Light shined on problem streetlamps 

click to enlarge Last year there were about 6,000 311 calls reporting streetlight outages.
  • Last year there were about 6,000 311 calls reporting streetlight outages.

The City is making strides toward solving what is described as one of the most frustrating issues for San Franciscans: streetlights.

Last year, The City’s 311 call center took about 6,000 complaints about outages, which averages to approximately 16 per day.

But the response time for fixes exceeded a month in some cases. Supervisor Scott Wiener said streetlights are among the top concerns he hears.

Streetlight maintenance falls to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which oversees 25,590 streetlights, and PG&E, which owns the other 19,019. The SFPUC’s lights are seemingly more reliable and the agency fixes them faster, according to information presented at a hearing Monday at the Board of Supervisors City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee.

“Although PG&E owns 42 percent of street lights in the City, 60 percent of all 3-1-1 street light complaints are PG&E related,” according to an April 20 SFPUC memo.

The average time it took to solve streetlight outage complaints last year for the SFPUC was 26 days, while for PG&E it took 34 days, the memo said. The SFPUC’s response time improved dramatically to 5.51 days in the fourth quarter of 2011 compared to PG&E’s 27.74. PG&E questioned the accuracy of data and defended its efforts.

“As of today, this morning, we only have 98 streetlights currently out, of the 19,000 that we have,” said Mike Swanson, PG&E director of restoration and control. “Of those, only two lights have been out greater than 14 days, so we have made significant improvement the last three months in the amount of time it is taking to make these repairs.”

PG&E also plans to boost reliability with a $25 million, five-year infrastructure upgrade for more than 1,000 lights.

The SFPUC spends $3.8 million annually on the maintenance of all San Francisco streetlights.

Wiener said Monday’s hearing was “just the beginning of the conversation.”

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