Los Angeles installed its first seven street lights downtown in 1882. LA’s oldest street lights tend to be downtown and on major streets and neighborhoods moving westerly towards the Pacific coast. Street lighting in the San Fernando Valley mostly developed during 1940’s and 1950’s, and in south, central and west L.A. during the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Today, the Bureau of Street Lights (BSL) is responsible for approximately 220,000 street lights that illuminate two-thirds of the City. LA’s street lights are supported by a vast underground network of approximately 9,000 miles of conduit filled with 27,000 miles of copper wire.
Most streetlight fixtures, primarily metal and concrete poles plus light sources, are 50 years old or more. Some are nearly a century old.
The Bureau of Street Lights relies almost entirely on a dedicated funding source that hasn’t increased in nearly 30 years, when a gallon of gas and a dozen eggs cost about $1 each. More than 95% of the Bureau’s funding is from this decades-old assessment.
Today, on a typical night, more than 25,000 of the local street lights in Los Angeles are reported to be not functioning. Because of insufficient funding, it can take more than three months to get street lights back up and running.
There is a need to update the streetlight assessment to maintain, repair and upgrade street lights to protect and improve neighborhood and street safety, reduce car accidents, and protect pedestrians, reduce theft and property crime, respond to, and prevent increasing vandalism and theft of copper wire, and continue improving energy-efficiency.
The Bureau is proposing a new assessment which, if approved by assessed property owners, would provide locally controlled funding to maintain and improve LA’s network of street lights.
This will in turn:
- Improve neighborhood security
- Prevent crime
- Increase traffic safety
- Lessen energy consumption
- Increase economic activity
- Help protect the assessed properties from natural disasters
An updated assessment will also help secure millions of dollars in available Federal matching grant money that will otherwise go to other cities and will ensure that new development pays its fair share.
Increased revenue will also allow Los Angeles to use our vast system of street lights to improve access to electricity and the internet throughout Los Angeles, especially in poor and disadvantaged areas of the City.
Improving LA’s network of street lights will increase security and help reduce potential criminal activity by ensuring that sidewalks, streets and property fronts are more visible during dusk and nighttime hours. Increased visibility will reduce opportunities for potential vandalism and other property-related crimes.
Lighting has a positive effect on reducing crime1, with the positive benefits similar to those observed for roadway lighting reducing crashes.2
Maintaining and improving LA’s street lights will also help keep traffic safer between dusk and dawn. Pedestrian and traffic safety is considerably reduced in the hours of darkness. Various studies have concluded that good quality street lighting reduces the accident rate by increasing overall visibility. Driving at night is more dangerous: only a quarter of all travel by car drivers is between the hours of 7pm and 8am, yet this period accounts for 40% of fatal and serious injuries.3
Additional funding will help replace aging light poles at risk of falling in a storm or earthquake. Upgrading wiring and adding solar panels can help reduce streetlight blackouts.
Brightly lit areas make us feel safer. Improved and well-maintained street lighting will enhance commercial properties because well-lit areas are more welcoming and feel safer to customers.4
Beginning in 2009, Los Angeles has begun one of the first efforts in the world to replace outdated light fixtures with new LED technology. LED lights have a 10+ year lifespan, compared to about 2 years for most of the older street lights. This ambitious effort has so far saved nearly $10M annually in energy costs and reduced maintenance. Much more remains to be done to continue saving money, lowering the City’s carbon footprint, and freeing up much-needed electrical capacity.
On any given night, more than 25,000 street lights in Los Angeles are reported to be not functioning. This assessment will allow the City to repair streetlights much more quickly to keep our neighborhoods well-lit and safe.
Because of a lack of funding, it can take more than three months to get street lights back up and running. This measure will allow the City to repair street lights much more quickly to keep our neighborhoods well-lit and safe.
Over the past four years, Los Angeles has seen a dramatic four-fold increase in the number of theft and vandalism incidents that has significantly impacted its street lighting network. And while these types of incidents are endemic to electrical and lighting systems due to the value of metals and electricity, the cumulative damage and its profound effect has required the Bureau of Street Lighting to both triple its resource requests to keep pace with outages.
An updated assessment would ensure that the Bureau of Street Lighting can upgrade outdated lamps and circuitry with newer and more efficient models, thereby decreasing outages, improving overall maintenance, increasing system-wide energy efficiency, saving money and reducing long-term maintenance costs.
Streetlights are more than just lights, they are fixtures of our streets that can provide important amenities to our neighborhoods and communities. An updated assessment would provide the funding needed for infrastructure upgrades that increase safety and bridge the digital divide across LA’s most disadvantaged communities. This includes by installing WiFi access points on streetlights, bringing public internet access to some of our most disconnected communities. Furthermore, to increase the health and safety of our communities, BSL has installed air quality monitoring sensors and safety cameras on streetlights across the city and increased the brightness of new transitional lighting zones during high levels of pedestrian traffic. An assessment would allow an expansion of many of these efforts across all our City’s diverse communities.
Yes. Funds from the proposed assessment can only be used locally for these specific purposes.
Funds will be subject to:
- Public Disclosure
- Citizen Oversight
- Annual Audits
1National Cooperative Highway Research Program Transportation Research Board of The National Academies, 2009.
2Review of the Safety Benefits and Other Effects of Roadway Lighting, National Cooperative Highway Research Program, Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, 2009.
3Night-time accidents: a scoping study, UCL, London, 2009). According to Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2009
4Modifying the Built Environment: The Impact of Improved Streetlighting, Herbert, Geoforum, Volume 25, Issue 3, 1994.