New streetlights would let The City sparkle at night 

The visual splendors of San Francisco, where rugged hills provide a backdrop for charming historical and modern buildings and flamboyant urban characters, could finally blossom during the night.

Almost all of The City’s tens of thousands of streetlights cast yellow hues that make it difficult to distinguish colors.

The color soup can create conundrums, such as when witnesses to crimes incorrectly describe a getaway car or a criminal’s garb.

But that would change if separate spending applications by city and utility company officials to replace cobra head-style sodium vapor light bulbs throughout The City with efficient lamps that use light-emitting diodes are approved.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission staff recently proposed replacing nearly 18,000 of the agency’s 22,000 cobra heads with LEDS over the next two years. Lawmakers will consider the request.

“If you look at night with the regular lights that we have now, you can’t tell colors,” SFPUC Executive Director Ed Harrington said. “This gives you a perfect color and gets rid of almost all the shadows.”

Utility officials can adjust the intensity of LEDs and detect outages using mobile devices, Harrington said.

All of the agency’s cobra heads are planned to be replaced at a cost of $66 million within a decade, a capital spending plan shows.

The first such lights were introduced by the agency in May to the Tenderloin, resulting in 50 percent energy savings, according to SFPUC spokesman Tyrone Jue.

More will be installed in the coming months in alleys around the Sixth Street corridor in South of Market.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. separately proposed spending ratepayer funds to replace its 20,000 lights citywide with LEDs. The request is before the California Public Utilities Commission.

LED lamps cost $300 to $700 instead of $50 for traditional bulbs, a PG&E study found.

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