Ned Kennington has no objection to "reasonable levels of street lights."
But the Watts Hospital-Hillandale resident says the new lights installed in his neighborhood are too bright and too close together.
The light pollution is affecting the quality of life in his neighborhood, and Kennington also says it's a waste of energy.
What's worse, he argues, is the lights are being installed city-wide for no good reason. He cited studies that show streetlights don't help reduce crime.
"The city should not just go around installing streetlights willy nilly," he said today. "The city ought to be rational and should not be installing street lights without the consent of neighbors."
Kennington said if a street wants more streetlights, it should require a petition signed by the majority of residents. He said city staff, in responding to his and his neighbor's concerns, have said they can install lower wattage bulbs. But they refuse to take the lights down, Kennington said.
The matter is expected to be discussed at about 4 p.m. Thursday at the City Council's Work session.
Read Kennington's full letter to city officials here:
The City of Durham has recently installed high-intensity, densely-spaced street lights under its Crime Lighting Program in areas of the city such as Watts Hospital-Hillandale over the objections of residents living near the lights and without consulting with those residents before installing the lights.
According to City Councilman Mike Woodard, it is the intention of the City to install these high-intensity, densely-spaced street lights every 150 feet throughout the entire City for crime prevention purposes, whether residents object to them or not.
There have been numerous complaints about the lights on the Watts-Hillandale listserv, and the Watts Hospital Hillandale Neighborhood Association voted on June 17 to ask the City Council to declare a moratorium on installing new street lights until neighbors' concerns could be resolved.
According to City policy , "Crime Lighting is installed on public streets to reduce or prevent crime." Throughout discussions of this program in City policy documents, crime reduction is repeatedly cited as the only justification for the Crime Lighting Program. City officials have defended  ignoring the desires of the majority of residents subjected to these lights on the grounds that the City has an obligation to protect every person against crime, even if all of that person's neighbors object to the new street lights.
The City has now admitted  that it cannot refute the findings of comprehensive studies by the U.S. Department of Justice and its British counterpart, the Home Office, over many years that there is no scientifically valid evidence that the light cast by street lights such as those Durham is currently installing reduce crime. Even the advocacy group that represents the lighting industry, the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, does not claim that street lights reduce crime .
Certainly many people believe the old wives' tale that street lights reduce crime, and so it is a popular measure with politicians and energy companies, but in the present age of skyrocketing energy prices and global warming, we can no longer afford to waste energy in irrational ways. (Even before the recent doubling of energy prices, Durham spent $1.9 million dollars last year to operate existing street lights and install new ones.)
The City is now  trying to justify the Crime Lighting Program on the grounds that it 1) enhances visibility for officers on patrol, 2) increases the safety of motorists traveling the streets, and 3) increases the sense of security for residents of the street.
None of these rationales justify ignoring the preferences of residents subjected to the lights:
1) The only justification for increasing the visibility for officers on patrol is to prevent crime against the citizenry or the police officers--And, as stated above, there is no evidence that street lights do that.
2) If the purpose of these lights is to increase the safety of motorists and pedestrians traveling the streets, then the decision of whether lights are needed should be based on traffic data and analysis by traffic professionals according to established standards for traffic lighting. Instead the lights are being installed on the basis of the "professional judgment" of a police officer as to whether they will reduce crime. In any case, in Watts-Hillandale most of the lights are being installed on residential streets where almost the only people who drive on the streets after dark are the people who live on those streets, so there is no traffic or pedestrians to be protected except those who live on the street.
3) Even though the sense of security that these high-intensity, densely-spaced street lights bestow is illusory and has no basis in fact, I believe that the residents who live near proposed location for these lights should be able to request them, if that is what they want.
The City has several street lighting programs other than the Crime Lighting Program that are justified. The City has programs for lighting new developments and newly annexed streets, for intense lighting on thoroughfares and for upscale decorative lighting when a developer is willing to pay the additional capital costs.
For years the City has also had a process by which residents can petition to request an additional street light on their block or cul-de-sac. However, it is not clear from the City's policy statements, but it appears that the City ultimately plans to install densely-spaced street lights throughout the City for crime control purposes, and the effect of these petitions is merely to accelerate the installation of lights that would eventually be installed in those locations anyway. For example, the City has no process for citizens to petition for removal of a street light once it is installed.
I believe that the City should stop installing densely-spaced, high-intensity street lights on residential streets unless the residents request the street lights through a petition. As pointed out above, the City has not provided a justification for intensifying the street lighting in residential locations where the residents don't want it.
In all probability, the financial and environment costs of installing street lights where they are not justified will shortly become ruinous. I am not sure whether a petition should require the signatures of all residents on some of Durham's very long blocks or instead to require only the signatures of residents who could be expected to be affected by the streetlight, say owners of property within 300 feet of the proposed light. There should also be a process to allow residents to petition for removing or turning off lights that they don't want and are not truly justified.
If you would like the City to stop installing street lights where they are not wanted and not justified, I suggest that you call 560-4396 and leave a message on the voice mail of a City Council member, or come to the City Council Work Session at 4:00 PM on Thursday, July 24 at 4:00 PM to support the residents of Tyler Court who are opposing additional high-intensity street lights on their street.