New Streetlights Could Be Coming To LA. Here’s Why We (Sometimes) Have To Vote On It First
When you think of voting, maybe the federal or local elections come to mind first. But what about streetlights?
Streetlights votes — yes, votes — are being tallied Wednesday, meaning parts of Los Angeles could be brighter than before if approved.
The installation of most streetlights in the city have no public involvement. But streetlights which light up front yards and entryways of private homes and businesses go through a different process.
That’s considered a “special benefit,” and means an assessment can be levied on the property to cover the city’s costs, including maintenance, operation and services. The assessments can range from $50 into the thousands.
As the Bureau of Street Lighting puts it, they aren’t responsible for “lighting up front yards of properties.” Even local and federal governments may have to pay up if a special benefit applies to them.
Why do we vote on some streetlights?
This is where Proposition 218, which passed in 1996, comes in. It basically says if there’s a property charge levied on your property, you have the right to refuse to pay it.
Hence the vote. Property owners in a "lighting district’"— some as small as a block, with only a handful of owners — get to cast a ballot about whether they want the streetlight installed.
The time it takes from the initial proposal to actually voting can take months. There’s a myriad of City Council motions and public works reports that plan out where the lights are needed. But if you’d get a special benefit, eventually a street lighting ballot will show up in your mailbox. It’ll have information inside that looks like this:
Meanwhile streetlights that don’t give properties a special benefit are paid for through the city’s general fund, which includes our taxes, fines, fees and other revenue sources.
The voting logistics are much like a standard election, except votes are weighted by your assessment amount. If a majority of people in your street lighting district approve the assessment, then you’ll get the new streetlight.
If they vote it down, no streetlight is put in (and if one was already installed, it’s taken down).
These street lighting districts — including areas in South L.A., the San Fernando Valley and more — just wrapped up voting last week, and it’s their votes that will be tabulated Wednesday.
- Rancho Street and Oak Park Avenue
- Zelzah Avenue and Ridgeway Road
- Colby Avenue and Nebraska Avenue
- Terra Bella Street and Phillippi Avenue
- Fredonia Drive and Cahuenga Boulevard
- Glencoe Avenue and Maxella Avenue
- Pinyon Avenue and Summitrose Street
- Hoover Street and Council Street
- South Park District
- Butler and Iowa Avenues
The tabulation of ballots for those lighting districts will be livestreamed starting at 10 a.m. To access the Zoom meeting, here’s the information to join the Zoom meeting:
- Meeting ID: 953 8628 4393
- Passcode: prop218
The final results will be shared at the City Council meeting on May 9.
This isn’t it for streetlight votes — more are coming. These areas are up next for voting and are in the early stages of the process. If you live on one of the blocks identified, keep an eye out for a streetlight ballot to show up in the coming months.
- New Hampshire and Fountain Avenues
- Topanga Canyon Boulevard and Chatsworth Street
- South Park District (an additional one)
- Sharp Avenue and Chamberlain
- Coronado Street and Berkeley Avenue
- Mohawk Street and Montana Street
- La Cienega and Jefferson Boulevards
- Normal and Virgil Avenues
- Gayley Avenue and Lindbrook Drive
- 94th Street and Jetway Boulevard
- Chandler Boulevard and Wilkinson Avenue
How you could get streetlights installed
Voting on streetlights isn’t the only way to get your neighborhood more illuminated.
You can petition the bureau to start this assessment process to get lights on your streets. The methods will vary if you have existing streetlights or none at all, and what type of light you’d like installed. But in general, you’ll have to gather signatures from your neighbors to show support.
For more, check out the Bureau’s guide to getting a streetlight.
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