San Francisco taps LEDs for brighter, cheaper streetlights

San Francisco streets are about to get a little brighter.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which is charge of The City’s drinking water, collecting and treating waste water and supplying power to streetlights, is in the process of replacing all of the city-owned 18,500 streetlights with LED fixtures.

So far, the agency has converted 6,000 of the cobra-shaped fixtures with LEDs as part of the LED Streetlight Conversion Project, according to officials. The SPUC still has 12,500 fixtures that need the new LED bulbs.

Harlan L. Kelly, Jr., general manager of the SFPUC, said the agency is focusing on changing The City’s infrastructure:

“Our streetlights is about 100 years old in most cases and we’re really here to revamp the infrastructure.”

Kelly, joined by Mayor Ed Lee on Wednesday morning in Chinatown, where crews will begin installing the LED fixtures.

Lee said he has heard from business merchants that The City needs to do more to help them survive, especially in Chinatown where merchants say businesses have been struggling because of the construction related to the Central Subway Project:

“They’ve got the Central Subway that is disturbing a lot of businesses. We have to compensate and mitigate that.”

Lee added:

“One way to do that is to do something smarter, more efficient, less expensive and a little bit more enlightening.”

He hopes the new lighting will bring out more residents and tourists to enjoy the Chinatown nightlife.

Norman Fong, executive director of the Chinatown Community Development Center, said he recalled a time in 1991 when the center put up their own lights throughout Chinatown:

“Now we’re getting some high-class lights.”

The SFPUC said the new LED lights will illuminate a warmer white light on city streets, and will also consume on average 50 percent less energy than the current streetlights, which means lower electricity costs for The City.

Another benefit is that the LEDs will not need replacement for up to 20 years compared to The City’s current high-pressure sodium streetlights, which officials said burn out after four years.

Crews began installing the new LED fixtures in the spring 2017 and will take approximately one year to complete the rest of The City’s streetlights.

The public can check out an interactive map to find where the new LED fixtures have already been installed and where SFPUC crews plan to install them.