By Ken A. Epstein
Thanks to years of efforts by Councilmembers Larry Reid and Desley Brooks and outspoken community members, the City of Oakland has begun installing 30,000 greener, brighter street lights designed to enhance public safety, reduce crime and save money.The project, announced Tuesday morning by the city at a press conference at the intersection of 98th Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard, began last year as a pilot program.
District 7 Councilmember Larry Reid said he was excited the project has finally come to pass. He said he had originally met 15 years ago with the company, Amland, to discuss the possibility of bringing improved lighting to the city.
Since then, Reid said, “My colleague Councilmember Brooks has been leading the charge after hearing the cry from the neighborhoods about how we need to brighten up this community in which we live, to give people a sense of hope that things are getting better (and) safer.”
“I want to thank the community and the people who are standing behind me, who came out and said it’s just too dark,” said said Brooks, speaking at the press conference. “We know that there are places in Oakland where there’s insufficient street lighting and that in other places where there is street lighting, it isn’t bright enough,” said Brooks at the press conference.
“These lights will change that. They will change what our city looks like.”
The city has a contract with Amland Corp. of San Jose to do the installation, which began in May and is scheduled to be completed by December. Existing High Pressure Sodium cobra head streetlights will be replaced with Light Emitting Diode (LED) streetlights, which are more energy efficient, are cheaper to operate and have a longer lifespan – a 15-year minimum.
The total cost of the new lighting is estimated to be $14.8 million, which will be paid for by reduced electricity costs and $2.9 million in incentive rebates from PG&E.
“It started with community people talking about what they needed, partnering with their government to make change,” said Brooks.
The new lighting is an example of the kind of program that would be funded by the alternative city budget backed by her and two other councilmembers, she said.
Brooks characterizes the alternative budget as one that both improves city services and public safety, contrary to the mayor’s proposal, which Brooks says gives too much of the funding to the Oakland Police Department.
“(The City Council is) looking at the budget right now. And this project is exactly what my colleague Larry Reid, Noel Gallo and I are talking about in terms of partnerships that have to be made with law enforcement in order to make a difference in our community,” she said “If we all work together, we can make a change in this community.”