Del Mar streetlights to get brighter

By Claire Harlin

The Del Mar City Council on Dec. 3 approved moving forward with a project that would replace the city’s existing streetlights with brighter, whiter, more energy-efficient ones.

Under a resolution unanimously passed by the council, the city will enter into a $16,000 agreement with Southwest Signal. Inc. for the retrofitting of 32 city-owned lights. About 40 other lights in Del Mar will not be retrofitted because they are owned by San Diego Gas and Electric. The current high-pressure sodium lights will be replaced with induction luminaries, which are about half the price. The city estimates the switch will save about $2,500 annually in energy costs.

Del Mar resident Bill Michalsky said he called the city to find the locations of, and paid a visit to, two trial streetlights that have already been installed — one at the southwest corner of Ninth Street and Camino Del Mar and another slightly north of the railroad crossing along Coast Boulevard.

Noticeably different is the new lights’ brightness, he and another email respondent expressed, however, Michalsky said he’s most concerned that the public did not have much time to become familiar with and understand the measure.

“City residents would have only known about the decision if they happened to subscribe to the city’s email list,” he said, asking the city to postpone the decision.

Del Mar Public Works Director Eric Minicilli said a decision is time sensitive, because the city was awarded a $25,000 state grant for the project and funds must be used by March.

“If there is a change, these things take six weeks to arrive, and we are under the gun,” said Minicilli, adding that Del Mar was originally passed up for the California Energy Consumption (CEC) grant, but ended up being awarded it after the state reworked its finances.

Councilman Don Mosier said he realizes that community members have, and may continue, to express concern about light pollution caused by the brighter lights, however, he said the environmental and cost-saving qualities outweigh that downfall.

Councilman Terry Sinnot said there are added safety benefits of the whiter, truer light, such as aiding police in identifying cars. He did suggest, however, that the city be proactive about shielding the lights when necessary to protect properties that may be negatively impacted.