Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bob Dunning: New streetlight goes over like a LED balloon


From page A2 | May 20, 2014 |

The urgent email came just before dark on Friday night, when average Davisites are snug in their beds, resting up for the many right and relevant civic activities that await them on a typical Saturday in this town.

I put down my pizza so I wouldn’t stain the freshly minted email with orangish pepperoni grease and read on in earnest. Or as earnestly as one can read on a Friday night in East Davis.

The email was directed to our dear mayor, Joe Krovoza, and his Assembly running mate, Dan Wolk, the mayor pro tem. It was sent to me as a courtesy so I wouldn’t have to pay a large fee to my usual sources to obtain it.

The “subject” line on the email said tellingly: “Street lights and spectrum: our cul-de-sac is not a parking lot.”

Sounds to me as if Danny, the email’s author, has students on his cul-de-sac who park their many vehicles in odd and distressing patterns as they deal with a dead-end street shaped like a light bulb.

“Yesterday,” Danny begins, “Public Works placed a street light opposite our house.” (On the River Streets). “Public Works has chosen a spectrum for the LED lights that duplicates mercury vapor bulbs. When one flies at night across this great country, mercury bulbs dominate parking lots, arterials and highways; sodium vapor, with their softer, warmer spectrum, dominate residential neighborhoods.”

I won’t know anything about what Danny is saying until I ask my friends in the light bulb department at Davis Lumber.

“The intensity is an issue. Hurts your eyes if you glance up; yet not such a great job illuminating the street when one looks around. All in all, yet one more way the City has made Davis a worse place to live. I suspect you have just lowered residential property values by over $5,000 per home to boot.”

Which makes the price of the average Davis home somewhere around $895,000.

Adds Danny: “Julie Partansky was early on stressing the importance of the biological and psychological value of access to natural light, only mitigated by safety concerns. This seems to go in the opposite direction.”

Raising the name of the late, great Julie Partansky makes politicians in this town sit up and take notice.

“Before you replace all 2,400 lights, you should consider spectrum and intensity. And then replace our street bulb with a lower intensity one and a more natural spectrum. As a process, it would make more sense to check with people who live here before you make such changes. Run tests. Ask for opinions and response. Before you make your bulk purchase, if that’s not already been done.”

These were clearly fighting words. So I ordered everyone in our humble home to immediately cease and desist with their pizza and whatever Netflix was offering on TV, loaded everyone into our Honda van and off we roared to the other side of town on a field trip of great importance in the Most Relevant Town in America.

And what to our wondering eyes did appear but a street light capable of turning night into day. Fortunately, we were all wearing sunblock, even as I warned the kids to not look directly at the street light.

Noted Danny, directing his comments to the entire City Council: “Davis is not a class project.”

Amen to that.

“The contrast between the relatively exposed over-bright bulbs which cause one’s pupils to contract, and the measured illumination may be counter-effective in ability to actually see, at any given level of illumination. Seeing being more or less the whole point of having street lights.”

You do have a way of saying things, Danny.

Well, lo and behold, despite all the abundant praise, the mayor responded promptly, noting that he and his wife “Noticed our new light across from our house last night.”

And what did you and the first lady think, Mr. Mayor?

“We spent 5 minutes under it in complete disbelief. I am on this. There is absolutely no way these can go in all over town. There are highly energy-efficient lights that cast a warm light. We absolutely can’t have the current ones stand. This gives energy efficiency a bad name. We must show that we can do energy efficiency with equal or greater quality, otherwise the public sees energy-saving measures as they did when Carter told everyone to wear a sweater inside. Didn’t work, and set back the movement.”

Heaven forbid anyone should be setting back the movement. I think I’ll just run inside and grab a sweater. Not to mention a pair of sunglasses.

— Reach Bob Dunning at


Discussion | 7 comments

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  • May 20, 2014 - 9:00 am

    I'm not generally a Dunning fan, and I don't care one way or the other about these street lights, but MAN did Dunning nail the headline on this one.

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  • RussellMay 27, 2014 - 10:43 pm

    I live in Stonegate, and love the new lights. A definite improvement over the old ones that didn't really light much of anything.

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  • kentMay 20, 2014 - 9:13 am

    If you read Dunning's story and you haven't experienced these lights yourself, drive on a street in West Davis. I'm all for energy efficient lighting, but these lights turn Davis' muted, subdued lighting into the kind of lighting you see at a gas station at night. They're really garish, bad and unnatural and they send light much, much farther than the old lights. No way they can allow this project to continue. The mayor gets my vote if he acts quickly to put a stop to this.

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  • Austin KerrMay 20, 2014 - 11:32 am

    I'm seeking clarification about Kent's comment. Kent, are you going to vote Krovoza for District Assembly? Or are you going to vote for someone else so that Krovoza will continue to be our mayor?

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  • May 20, 2014 - 4:25 pm

    Krovoza's term as mayor is over this summer. He's done with city council either way, as he's not running for re-election. He either goes to the Assembly or he goes home.

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  • KentMay 22, 2014 - 1:40 pm

    I'll vote for anyone who has the authority to get rid of the LEDs they're putting in favor of a mellow, more natural option - and has the power to do so.

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  • Alan MillerMay 20, 2014 - 11:32 am

    Totally agree. I'm a huge fan of LEDs (efficiency, lack of mercury) and did my whole house in them when they were still quite expensive. There is a huge variety, including in the sodium vapor / incandescent range and those that can diffuse the light yet keep a dark sky. There is no need for glaring LEDs. Keep Davis light mellow!

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