Aside from the Columbia Pike streetcar, one of the most controversial issues among Arlington residents may be that of LED streetlights. The light shone from the new streetlights is ugly and overly bright, say many in neighborhoods that have had them installed.
It’s enough of a hot-button issue to get dozens of residents from around Arlington to gather outside at 9:30 on a drizzly Tuesday night to discuss the finer points of Light Emitting Diode technology with County Board members and staff.
Arlington County began installing LED streetlights in the mid-2000s, with the intention of reducing energy and maintenance costs. The county says the new bulbs use about 75 percent less power than traditional sodium-vapor streetlights (currently saving $400,000 per year) and last about 8 times longer (3 years vs. up to 25 years).
Installation of the lights ramped up in 2010, with the goal of replacing nearly all county-owned streetlights by 2016. Though more efficient and, some may argue, more attractive than the reddish hue of traditional streetlights, the county has received a raft of complaints from those who live near the new streetlights in residential neighborhoods.
“It’s just offensively bright,” said Madison Manor resident Diane Beattie. “It really is like living in a parking lot.”
“In general we think energy savings is good, we’re not against that, but it’s the intensity and the color, which you can see in your living room,” said Arlington Village resident Mary Pat McNulty, who came out Tuesday night to learn more and to voice her concerns.
The bluish tint from the new streetlights is “just plain ugly,” said fellow Arlington Village resident Jan Kennemer, who added that exposure to blue wavelengths at night has been linked to health problems, including cancer and diabetes.
“It’s just ridiculous to have that light so close to your house,” Kennemer said. “There’s nothing you can do short of boarding up your windows to keep the light out.”
Arlington County officials say they’ve heard the complaints, and they’ve been working on solutions. Among them: dimmers which gradually dim the LED bulbs after sunset, “eyebrows” that shield some of the light output on the side adjacent to homes, and filters that help to diffuse the light and reduce glare.
“There are issues that we recognize and we have to make adjustments,” said County Board Chair Walter Tejada, who led the walking tour of streetlights in the Virginia Square area on Tuesday, along with fellow Board members Mary Hynes and Libby Garvey.
“It’s a change,” acknowledged Hynes. “The quality of the light is different, and we’ve been concerned about how much light it’s throwing onto houses. Staff has made a number of modifications… but we’re still hearing from people in certain places.”
Now that the county has completed most of the LED installations along the Metro corridors, crews are increasingly performing conversions in neighborhoods. The neighborhood lights are, by default, half as bright as those along the commercial corridors, where there have been fewer complaints. Still, Hynes says, it’s clear which neighborhood is getting the new streetlights by the complaints that start coming in.
“We know when a new neighborhood is going up,” she said. “I think this an issue of how we manage the transition from the commercial corridors into the neighborhoods.”
Kennemer and McNulty have been lobbying, thus far unsuccessfully, to convince the county to use 3500K LED bulbs, which would cast a warmer tint than the current 5500K bulbs, which cast a tint that’s bluer and more akin to daylight.
Beattie, the Madison Manor resident, said she’s glad the county has been listening to the complaints — but thinks additional adjustments might be necessary.
“They’re being responsive, so that’s helpful, but it’s a matter of tweaking,” she said.
Residents who have concerns about LED streetlights are being encouraged to reach out to a designated point of contact: Arlington streetlight engineer Santosh Neupane, who can be reached at 703-228-0778 or [email protected]
Arlington officials note, however, that county-owned streetlights only account for about a third of all streetlights in Arlington. Dominion owns 11,500 streetlights in Arlington, for which the county pays the electric bill, while the county owns about 5,200 streetlights.
Dominion has been doing its own LED streetlight conversion. The county will pass along any complaints about Dominion-owned lights to the power company, officials said.
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Arlington and its neighbors have become more segregated in the last 10 years while fair housing legislation at the state level faces significant roadblocks. Arlington’s fair housing enforcement, education, and commitment to equity practices in housing policy and programs are beginning to show signs of improvement but much more needs to be done.
Join the NAACP Arlington Branch, HOME of Virginia, and Equal Rights Center for the 2nd Annual Arlington Fair Housing Conference on April 15th to discuss the threats and opportunities to advancing fair housing policy across the state and within Arlington.
The half-day, in-person event will feature speakers from fair housing advocacy organizations and government agencies including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and focus on fair housing policy trends in Virginia and Arlington County. The conference aims to advance the understanding of issues and policies related to equity and affirmatively further fair housing among local officials, advocates, and members of the public.
2nd Annual Arlington Fair Housing Conference
Is home ownership a goal of yours in 2023? Now is the time to make it happen! Grab a (virtual) drink with the area’s top Real Estate experts, learn all about the home buying process and on how you can get $1,500 towards your closing costs immediately!
Did you know the average Arlington renter will spend $150K in 5 years of renting? Stop paying down someone else’s mortgage! Join us for a Rent vs. Buy Happy Hour on Wednesday, April 5th at 6 p.m. via Zoom. If this time doesn’t work, we also are offering times convenient for your schedule!
A lot has happened in the local market since the beginning of the pandemic. Sip on your drink of choice and learn from Northern Virginia, Arlington and Washingtonian Magazines top producing agents! We will discuss the latest market updates, the home buying process and rent vs. buy cost savings. Please RSVP by clicking here.
Call/text Manavi at 703-869-6698 with any questions!
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WHS Spring Festival
Join us at the WHS Spring Festival on April 22, 2023, from 10am- 3pm at Wakefield High School(main parking lot). Come out to shop, play, and eat!
Shop local vendors, arts & crafts, new and used items, food vendors/trucks, and