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Street Lighting San Diego Center City Area
 

San Diego improves pedestrian safety
with prismatic lighting


Thr
ough the years, San Diego, like many larger American cities, has witnessed fairly widespread deterioration in parts of its downtown. In some areas, such as the Center City area, crime had become such a problem that people feared for their safety and avoided venturing forth after dark.

In an effort to rejuvenate the downtown and bring people into the area so that they feel comfortable and may even want to live there, the city has undertaken a massive capital improvement and street lighting project that is being completed in five sequential phases. The project, which is being paid for by the redevelopment agency and will be maintained by the street lighting district, encompasses about 350 city blocks, and, when finished, will cost about $5 million.

Phase I, which was recently completed, involved installation of street lighting in the Center City area, which previously had no lighting at night except for an occasional privately-owned and maintained fixture mounted to the side of a building or installed on a small wooden pole. The area, located just a quarter mile from San Diego Bay, is an older section lined with warehouses and storage yards, and produce and trucking operations. Sandwiched in between are a few residences and office facilities. This is an area in transition.

"Before we began Phase I of the street lighting project, the area was totally dark at night. This section had become a major challenge for police because of the high incidence of vandalism and theft," said Al Mercer, senior project manager-public works. "Our goal during the project was to begin to position San Diego as a 24-hour city. We want to bring people downtown at night and encourage the development of apartment buildings, condominiums and a mix of businesses."

Phase I of the project encompassed 20 city blocks and cost $822,000, which included digging trenches and installing conduits and service points. Along the streets in the District, three Victorian-style fixtures from the Unique Solutions Division of Holophane Corporation were used. A five-globe gas light-type Prismasphere Series fixture with 70-watt high pressure sodium lamp was installed along the adjoining 20-acre Gas Lamp Quarter, which is home to a number of restaurants, clubs and entertainment establishments. A fixture with a similar appearance was already in use in this district.

Double globe Washington Series fixtures with 250-watt HPS lamps were installed along the gateway or major arteries, with single globe Washington Series units using 150-watt HPS lamps employed to illuminate the other streets within the district. Mercer indicated that high pressure sodium lamps were chosen because they provide a softer light that has a positive psychological effect on people.

Before the product specifications were written, the agency conducted extensive research and field testing to determine what types of fixtures and light distribution patterns would be most appropriate.

"San Diego has a perceived light pollution problem," he explained. "Two observatories are located within 50 miles and astronomers have often complained about the brightness of the light in the city at night. That's why we wanted a globe like that on the Holophane fixtures, which would direct the light downward toward the street and sidewalk."

The fixtures are mounted on painted dark blue cast iron poles that are 18 feet high for the Prismasphere units, 21 1/2 feet for the double globe Washington Series fixtures, and 12 feet for the single globe units. In areas where there are curbs and gutters, fixtures are installed on the sidewalks, about 30 inches from the curb, to protect them from traffic. Where no curbs or gutters are in existence, the units are mounted on elevated concrete footings about 30 inches in diameter and 2 1/2 feet high. Fixtures are staggered in a zigzag pattern down the streets, spaced about 85 feet apart. The project was designed for 3 foot-candles.

"Proof of the lighting system's success is how bright the streets look at night. The illumination is evenly distributed across the streets and sidewalks, with very few shadows. A person's first impression is that the lighting system is beautiful; the change in the area was instantaneous," Mercer said.

Fixtures are controlled by a solar switch that detects the ambient light level and turns the units on and off. This system eliminates the need to make adjustments for time changes or shorter days.

Mercer indicated that residents and business owners who benefit from the lighting will be assessed a charge to cover the maintenance of the system. This meant the city had to "sell" the lighting concept to the voters. The expansion of the lighting district was approved by a 76% affirmative vote.

"When the city started the lighting installation project, we knew that, because of its magnitude, it would have to be completed in phases. At that point, only Phase I was funded. Based on the success of the first phase, however, Phases II, III and IV now have funding," said Mercer.

He estimates that the project will be completed in the year 2000.

"We feel a good street lighting system gives us a better return on our investment than any other capital improvement we can make," concluded Mercer. "Not only are the results highly visible, but the system makes a lasting impact on the area where it is installed."



 

 
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