Street Light Shield Success Story

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For many moons I’ve been advising RCA members that if they are having trouble with glare from a nearby street light, that they call their local bureau of transportation and tell a representative that “the glare from the street light outside my house is trespassing into my home and I’d like the lamp shielded.” Happily, I’m now able to report on a success story. An RCA member in Portland shared this account of his experience:

Ever since the new street light was installed on our corner lot in Northeast Portland, I've been trying to get it shielded. I was unsuccessful in two earlier attempts. But someone at the last meeting mentioned that the city has changed its policy, so I tried again. I called Gabriel at the Portland Bureau of Transportation (503.823.5530) and reported that the streetlight caused "light intrusion" at our house. I never received a call back, but about a month later an electrical company came out and put shielding around the LEDs. It took them a very short amount of time to install and it looks like a pretty inexpensive modification.

I too called the City of Portland over 5 years ago, before the new LED lights were installed. I expressed concern over light trespass and its health issue. They conducted an inspection and told me they couldn’t remove the light given mandated distances between street lights, but they could shield it at a cost to me of $500. Ouch! Since the City installed LED lights it has been getting more and more complaints.

You see, against RCA’s and Portland Audubon Society’s frequent recommendations to agencies within the Portland Metropolitan Area as to best lighting practices, thousands of LED street lights have been installed that fail to meet best practices. The American Medical Association (AMA) has stated that lights at a color temperature over 3,000 Kelvin may be considered carcinogenic. (Note: the higher the degrees Kelvin, the whiter the color temperature).

Portland street lights are at 4,000K. Based on a meeting with the Portland Bureau of Transportation, Audubon staff were told that the City would not consider a retrofit of the newly installed lights but would instead respond to complaints on a case by case basis and install shields free of charge. If you want a shield, call PBOT and please report back to me, Dawn Nilson, your Dark Sky Preservation Director, and share your story. If your complaint is ignored, please be sure to cite the health concerns of light at night and light trespass by the AMA.

I know it may sound strange, but I advise NOT revealing that you are a member of RCA when you call your local department of transportation. RCA has been a pebble in PBOT’s shoe over the street lighting issue, and I want to avoid any undue bias towards our members. As much as we want dark skies to see the stars, the health impacts to humans and wildlife are the driving concerns that will instigate change in the right direction of more sensible outdoor lighting. Wishing you clear and dark skies!