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Public Works: Decorative Lights Too Dim for Traffic Safety

The project to replace Arlington Avenue's streetlights remains halted due to residents concerns.

Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia hosted a meeting Monday with Contra Costa County Public Works employees, Pacific Gas and Electric representatives and Kensington residents to discuss ’s newly erected streetlamps.

No decisions were made on how PG&E will proceed with its halted task of replacing dozens of wooden streetlamps along Kensington’s main drag and replacing them with new, steel “cobra head” lamps. “(The meeting) was just about having all the info out on the table,” Gioia said.

When construction on the new lampposts commenced last month, Kensington residents became aware of, and unhappy about, the new style of lamps being installed on Arlington. Some asked why the lamps weren’t the decorative “acorn-style” ones neighboring Berkeley had on its stretch of Arlington.

After replacing most of the poles, PG&E stopped work early due to residents' complaints.

According to county public works, there are several problems with replacing the lamps with anything other than the "cobra heads," Gioia said:

PG&E is authorized by the Public Utility Commission to use only three different styles of lamps in projects like the Arlington one — a 250 watt, 32-foot-tall “cobra head” style, a 14-foot-tall decorative “acorn” style or a 16-foot-tall decorative “teardrop” style lamp, both the "acorn" and "teardrop" are about 150 watts. Public works said the “cobra heads” are the only style with enough height and wattage to provide the light needed for traffic safety on Kensington's piece of Arlington, Gioia said.

In order for the roads to be safely lit with the decorative lamps, PG&E would need to install as many as 50 percent more lamps on the avenue than planned. “That would be a construction nightmare,” Gioia said.

The costs of the additional lamps and construction would have to be undertaken by the county, which it cannot afford, Gioia said.

Gioia said county officials will speak with the city of Berkeley to gather more information about its lighting plan. County public works will also look into the 30-year-old Kensington lighting plan to ensure that decreasing lighting would be a traffic hazard. Construction on the streetlight replacement project will remain suspended for the time being.

George August 28, 2012 at 04:21 PM
So the county authorized and funded this without any input from the community or from Kensington officials? Without even looking to see what Berkeley had recently done on an adjacent stretch of The Arlington? >"PG&E is authorized by the Public Utility Commission to use only" then file for a variance based on local conditions, such as fog; But Berkeley somehow was able to get acceptable light fixtures.
Joseph Holmes August 28, 2012 at 06:29 PM
1) These uninvited, unannounced new lights grossly vandalize some of the best urban views in the world beginning with twilight. 2) These lights fill our bedrooms with extremely bright, ugly, yellow sodium vapor light, essentially destroying the darkness of a typical night, thanks to both the installation of fixtures in new locations and the use of absurdly light-polluting fixtures, which send large amounts of light sideways and up at an angle of several degrees -- instead of simply restricting the light so as to illuminate what it's intended to illuminate -- the ground. 3) The failure to use white LED lamps instead of sodium vapor is a tragic missed opportunity to get light of far better spectral power distribution (color), longer life, lower maintenance cost, and much better energy efficiency. http://www.dmxledlights.com/OutdoorLighting/StreetLightsLU1/Comparison_HPS_vs_LED_Street_Lights.html (typical comparison) and http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100308132136.htm (over 2 years ago, LEDs were already the better choice for cost and performance and energy waste at the same time and they've only improved since then) 4) This complete disregard for our community by PG&E is a shocking indication of arrogance on the part of the utility. We must see this mess reversed and an elegant solution installed, after community input. The damage done by these lights to the quality of life in our homes is remarkable for many of us living near the Arlington.
Gary Smith August 28, 2012 at 09:27 PM
I wonder if the old lamps were 250 watt? And I suggest that in my many years I've observed that 'cobra' style lamps are appropriate for freeways where night is made into 'day' for travelers, but an inappropriate, sterile imposition on life in residential neighborhoods. Yes, let's see how Berkeley managed it; their Arlington lighting works just right.
Toni Mayer August 28, 2012 at 10:42 PM
So it would seem. And the Berkeley stretch of Arlington is not significantly different from the Kensington stretch.
George September 24, 2012 at 05:03 AM
so whatever happened to this issue? I drove by one night and noticed that the new Kensington lights are bright enough to read a newspaper. WAY beyond safety needs. IMHO, it seemed like a terrible waste of energy. The Berkeley lights were great for safety, even in the fog, and not so bright to waste energy. The El Cerrito lights are a joke, and not even safe in the fog. Why isn't PGE or the county looking at that?
Charles Burress (Editor) September 24, 2012 at 07:42 AM
The issue is still pending. We just published an update reporting that a community meeting is being planned: http://patch.com/A-xZYT.
bruce October 31, 2012 at 09:48 AM
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bruce October 31, 2012 at 09:50 AM
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