LED lights bring new shine to San Francisco streets

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) -- Some San Francisco city streets will soon be a little brighter and more environmentally friendly. That's because the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission recently rolled out 12,500 new LED street lamps.

Mayor Ed Lee and other city officials gathered Wednesday at 650 Jackson Street for the first streetlight installation. Chinatown is one of the first neighborhoods to get the new light bulbs.

"We want more businesses and people and visitors to visit Chinatown at night," Lee said.

He conceded that tourism in Chinatown and Fisherman's Wharf has dipped lately and business owners now hope the new LED street lamps will shine a light on their neighborhood.

"To light up Chinatown is like lighting up the world," said Tane Chan, who runs the Wok Shop on Grant Avenue. "That's exactly what we need here; to cast a good light! Just illuminate this whole (street so) everybody feels safe."

Lee said the older street lights are inefficient and only last 3-5 years.

"These (new) lights are going to average about 20 years," he said.

The SFPUC operates 60 percent of the city's 25,000 streetlights and crews have already converted about 7,000 LED streetlights as part of an earlier pilot projects or other neighborhood infrastructure programs, city officials said. 

All city streetlamps should be LED lit within seven months, officials said.

City officials said the new LEDs also emit a better quality of light that is a warm white glow rather than the yellowish hue from the current existing lamps.

SFPUC General Manager Harlan Kelly said the nearly $3 million upgrade program will not only improve lighting, but conserve energy and save the city millions of dollars.

"It's about 50 percent cheaper as far as power consumption so, therefore, it'll pay for itself in about four years," Kelly said.

The new LED lights will save more than 8 million kilowatt hours of energy each year which provides enough energy to power 752 homes.

LEDs are also more environmentally friendly because they are fueled by the greenhouse gas-free hydroelectric power of the Hetch Hetchy water system.

Eric Liu, who works at Z&Y Restaurant, said the new lights will make him feel safer when he walks to his car at night.

The LEDs are "prettier," he said.

"And more visible for everything. So it's kind of easy to see everything."

By KTVU reporter Tara Moriarty.