I live in Lincoln Park.
My living room looks onto Hampden Court. It’s a majestic little block just minutes away from the Wieners Circle, as well as other historical Chicago landmarks. Unwinding on my couch last week, there was something different about our beautiful view.
Instead of a picturesque outlook of Chicago’s north side, our street looked more like a parking garage. I thought maybe it was just another long day at work, so I rubbed my eyes. And then I realized the problem.
“DUDE!”, I yelled to my roommate.
“Have you seen the gross new street light they put in across the street?”
We were pissed. We talked about sending a letter to the city, but realized that would be a waste of time. We joked about throwing rocks and shattering it, but that would be illegal.
Really, it’s that bad.
Chicago is finally making the switch to LED streetlights. pic.twitter.com/cujyB942Ei
— De-pro9 (@Deprogrammer9) March 14, 2016
On Sunday, things got even worse when Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office announced that it plans to replace nearly all of the city’s streets with the exact same LED lights. Over the next four years, Emanuel will implement what he’s called “one of the largest municipal lighting modernization programs in the country.”
While true, I would change that line to “one of the largest municipal lighting modernization travesties in the country.”
In another statement, Emanuel said that the new lights “will provide more reliable and improved nighttime visibility, giving communities a greater sense of safety. The process to achieve this for our communities may be complex, but improving our streetlights while creating jobs and strengthening our neighborhoods is a no-brainer.”
First off, these lights don’t make me feel safer. They make me feel like I’m in the fucking Hunger Games. And second off, it’s not a no-brainer. If it was, I wouldn’t have written 500 words about how stupid it is.
I don’t care if these lights last three times longer than the current high-pressure sodium lamps when my street looks like the smoking area of a college dormitory.
We’re not the first people to catch on to the truth behind this initiative, either. According to Curbed Chicago, “Chicago will lose its distinctive orange nocturnal glow as the city launches an ambitious initiative to replace 85% of its public outdoor lights with whiter LED models.”
Dubbed the Smart Lighting Project, 348,500 total lights will be replaced as a result. And while this large-scale conversion to more environmentally friendly LED technology will reduce electricity use and utility costs, is it really worth it? Are Chicagoans willing to sacrifice 85% of this city’s aesthetic appeal to make room in the mayor’s budget?
I can’t speak for the rest of you. But at this point, at least you know where I stand on the Smart Lighting Project.