Sun City residents concerned new lighting will lessen security

The city is replacing its 41,000 street lamps with a new technology that concentrates on illuminating just the streets and sidewalks. In the normal course of events, you might say, "OK, so what?"

But then it gets interesting and a bit controversial —- even though taxpayers will be saving more than $2 million a year. The lamps will reduce energy consumption by 30 to 60 percent and last an average of 12 to 14 years instead of 18 months. They’ll also allow drivers to better distinguish other vehicles and pedestrians.

As Las Vegas Public Works Director Jorge Cervantes explained it, the old lights, referred to as "high pressure sodium, or HPS, are being replaced with more energy-efficient light-emitting diode, or LED."

So what’s the fuss? It sounds like a no-brainer!

Well, maybe not so fast. At least not until you hear from some folks who insist, as one resident stated in an email, "It’s just another irritant to happy living in Sun City (Summerlin)."

Why so? Well, another resident appears to have put the "irritant" into perspective in the following email:

"I live in Sun City where the streetlights have been replaced with lights that cost more than the old fixtures but may save money. My experience is that the lighting is little better than no lighting at all … Shortly after the lights were installed there was an attempted break-in at my home, in which the front security door was partially loosened. Can you find out how much money is expected to be saved and how I can pay the city the difference so that my street is safe again?"

The writer was referring to the fact that the old lamps had an illumination reach that covered the driveways and even backyards of homes. The new lights are confined strictly to streets and sidewalks. And therein lies the thrust of the dilemma.

Some residents may call it an "irritant," contending that the old lighting, while extending across their property, provided a form of security. Others characterize the new technology as a godsend, arguing that streetlights no longer invade the interior of their homes.

In yet another email, Sue Papilion, president of the Sun City Summerlin Community Association Inc. Board of Directors, provided an interesting rejoinder to those favoring the old lights. Her response also answers the question of how much it might cost to "pay the city the difference so that my street is safe again:"

"I understand what you are saying because my backyard used to be lit up, and now it is much darker. I think that if the city can save money, it will, and citizens’ only option is to vote the people out, or be willing to pay for different lights through tax assessments. I lived in Los Angeles, and we wanted to keep the lights of our old neighborhood. The city wanted to change to modern lighting. We won and got new lights that looked old, but we had an assessment on our property tax bill of $8,000!"

How widespread is the discontent over new streetlights?

"We’ve heard concerns about the new lighting from people elsewhere in the city," said Niel Rohleder, a spokesman for the Public Works Department. "Some are happy with the new lights. Others are not, saying the old lighting in their yards and driveways provided them with a sense of security."

The city paid $4 million a year to energize the old lights.

"We estimate the new system, when completed, will cost just under $2 million a year," Rohleder said.

He noted that Los Angeles was one of the pioneers of the new technology, followed by Seattle, Boston and New York, among other major cities.

"The technology directs lighting in a much more effective way, covering streets and sidewalks more efficiently. That’s the prime purpose of these lights," Rohleder added.

Sun City was among the first areas in the city to experience the changeover. Most of the city’s streetlights will be replaced by next spring, Rohleder said. But some sections of Summerlin will be among the last to experience the changeover, due to complications that involve certain lighting poles, he explained.

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. His newest novel, "All For Nothing," is now available. Contact him at

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