$1.5 million project in La Verne Replaces Traditional Streetlights with LED

By: Liset Márquez | Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Published: 4/4/2019

LA VERNE — A $1.5 million project to upgrade nearly 2,000 streetlights in La Verne is expected to wrap up ahead of schedule, a city official said.

La Verne, which had purchased the streetlights from Southern California Edison, last month began the process of retrofitting them with LED bulbs, replacing high-pressure sodium lights, said Dan Keesey, La Verne’s assistant city manager and Public Works director. LED bulbs use less energy and last longer. The conversion is expected to save the city about $150,000 annually, Keesey said. “We were expected to be done by the end of April, but we’re at 80% completion as of Friday,” Keesey said by phone Wednesday, adding crews have already replaced 1,500 of the fixtures.

The LED project began in 2017 when La Verne brought in San Francisco-based Tanko Lighting to audit which of Edison’s 2,500-owned streetlights would be absorbed by city ownership, he said. The city paid Southern California Edison $750,000 for the lights, Keesey said, and the other $750,000 went to Tanko for the audit and retrofitting work.

In the past, La Verne has budgeted $350,00 for energy costs, which also includes expenses associated with traffic signals. For the 2019-20 budget, Keesey said staff will be allocating $200,000 for energy. Not only are LED bulbs clearer, brighter and require less energy, they are under warranty for 10 years, which translates into a reduction in maintenance costs, he added. If a new streetlight were to be damaged in an accident, the city would likely have the replacement costs covered by an insurer.

Following the trend of other cities, La Verne realized buying the fixtures would reduce the city’s energy use and costs. In all, Edison owned 2,500 streetlights prior to the agreement with La Verne. Keesey said the city is working with Edison so that it converts the remaining 500 streetlights to LED.

“The conversion is not only a reduction in costs, but it’ll mean better light for pedestrians and much safer for nighttime driving,” he said.

With control of the streetlights, La Verne was hoping to create a new revenue stream by leasing space on the polls to cellphone carriers for micro cells, which Keesey described as the size of a shoe box. The City Council last year signed a multiyear contract with Irvine-based XG Communities to help improve 5G wireless service in the city, he said.

Initially, the city had estimated the add-ons could generate as much $150,000 per year, however, a recent Federal Communications Commission ruling “ties our hands to lease our facilities.” That decision knocked La Verne’s estimation to $35,000 per year.

While a list for the micro cell sites hasn’t been established, Keesey assured residents they’re “only going to see a few of these things. They’re not going to be on every other pole.” Pasadena has already installed 43 of these small cells on streetlights.

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