Many island residents have asked for additional lighting to illuminate dark streets for years, but now that crews are installing those lights, some residents worry they’re too bright.
“Those lights are horrible,” East End resident Tim Dudley said. “It’s a problem because it’s lighting up the inside of my house.”
With the bright light in front of his house, it’s difficult to walk down his stairs or use his porch, he said.
Dudley is one of several residents concerned about the brightness of the new lights, stirring a discussion that will influence the city’s master plan for lighting that’s been underway for months.
It’s technically not the brightness he’s referring to, but the color of the lights, Senior Project Manager Pete Milburn said.
“The technical term is Kelvins versus lumens,” Milburn said. “With lumens being the brightness and Kelvins being what we would identify as the color.”
The new lights are LED, which are higher efficiency and save money, as opposed to the older high-pressure sodium lights. LED lights reduce the city’s electric bill by about 40 percent, Assistant City Manager Brandon Cook said.
About 85 percent of the city lights have been converted to LEDs, city officials said.
While the old high-pressure sodium lights had a warmer color and run closer to 2,000K, LED lights installed at the city are 4,000 K, Milburn said.
When the city’s utility provider, CenterPoint Energy, began converting to LED lights in 2015, the 4,000K lights were the commercial standard, CenterPoint spokeswoman Alejandra Diaz said.
It’s important to light the darker areas of the city, but the 3,000K LED lights are a better choice for residents and for the environment, District 6 Councilwoman Jackie Cole said.
“Blue light changes the circadian rhythm,” Cole said.
Exposure to bluer, or higher Kelvin lights, isn’t healthy and lights that are too bright can be a distraction for birds, Cole said.
The nonprofit International Dark-Sky Association recommends LED lights be 3,000K or less, stating this reduces sight-impairing glare, reduces disruptions to sleep and has fewer negative effects on wildlife, according to the association’s website.
The 3,000K lights weren’t an efficient choice at the time the company began converting lights to LED, Diaz said.
“If the city of Galveston was to request 3000K, a discussion on materials and costs would be needed as the streetlights have recently been converted,” Diaz said.
The city does plan to meet with CenterPoint to discuss options, city officials said.
Changes probably won’t come next week, District 3 Councilman David Collins said.
He lives right next to a newly installed street light, he said.
“Some people don’t care for them because they’re pretty bright,” Collins said. “I get about as many people saying they love them.”
Collins wants to explore putting caps on top of decorative street lights that could prevent light from shining up and disrupting birds, but hasn’t explored the associated costs, he said.
The discussion has held up completion of the city’s master lighting plan, Milburn said.
For months, the city has been working on a document to standardize placement of lights and types of light fixtures, Milburn said.
The document aligns lights based on traffic corridors, with more lighting around busier and commercial streets and less lighting in residential neighborhoods or on the West End, city officials said.
Discussions about the appropriate Kelvin levels have, to some extent, held up the document’s completion, he said.
The city will look to incorporate public comment to see what residents prefer, Cook said.
“It all depends on the person you ask what’s ideal,” Cook said.
The brightness of new lights has been an issue for some people, but others are just happy to have some extra lighting, said Jeff Patterson, president of the East End Historical District Association.
“Probably, over time, people will get more used to the brighter LED lights and it will not be so much of an issue,” Patterson said.