Friday, August 22, 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





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