New Street Lights Met With Mixed Reviews

South San Francisco, CA  October 15, 2014

The City of South San Francisco announced earlier this month the street light retrofit project changing approximately 3,600 of our street light illumination to LED across the city. Our downtown Grand Avenue implemented these changes two years ago under the direction of Frank McAuley, DPW. At that time McAuley told us

The 84 lampposts in the downtown district will now have better lighting due to the change from High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lamps to Inductance lamps Photo: ESC

The 84 lampposts in the downtown district were upgraded two years ago
Photo: ESC

“We have 42 lampposts in the downtown district which adds up to 84 lights. The life of these new Inductance lamps will be twenty years versus the five years for the current High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lamps that are in use. Furthermore, electrical costs will drop from $5.51 to $3.16 per month per lamp and it all adds up.”

This current $1.1 million dollar project paid  out of general fund money will address the residential neighborhoods and is expected to completed before Thanksgiving.  The project map indicates the northern end of our city will see the first of this work, including the Winston Manor and Westborough neighborhoods. While there did not seem to be any negative impact on the downtown area when the upgrades were installed, there does seem to be some backlash to the changes made in residential areas.  As always, please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences with us here.



I hate it. It makes the neighborhood dark and in my opinion i feel like the neighborhood is empty. I feel like the light are calling out to the dark houses ” look rob me I have no light near me” like u get that unsafe feel! Idk how to feel when I take out the trash now.” Ally

” doubt any live test area was studied prior to rolling this out. This program should be halted immediately and the areas which have been converted should be studied before proceeding any further. Hopefully ssf can take swift action and not become caught up in procedural matters until after the retrofit is complete. Once this is done they could simply say the project is complete and would be too costly to redo.

This is a serious matter and potential safety issue. If the selected lights have narrow patterns it will leave large areas unlit and will make it easier for crimes to be committed. Cars and houses in the shadows will be easier to break into because no one will be able to see them next to the brightly lit areas. The shadows make it easier for predators (human and animal) to hide and work from as well. ” William

New LED lights find mixed reviews Photo: Belinda Perez Skarsgård

New LED lights find mixed reviews
Photo: Belinda Perez Skarsgård

“We have LED light here and its much darker. I hate it, makes walking the dog in the predawn hours really hard.” Tiffany

Not sure if it’s darker in the unlit areas or it’s the same but just looks darker because the lit areas are brighter.” Armando

I think it feels darker.” Katie

“I know that the LED lights “make the most sense”, etc., but they look just awful, in my opinion, which I know doesn’t matter in the bigger scheme. When I first saw them, the first word that came to mind is “ghastly”, and I immediately thought of how our street now looks like a scene from a horror movie. Perfect for Halloween, I suppose, but ugh. They’re so bright too, without illuminating well, if that makes sense. Too bad I took the warmth of the look of the other lights for granted; now I miss them.” Karen P

“The white lights makes the city more modern. Vancouver, Canada already has them installed in the newer communities and it looks great. The difference is that the distance between each light pole is closer. We just need more lights.” Jason

I live in WWM and the new lights are bright but the illumination isn’t far reaching so the few houses in between poles are eerily dark. It gives my street a creepy look. Fortunately my house is directly across from a pole & lit up, but my neighbors just a couple houses up are in a dark space.” Barbara

I walk every night frm Arlington to Duval via Elkwood or Felton. The lights before were too dark but ‘far reaching’ or larger circumference. The lights now is brighter but in a smaller area.

Leave your porch lights on and it won’t seem as dark. Problem solved.” Erik

I agree Erik Alvarez. I have “dawn to dusk” lights on my porch and over my garage. My house is well lit on an otherwise dark street.” Debbie

Don’t light up enough area” Mike

Sunshine gardens also got them yesterday it seems brighter but will take a second look tonight” Olga

I think they are brighter but definitely do not reach as far as the old lights.” Melissa

The City’s new LED streetlights were apparently installed in Winston Manor either today or yesterday. They illuminate nicely, and I know they save a LOT of energy. But it’s much darker between the lamps and I can see some people being unhappy with slightly darker neighborhoods.” John

The lamp post probably needs stronger LED bulbs.” Randy

Driving at night with rapid transition from brightly lit areas to dark areas is very dangerous. That’s why you may have noticed the more advanced and variable lighting in new tunnels or retrofitted tunnels.

I remember when DC installed new fixtures on the the overpass on 280. When driving on 280 there was significant glare which reduced your vision at night once you passed the lights. They installed diffusers shortly after which attenuated the glare. ” William

“I like the new LED lights, if nothing else then for the $ saved. Yes, it is darker between them–probably less light pollution. Safety-wise, haven’t most of the recent burglaries occurred during the day? Like anything, I think it is just a matter of getting used to them.” Melinda



Justin Lovall from the City’s Department of Public Works addressed these concerns in this written statement;

“Thank you for your feedback. South San Francisco uses streetlights for roadway lighting and not necessarily for residential safety lighting. There are currently no plans to light up darker areas with more lights. The darker areas are a result of spacing in between streetlights. LED streetlights are different than the previous fixtures in that the LED lights are whiter, brighter and the light does not spill over into driveways and yards as the previous streetlights did, which is why you would no longer see the houses across the street. Public Works has been testing LEDs since May on N. Canal St. to test how LEDs would affect street lighting. As part of the project, Public Works have decided to replace residential streetlights with a brighter LED than what would typically be used to replace a residential high pressure sodium streetlight.

If you have more questions please call Justin Lovell or Dave Bockhaus at the Corp Yard at 650-877-8550.



“We understand your concerns about safety with the new lights. Street lighting standards are established to provide safe travel by motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians at night. The LED fixtures that were selected to replace the older high pressure sodium lighting are designed to provide equivalent safety lighting of the roadway. In some cases, a slightly higher wattage of LED light was selected to further standardize light fixtures across the city.

The way that the LED light is projected onto the roadway may be contributing to a perceived reduction in lighting. The newer fixtures are designed to limit the amount of light “trespass” outside of the roadway onto private property. This allows for individual property owners to augment night lighting to suit their individual concerns for security lighting. The preferences of property owners regarding encroachment of light from the street differs.

One security benefit of the new LED lights is better color rendering. The whiter light reflects truer colors which aids in more accurate reporting of suspect clothing and vehicle colors. Although subtle, it may aid in the apprehension of criminals.” Justin Lovell DPW Corp Yard at 650-877-8550

Source: City Website

Source: City Website


Use the Key Map to identify what map segment and row your neighborhood is in. The targeted installation dates are indicated by row below.

Row 1 (L15-J14)     10/13 – 10/27

Row 2 (L19-J20)     10/20 – 11/3

Row 3 (L25-J25)     10/27 – 11/10

Row 4 (P03-N04)     11/3 – 11/17

Row 5 (P09-N08)     11/10 – 11/24

General installation will occur in the following way. Starting in the upper left map grid box (L15), we will work left to right in the first row (L15-J14), and then back right to left in the second row (J20-L19), repeating this back and forth pattern until the entire city has been covered.

Areas that provide major commute routes within the city will be retrofitted in a way to minimize the impact to the commute. This means that installation typically occur before/after the commute window on those routes.

To sign up for the City updates on this LED program CLICK HERE

After LED upgrades PHOTO: City Website

After LED upgrades
PHOTO: City Website

Before LED upgrades PHOTO: City Website

Before LED upgrades
PHOTO: City Website

3 comments for “New Street Lights Met With Mixed Reviews

  1. Gloria
    October 18, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    With the new led lights, its creepy dark, unsafe, its no longer has that neighborhood calm lighted feeling. dark, like a campsite, you need a flashlight, I can no longer get the garbage can, when I get home, dark yards, outlaw them.

  2. Champ
    October 21, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Our Sunshine Gardens neighborhood is darker because we have big gaps between street lights and the LED doesn’t spill out like they used to as Mr. Lovall mentioned. I like LED lights overall, but our neighborhood does not have the same before/after as the city website photos.

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