Harsh new street lighting decried

A significant change to the look and feel of our Town is underway with the replacement of street lighting with Light Emitting Diode (LED) fixtures.

Photo by Leon on Unsplash

Many residents are not impressed, and some are now speaking out. In this article we reproduce two recent written submissions to Town Council and Administration which nicely net out the concerns, the options, and the Town’s response to date. FYI, don’t bother going to the Town’s website to get their explanation of what, why and when — this major change to our Town’s ambience and functionality is not even listed under their “Town Projects”.

On February 1, 2021, QB resident Claire Olivier wrote the following letter to Mayor Wiese, cc to Council, town engineer Bob Weir and CAO Daniel Sailland.

“Dear Mayor Wiese,

We are writing to you concerning the  implementation of new street lighting throughout Qualicum Beach.

There is no doubt that replacement of the old Poly-Chlorinated Biphenyl [PCB] lighting is a much needed, environmentally sensitive and province wide energy reduction change. We understand that this change is mandated by the Federal Government and is being implemented through a BC Hydro Street Light Replacement Program which also gives Local governments an opportunity to review and update their lighting designs by adding, removing or adjusting current lighting levels.

The concern we are raising is the overall approach the Town is taking by mandating that all street lights, without exception, be changed to the brighter, whiter 4000k [Kelvin] option only, with no consideration for a 3000k warmer light also being offered by BC Hydro.

Within a few days of this changeover, we contacted your offices to see if this could be mitigated and were advised that there would be no change, and that the Town has taken a “one size fits all” approach.

Recently the light was changed in front of our residence from 2300k to 4000k. The level of light is now so extreme that not just the street and sidewalk areas are brighter but there is brighter light reaching into and  illuminating our front, side and backyards. This increased  level of light is making it uncomfortable for us to sleep as it filters through curtains, blinds and opaque glass throughout our properties. It also makes us feel more vulnerable as our properties are now pretty well completely exposed at night. It is like a welcome beacon to burglars.

Within a few days of this changeover, we contacted your offices to see if this could be mitigated and were advised that there would be no change, and that the Town has taken a “one size fits all” approach.

There is no doubt that changes of this magnitude impact staff time and to keep that in line there can be a tendency to take the easiest path. However, we ask you to consider that changes which are inflexible and that greatly impact the constituency must be carefully reviewed or inevitable reactions occur that often risk increasing everybody’s workload and stress level.

As a result, we are reaching out to you to ask you to reconsider this strict adherence to see if we can work towards something that is more suited to residential areas.

We quote below the approach that the City of Vancouver is taking with regards to their street lighting upgrades which presents their efforts to carefully consider the impacts of light pollution and glare along residential streets.

‘As Vancouver moves towards replacing high-pressure sodium streetlights with LED lighting, the Street and Public Realm Lighting Design Guidelines will ensure that new lighting is safe, comfortable and minimizes light pollution. The Guidelines recommend lighting levels and design options based on the street-specific context, with requirements to install shields where spill or glare could impact nearby residents. Warmer temperature lighting (e.g. more amber) will be used throughout the City, with the exception of high collisions spaces where visibility (e.g. more white) is paramount for pedestrian safety. Proper fixture selection, include shielding where necessary, will ensure that light is focussed on where it is needed.’

Glare from new street lights being installed in Qualicum Beach make it difficult to see the roadway. Walkers avert their eyes, and drivers lower their sun visors to minimize the glare. February 1, 2021 Qualicum Beach, BC

We also provide a link to a Nanaimo News Bulletin article that speaks to the process that the community  of Cumberland went through and their determination to mitigate light pollution by also opting for softer, directed residential street lighting as well as shielding.

We note current information on the BC Hydro website which cites that one of the objectives of this new lighting is to reduce light pollution.

‘BC Hydro is currently working with customers to confirm the locations of their BC Hydro owned street lights, including quantities and wattages’ says [BC Hydro’s] Alliance program delivery specialist Tanya Perewernycky. ‘BC Hydro plans to offer three or four different wattage and two different colour temperature options and Alliance consultants will have the opportunity to work with customers to identify which option of LED will be best for them. ..  These new street lights will help improve public safety in your community by increasing the visibility of sidewalks and roads at night, as well as help reduce light pollution. LEDs also last longer and require less maintenance.’

In speaking with the BC Hydro Project Team, they advised that, when requested, the newly installed lights can be changed over to a 3000k option within 3-4 weeks after receipt of a request. We also understand that not all lights have been changed because the new lighting does not fit all of our present installations.

I can no longer enjoy stargazing from my deck at night due to the glaring lights in my eyes. I moved from the big city to be closer to nature and this one small change has taken that away.

Randi Stevenson, Dorset Road, Qualicum Beach.

We  urge Council to reconsider this direction and offer the following resolutions for your discussion:

  • That Council direct Town staff to cease further installation of the 4000k street light upgrades immediately.
  • That Council direct Town staff to review the approach that the City of Vancouver and the community of Cumberland have taken and implement the 3000k option throughout all residential areas in the town of Qualicum Beach and, further,  that residents in close proximity to the recent 4000k installations be given the opportunity to request a retrofit without delay.

Mayor Wiese, we could write on and on, citing more and more documents and reasons to support this request; however, what may give you the best impact is to invite you tonight to drive through our streets. The level of light will no doubt give you a good feel to how this change is  impacting our neighbourhoods. If you want to see how it projects to the back of some of our properties, from Crescent Road West, turn left onto Arbutus and take the Hoylake Road/Laneway again to your left. 

Thank you for taking the time to consider this matter.”

Sincerely, Claire Olivier

From a different neighbourhood, Dorset Road resident Randi Stevenson wrote to the Town,

This major change to our town’s ambience and functionality is not even listed on the Town of Qualicum Beach website under “Town Projects.”

“I realize our streetlights may have been considered too dim in the past but when did we get these new high-beam monsters installed? I can no longer experience normal night darkness and they are truly affecting my sleep cycle.

How many lumens are these bulbs and must they be bright white? We are humans living in a natural world and although I agree we need light for safety at certain hours, can we please tone down the brightness and perhaps consider turning off or dimming through the overnight hours?

The light well extends into my home now and I can no longer enjoy stargazing from my deck at night due to the glaring lights in my eyes. I moved from the big city to be closer to nature and this one small change has taken that away.

Please consider my request to replace these bulbs with something less harsh, in a warmer tone, and with a system that will either shut off for the overnight hours or dim to half strength.”

Randi Stevenson, Qualicum Beach

As always, related comments from other QB residents welcomed.