Wednesday, March 15, 2006

New Street Lights in the Fan

A couple of weeks ago Style Weekly pricked my interest with a small column about "supplemental lighting" that Fan residents, along with City Councilman Bill Panetele, are working to have installed throughout the Fan district.

So far, seven lights have been installed along the 2300 block of Park Avenue. These are test-runs -promos- meant to help decide how many lamps there should be per block, what wattage is best (currently one side of the street has 100 watt bulbs, the other 150 watt bulbs- I couldn't tell the difference), and to drum up financial support for the remaining 400 (or so) lights the group hopes to install. I've visited the block a couple of times to check out the lamps- to look East, then West- to try and imagine what it will be like if Panatele and Co. get their lamps.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I watched as Frostburg was turned into a giant, treeless parking lot and still kick myself for never saying anything to the mayor and city officials while it was happening. I have no illusions about having any sort of affect on wealthy homeowners and their Councilman, however I think it's important to question whether making such a fundamental change to a city is a prudent idea, and whether the change will benefit the city as a whole and not just the people behind the pending change. I am wary of changes that affect my quality of life and know that these lights are the type of progress that most people won't question.

In order to sort out my thoughts I made a list…

Pros:

  • The light emitted by the lamps is a cool white (it looks like Xenon but supposedly they are halogen), and are very different from what I am used to seeing along city streets. They aren’t at all like the lights that are currently in place (high pressure sodium “cobras”) which emit an orange cast and are the same lights used in parking garages. Looking west the street looks good- the light is bright and dare I say cheerful. Looking west the brightness lends to an appearance of safety. Looking east, the street still looks good, just not family-friendly and inviting (but you could say: romantic and mysterious, with a promising chance for discovery).
  • The intention of these lamps is to illuminate the sidewalks, and parked cars (not the street), so the bulbs of the lamps are maybe only 10-12 feet off the ground. And as the article claimed, it looks like the light doesn't shine into peoples' homes. The light does spill out into the street a bit, and this doesn't seem to be a problem. There are houses in Frostburg that have a streetlamp only a few feet away from an upstairs window.
  • The top of the lamp fixture is opaque, directing the light down, and out- not up. Supposedly the lamps can be fine-tuned for the specific location. As a maintenance guy I’ll say that I don’t want that job. God bless whoever has the responsibility for making all of the homeowners happy.
  • The goal is to work around all trees, not remove them like the planners did in Frostburg.
Cons:

  • Assuming that the 2300 block of Park was chosen because it represents the average block in the Fan, I think seven is an excessive number of street lamps. Granted, leaves will darken the block considerably when they come back out, but I'd like to see the residents be conservative and have a maximum of three lamps per side, six lamps per block, with a goal to use even less. Alas, I fear this won't happen- we live in an age of fear, and Dominion Power is kicking-in over a million dollars to help out with the project for a reason.
  • The old streetlights (the orange-cast, high pressure sodium) will not be removed after the installation of the new lamps. I don’t understand the point of keeping both sets. Does the center of the street need to be lit any more than from the light spilling out from the lamps on the sidewalk? If pedestrians are using the sidewalk and cars with headlamps are in the streets, why do there need to be both? Again, Dominion Power is contributing significantly to the project.
  • If the lamps are being installed to deter crime, where will the people who were committing the crimes go (to commit crimes)? Is this a case of people being wealthy enough to keep people out? Are the lights acting as a fence in this situation? New Orleans is brightly lit and still the (overwhelmingly white, and wealthy) homeowners have 8' high walls (or higher), barbed wire, and broken glass shards cemented into the tops of their fences to guard their homes from intruders.
  • The lampposts are frightfully perfect- installing these lights throughout the Fan will amp up the neighborhood’s near perfection. This will boost its artificiality, making the area look more like a movie set than it already does, and cause those living in the vicinity to act accordingly. What types of people inhabit movie sets? By and large, it's rich white people. Yawn.

I am conflicted about posting this, as I'm not interested in making enemies of people I don't know or being seen as a neo-luddite-crank. But again, I think these questions should be asked.

More tomorrow.

2 comments:

Glass said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Glass said...

I hate being white. I hate our history. I see another white man in a suit and I'm gonna set him on fire - seriously.