New streetlights to replace 70-100 year-old lamps in Pacific Beach, Crown Point
Two separate projects are set to brighten the future by replacing a combined 159 outdated streetlights in Crown Point and central Pacific Beach while updating antiquated Christmas lights-style circuitry that blacks out an entire block or more when one light fails.
The anticipated start of utility undergrounding in Crown Point in late spring will trigger and fund the replacement of 34 streetlights east of Ingraham Street, including 16 ornamental lampposts more than a century old along Crown Point Drive up to Moorland Drive.
Even though both projects are not expected to begin until September 2024 at the earliest, the Pacific Beach Town Council invited two civil engineers from the city’s Department of Engineering and Capital Projects to present the proposals at the Feb. 15 meeting in light of the uproar caused in the Kensington neighborhood in December when the city plopped down plans to remove comparable historic decorative streetlights without much notice, let alone input.
“I think the heads up is something that people appreciate,” said PBTC President Charlie Nieto. “Even if it’s a ways away, they at least know when it is going to be fixed. That was the purpose. ... If (the city) had just done the same thing here as in Kensington, there might have been a similar reaction.”
Even if beloved by some, the century-old Crown Point streetlights contain lead and have outlived their shelf life, with the interior concrete likely corroded beyond repair, said senior civil engineer Dayue Zhang. But obtaining identical replacements is beyond reach.
“You know, we couldn’t find 100-year-old designed poles in the market,” Zhang said. “That’s the problem when we’re dealing with the older streetlights.”
Known as post-top streetlights, the replacement poles will be gray, pre-stressed concrete with an anti-graffiti coating measuring 9 feet, 5 inches topped with 3,000 Kelvin yellow LED light covered in a frosted acrylic globe bringing the total height to 12 feet, 5 inches. The existing streetlights are 16 feet in total.
“In Crown Point, we have these post-top lights existing” Zhang said. “So for those, we’re going to replace in kind ... It has the traditional streetlight look. I think the community will prefer it, so that’s the one we chose.”
He added that community feedback can alter the proposed replacements.
Standard city streetlights with Cobra heads will replace the 18 lights on wooden poles in the interior of Crown Point.
Because the new streetlights will come from an existing manufacturer, replacements can be easily ordered when a streetlight is downed or irreparable, Zhang said.
While the designs for the streetlight replacement are finalized, including the pole placement, trenching and power supplies, Zhang said the work cannot begin until the dry utility undergrounding is completed.
That construction project is being led by SDG&E, which will hold a community forum on the subject tentatively scheduled on March 28 with a location yet to be announced.
Senior civil engineer Zach Barhoumi presented city plans to replace 125 existing streetlights in a broad area from Garnet Avenue to Loring Street, and Everts Street to Ingraham Street.
“We’re just replacing them with the same decorative lights that they’re proposing in Crown Point,” Barhoumi said. “We want to do the same thing — 13-foot with the luminaires — so it’s consistent with Crown Point. Like Dayue mentioned, we think the height will work better overall for the community, especially if you have a two-story home next to a light.”
Erected in 1954, the current streetlights are near the end of their lifecycle, Barhoumi said. However, equally important is bringing the outmoded electrical infrastructure into the 21st century.
Like Crown Point, the existing system uses 5,000-volt series circuits to power lights in the hundreds of watts compared to modern 30-50 watt LED lights.
“It’s nowhere near the same amount of power usage,” Barhoumi said. “On a number of lights this big, that is a huge energy savings.”
Moreover, the new circuits will be smaller, connecting six to eight lights compared to the 20 to 50 lights per circuit currently. In addition, parallel circuits will be installed.
“So if one light goes out, that’s OK, the rest of the block will not be dark,” Barhoumi said. “It’s only one light that’s damaged or not working.”
The design portion of the project is 60 percent complete and awaiting a final survey of the 3.8 miles of infrastructure in the next couple of months, according to Barhoumi. The final plans will take another eight months to finish before a contract is put out to bid.
Nonetheless, the September 2024 groundbreaking is firmer than the Crown Point project because it is not dependent on undergrounding and is exempt from any environmental mitigation or monitoring following a review.
“So we have the all-clear to go ahead once we’re done and have our plans ready and a contract on board,” Barhoumi said.
In other reports, Carrie Shaw, PB representative for City Councilmember Joe LaCava, said only nine citations have been issued since enforcement of the Street Vending Ordinance began on Feb. 1 because most illegal vendors left of their own accord following vigorous education by the city prior to the date.
“The presence of vendors has gone down, specifically in the beach areas of OB, Mission Beach, PB and La Jolla,” she said. “There have been significant reductions.”
In non-agenda public comments, 30-year resident Rick Morgal contended that some vendors were creative and appealing; filling vacant spots along the Boardwalk with vibrant activity, cultivating impulse buys that didn’t compete with physical shops and restraining loitering by homeless and others with their presence.
“I understand things were crazy because of the way (the Boardwalk) got shut down,” he said. “Everybody came to the coast. No one liked that, including me.”
Noting that some California cities were generating revenues from street vendors, Morgal argued that a system could be created similar to the lottery system for short-term rental licenses that incorporates best practices to allow some vendors onto the beach area. He asked the town council to host such a discussion in the future.
“There are a lot of possibilities,” Morgal said. “I think that the way it is right now — Oh it’s too crazy so let’s just shut it all down — I don’t think that’s fair to anybody, me included. I’m not a vendor. I’m a resident. I like vending as long as it’s not ... trash everywhere.”