Oct 11, 2014

An ongoing project to upgrade or install about 9,000 street lights citywide with energy-efficient LED technology has rankled some Point Richmond residents who say the new lights are ruining their nighttime view and causing glare, Councilmember Tom Butt reported on his e-forum on Friday.

The LED technology’s lamps cast a wider, brighter light and provide better clarity at night, making the streets safer and easier to navigate, according to city officials.

Many residents have lauded the new street lights, but Butt says he’s been receiving a “flood of complaints” from Point Richmond residents.

“People are saying they are ruining their nighttime view or causing glare, and they want them removed or turned off,” the councilmember said, adding that some claim the lights are not “dark sky compliant.”

Butt said he’s received a lot of complaints about streetlights throughout his long tenure on Richmond City Council, usually about how there weren’t enough of them or they were not working.

“For as long as I can remember, people would do anything for a streetlight,” he said. “Now for the first time, I am getting complaints about have too many streetlights!”

As part of his response to Point Richmond residents, Butt provided links to the type of fixtures that has been installed, along with a link to show they are indeed dark sky friendly. Here’s yet another info link.

Butt did tell Point Richmond residents there is a dimmer light at the end of the tunnel. The councilmember instructed residents to email andy_yeung@ci.richmond.ca.us, who will put together a petition.

“If a majority of residents on a block want streetlights turned off, the city will accommodate them,” Butt said.

An image of a street before LED lights were installed



 An image of the same street after LED lights were installed and activated




  1. The LED lights were installed along our street up by the Hilltop Mall a few months back. But the fact is, all the brightness in the world doesn’t matter, because the trees along the streets are way, way overdue for pruning and there are a lot of “dark” spots. There was a woman awhile ago who looked like she was assessing which trees need pruning but apparently, nothing came of it. Trust me, they all do. It’s been seven years since the tree in front of our house was pruned.

    E Gelacio | Oct 11th, 2014
  2. These lights are way too bright. The old orange lights are so unnatural, the light they produced was actually harder for our eyes to detect. These new lights are closer in the color spectrum to sunlight, so our eyes are more sensitive to these new LED’s. Even if they are emitting the same number of lumens as the old orange lights, they appear to be brighter. For this reason alone, these lights should be dimmed. There was an interesting light study funded by the City of Seattle. The results of the study indicated that people saw *better* with LED lights when they were dimmed to 25% output, regardless of weather conditions and regardless of the age of the driver.

    Having street lights set too bright causes several problems. First, since they are too bright, they create “hard shadows” – basically very dark shadows where someone can hide. This makes people less safe. Second, allowing the street lights to have too much glare makes driving less safe at night. All of this can be fixed if the city reduces the brightness of the lights and installs the shields to direct the light down onto the street. There is a lot of information about public safety and good and bad lighting at the International Dark Sky website: http://www.darksky.org/light-pollution-topics/lighting-crime-safety

    Basically, the complaints about these lights are that they are too bright, the light is going into people’s houses and bedrooms and disrupting sleep, and they are causing glare which makes it hard to drive on certain streets. All of these problems can be easily solved by dimming the lights and installing the shields to direct the light down rather than out to the sides. Dimming the lights would also result in increased energy and cost savings to the city, as well as safer streets. If these lights were dimmed, it would be a win-win for the city and the residents using the roads, and for taxpayers.

    Hilary | Oct 12th, 2014

About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.