Questions about the city project

Note: Many questions about the city street lighting projects need to be directed to the city. We’ve selected just a few that we feel confident we can answer based on presentations made at Governing Body meetings, in email answers to questions, on city web sites, and in newspaper articles. 

What is the city proposing? 

On February 24, 2021 Director Wheeler, of the city’s Department of Public Works, proposed to the Governing Body (the mayor and the councilors) a plan that would have replaced all street lights in the city with LED streetlights with color temperatures of 3000 K or 4000 K.

Resident concerns led the Governing Body to defer the decision on the proposed lighting plan until a greater cross-section of the community could be solicited and their concerns be factored in to the plan. Three months were allowed for this community engagement process.

The Department of Public Works began engaging with the community six weeks later. The community engagement is planned to last for four weeks, ending on May 9. A community “advisory panel” was appointed; however, it has met only once and its views or advice have not been solicited since its first “meet and greet” on April 13.  At this writing [May 6] no further meetings of the “advisory panel” have been arranged.

On April 23 both Director Wheeler and Dalkia Project Expeditor Ernst informed residents who came out to view the lighting demonstration at Frenchy’s Field that the final light plan will not be substantially different from the original plan: 4000 K on major streets, 3000 K on most others, and perhaps some 2700 K lights in some residential areas; however, there has been no official plan released to the public or made available to the advisory panel. On April 29 Director Wheeler was quoted in the Santa Fe New Mexican as saying that she anticipated the city deciding on a final lighting plan June 7 [sic; probably June 9, which is the regularly scheduled date of the Governing Body meeting].

Residents are not being asked to comment on the brightness of the street lights: why is that? 

We recommend you ask this question of the city.

The principal purpose of street lighting is safety. [If not for safety, why light the streets at all?] Safety includes the comfort of residents out for an evening stroll, visiting friends, shopping, etc.  In the best of circumstances the brightness of the lights should be set in accord with the recommendations of the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), who are the nation’s experts on street lighting. The IES safety recommendations for any given street depend on the vehicle traffic carried by the street, the posted speed limit, and the pedestrian traffic. 

The general IES recommendations are appropriate for typical situations. Unusual circumstances may warrant deviations from these recommendations. In those cases, the judgement of a certified Professional Engineer (PE), trained and proficient in street lighting design, should be sought and followed. The PE should be independent of any lighting contractor or vendor and have no financial interest in the project

Will this plan affect just the city street lights or will it include recreation parks with night lighting?

The current plan is only for street lighting: other city lighting – parks, recreation facilities, etc. – are not included. If the city pursues Dark Sky Community designation then this other lighting – and, also business lighting – will need to be addressed. 

Generally speaking, what is the color temperature of Santa Fe’s current lighting?

The current lighting throughout Santa Fe is a real hodge-podge. Some lighting is high pressure sodium (HPS) with a color temperature that may vary between 2000 K and 2800 K (depending on make, manufacturer, age, etc.). Some lighting is metal halide (MH), with a color temperature between 3000 K and 5000 K or more. Some lighting is older style LED lighting, likely with color temperatures around 4000 K. Often the lighting type and color varies from light pole to light pole as you move down a street. 

The reason for this mishmash is straightforward: the current street lighting is very old. Over time, as individual luminaires have failed and could not be repaired or refurbished, replacements had to be sought and installed. These have necessarily been different than the originals that were being replaced, leading to the current mixed-bag patchwork.  

One of the great virtues of the street light replacement project is the elimination of this confusion of lighting color temperature (from 2000 K to 5000 K or more) and lighting types (HPS, MH, LED) with a single modern LED lighting “platform”, with color temperatures selected to match the city’s desired identity, and that is more energy efficient, easier to service and maintain, more reliable, and longer lasting that the current lighting jumble.