Happy Holidays! (and street lighting)
In the 1990s, residents in the Yalecrest neighborhood of Salt Lake City petitioned for the right to install decorative streetlights to provide better lighting at the pedestrian scale, complementing the more traditional streetlight program with taller poles focused on providing light to streets for motor vehicles.
Called the Privately Owned Street Lighting Program, the city often provides grant support, but the residents remained responsible for organizing and paying for the construction, as well as covering the ongoing costs of the electricity--billed to specific lots where the poles were erected--and changing burned out bulbs.
Separately, Salt Lake has a different program allowing for "enhanced service" comparable to the private lighting program, but had been organized as special service districts. That changed recently, and the many smaller SSDs were rolled up into two consolidated "public lighting districts" to pay for, manage, and upgrade lighting systems to LED lights, etc. Residents in those districts pay an additional monthly fee, tacked on to the city utility bills, which cover water and waste collection.
And the neighboring City of South Salt Lake has a Street Lighting Master Plan that covers night time lighting on multiple dimensions, in the manner of the most forward-thinking cities.
These past blog entries discuss best practice planning for lighting in multiple dimensions, not just for safety, but for activation, branding, etc.
-- "Night-time safety: rethinking lighting in the context of a walking community," 2014
-- "Lighting as an element of urban design and community identity," 2014
-- ""Night time as a daypart and a design product," 2017
-- "Revisiting stories: Night-time safety: rethinking lighting in the context of a walking community and Detroit's reduction in pedestrian deaths from lighting upgrades," 2018
-- "Philips Lighting changes name to Signify," 2018
In Washington, DC this kind of neighborhood lighting is installed in historic districts and is called Washington Globe lighting, although you can find this kind of lighting--which I think of as pedestrian and sidewalk oriented as opposed to the tall streetlights which focus on lighting streets for cars--in other neighborhoods. The program is initiated, managed, funded and operated by the city, under the public space maintenance responsibilities of the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT).
-- "WASHINGTON’S STREETLIGHTS: ILLUMINATING THE CAPITAL CITY ONE ROAD AT A TIME," National Capital Planning Commission
It's very difficult to get the city to install this kind of lighting in places where it isn't already installed, and it is expensive to do so because the way it is installed is by integrating the lights into the separate street light electricity network installed within the public space. That means digging up the street and planting strips, creating a trench, installing electrical lines, etc.
Separately, DC aims to do a master upgrade of all the city's streetlights, for energy and cost savings, although this has been controversial in many neighborhoods, concerning whether or not LED lights pumping out too much Kelvin can damage your health ("The Changing Glow Of D.C. As Streetlights Make The Switch To LEDs," WAMU/NPR), so the program has stalled.
The brilliance of the Salt Lake Privately Owned Street Lighting Program is that it is so much cheaper, maybe 10% of the cost of the normal way, because rather than a massive digging up of the public space to connect the lights to the public streetlight network, only a bit of the public space has to be disturbed, because each light is instead connected to the electricity system of individual houses--the lot on which the lightpole is installed takes on the responsibility.
While residents have to spend the time to make this happen, it doesn't require the lengthy approval and budgeting processes required when adding the lights to the publicly owned and managed streetlight network.
The Salt Lake program is interesting because it's an example of civic engagement, "self help," community and neighborhood organization, and civic pride.
This is demonstrated by how many property owners and adjacent residents "take ownership" and express civic pride in these lights, by decorating them for holidays--not just Christmas but Halloween--or just because.
They can do this, because unlike traditional streetlights, typical these streetlights are installed with plugs (electric outlets). "Normal" streetlights are rarely installed with plugs because a city doesn't want to pay for extra, unauthorized electricity use.
Festively lit street lights in Salt Lake City
This streetlight has a lighted wreath and green lighted bulbs on the globe.
You can't really tell from the photos, but on this block, houses on one side have changed the light bulb to red and on the other side of the street, green. So the globes glow very strongly either red or green.
This street has a coordinated treatment also.
Similarly, many residents go all out for holiday decorations, for Halloween, Christmas, even Thanksgiving.
On one nearby street, many of the residents coordinate Christmas decorating, calling their street, "Christmas Street" Images from "Christmas Street in Sugarhouse," Utah's Adventure Family. (My camera isn't good for night pictures.)