighting district consists of all parcels which are considered to be benefiting from a given streetlighting system.

In order to establish a Lighting District and Assessment, the Bureau undertakes a process that involves developing a lighting plan for an area, creating an Engineer’s Report that sets the benefit (in this case, a streetlight) and budget, and a vote of the affected property owners. For more information see:

Ballots are tabulated following the public City Council Hearing. Ballots are weighted according to proportional financial obligation in compliance with State law. A majority for approval exists if weighted ballots submitted in favor exceed weighted ballots submitted in opposition to the street lighting maintenance assessment. The City may levy the street lighting maintenance assessments if a majority of the weighted ballots submitted does not oppose the assessment.

The results of the Lighting District will be adopted by the City Council at the Final Ordinance Hearing. Benefiting property owners will receive a Notice along with their ballot specifying all Hearing dates.

No, the annual streetlighting assessment will appear as a separate item in your L.A. County Property Tax Bill.

The streetlighting assessment item on the LA County Property Tax bill will cover maintenance, operation, energy and repair costs for the street lighting system adjacent to your property.

Only an L.A. City Councilmember may request for a re-ballot.

You can contact the Proposition 218 Compliance Section at bslprop218@lacity.org