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Prop 218
5 bulb street light
Citywide Ballot Preparation (Prop 218)

The Bureau’s proactive LED Conversion Program has saved millions in energy costs and continues to generate cost savings; however, the Street Lighting District Assessment model, which funds Bureau operations, is unsustainable for the future. The tax assessments for the City’s Street Lighting District Assessment have remained the same since 1996, in compliance with Proposition 218. The Bureau is planning for a citywide ballot to update over 550,000 frozen parcels to current costs in order to properly maintain the City’s system of 223,000 streetlights. The status of a citywide Ballot remains pending.

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California voters passed Proposition 218 “Right to Vote on Taxes Act” in November, 1996 with the portion pertaining to assessments effective on July 1, 1997. Proposition 218 impacted the City of Los Angeles, Bureau of Street Lighting and made changes to our assessment law. 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 for any new assessment before it could be levied. A voter approval process was not required by local governments to impose assessments onto benefitting property owners prior to the passage of Proposition 218; only Council approval at a scheduled Hearing was required. We must comply with both existing statutes and the new Constitutional requirements.

Street lighting maintenance assessment is not a tax. It is a levy or charge for a special benefit conferred upon specific properties, and is used to finance all costs of street lighting maintenance, operation, and services. Properties are considered to receive a special benefit from the lighting if the portion of roadway and sidewalk adjacent to the property is receiving significant illumination from the lighting. (The City is not responsible for lighting up front yards of properties)

Properties which do not receive special benefit are not assessed, and properties which benefit are assessed regardless of ownership (ex. Federal government, City of Los Angeles). For any given street lighting district, if the maintenance assessments cannot be collected, then the lighting within the district must be removed from service, in accordance with the Street Lighting Policy adopted by the City Council on December 19, 1997.

On the other hand, taxes are collected and placed into a general fund for general governmental purposes. Lighting which do not benefit specific properties is considered General Benefit and is financed by general funds.

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.

Based on Council Policy, Los Angeles Administrative Code, annual City Budgets, and assessment proceedings, assessments are for the total estimated amount of the cost of operation and maintenance.

A Lighting District is an area determined to contain all parcels which will receive benefit from a given street lighting system specified under a street lighting plan. This means that it’s possible for your property to be in multiple districts if the street lights around the property were installed at different times by different street lighting plans. For example, if you own a corner lot, and you currently have street lights on one side of your property, then it’s likely you are in an existing assessment lighting district. If a new street lighting plan installs street lights on the other side of your property, then your property will be in two assessment lighting districts. However, your new total street lighting assessment will be the same regardless of your property being in multiple lighting districts or only one lighting district.

Only those ballots received are counted; ballots not returned are not included in the tabulation. The ballot is weighted proportionally by the amount of the proposed assessment for the district. This weight is shown on your notice in the Assessment Information section, under “Proposed Annual Maintenance Assessment for the New Street Lighting” for “Your Parcel”, or on your ballot as the amount that will be subject to increase by the local Consumer Price Index. Ballots representing larger district assessments have a larger weight than ballots for smaller district assessments. The proposed assessments will be levied only if the weighted “YES” votes equal or exceed the weighted “NO” votes. If no ballots are returned, then all proposed assessments will be levied. If there is a weighted majority of “NO” votes received, regardless of how few ballots are returned, the assessments for the district shall not be imposed and the streetlights within the district will be removed from service.

You will receive written notification only if your district has failed the election.

No. The assessment will appear in your County Property Tax Bill as an assessment item.

On the property tax bill, where your street lighting maintenance assessment appears, you will be paying maintenance assessments covering the fiscal year of when the street lighting system was first energized and when the lighting district was adopted. In subsequent years, your assessment amount will be the annual assessment amount for the district(s).

It is indefinite as to when defeated lighting districts will be revisited since we have an abundance of new projects we need to process for a Prop. 218 ballot proceeding. However, if you have reason to believe that another ballot proceeding would be successful; you can initiate another ballot proceeding by following the REBALLOT PROCEDURE.

PROCEDURE FOR REQUESTING A REBALLOT FOR A DEFEATED MAINTENANCE ASSESSMENT LIGHTING DISTRICT Since the City has already expended significant effort and expense to comply with Proposition 218 on the first ballot proceeding, and the results of that ballot election are respected, the requirements below are necessary to assure that the property owners want a 2nd ballot election, and that a new effort will not be wasted.

A petition (English or Spanish) must be received by the Bureau of Street Lighting, Proposition 218 Compliance Section - see links to forms below - showing that approximately 60% of the property owners in the lighting district, weighted by assessment amounts, are willing to vote “YES” in the reballot to institute maintenance assessments for the lights.

The petitions below are in Adobe Acrobat PDF file format. If you do not have the Acrobat Reader, you can download the free reader at the Adobe site. This site will provide the program and instructions for installation on your computer.

Click here to go to the Adobe site.

Reballot Petition (English)
La Peticion Para Iniciar Un Re-voto (Espanol)

The reballot will be processed as a 12 to 36 month assessment, whatever was assessed for in the original defeated district.


The Bureau of Street Lighting, Proposition 218 Compliance Section must be contacted in writing (FAX is acceptable) within two (2) weeks of the date on the notification letter (sent to property owners within the lighting district indicating that lights will be de-energized) to indicate that a petition will possibly be sent to the Bureau. The streetlights will not be turned off during this 2 week period if the lights have not yet been de-energized. After the time the Bureau is contacted, the de-energization of the streetlights will be postponed, and your district is allowed 30 days for districts with up to 50 parcels, or 60 days if there are more than 50 parcels in the district, to submit the petition. If the streetlights have already been turned off, then we will make arrangements to turn the lights back on after receiving the required petition.


Affected streetlights in your lighting district will be turned off if:

  1. no inquiries are received within the 2 week period as mentioned above, or
  2. no petition received within the allotted time, or
  3. invalid petition was received.


Regardless of the outcome of the reballot, the results will hold, and no reballot will be conducted for a minimum of one (1) year.

You can contact the Proposition 218 Compliance Section at (213) 847-1500.