SW Magnolia Pilot Streetlight Project Update

January 31, 2023

Introduction: Replacing aging streetlights in SW Magnolia.  Early in 2022, Seattle City Light reached out to the Magnolia Chamber of Commerce to discuss a proposed pilot project to replace streetlights in the southwest area of Magnolia (see map below).

The Chamber elicited the advice and counsel of Dave Goodell, a Magnolia resident who is experienced in lighting and electronics. He agreed to serve as the lead in collaborating with Seattle City Light on behalf of the Chamber. Dave has 42 years of experience in the lighting industry, working in sales, design, and consultation. He was Lighting Certified by the National Council on Qualifications for Lighting Professions (NCQLP) for 25 years, demonstrating his knowledge and experience across the lighting professions. He is a past member of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America. His professional credentials and working experience have been invaluable in assisting the Magnolia Chamber to navigate the public phases of the streetlight pilot project and collaborating with Seattle City Light over the last year.

Seattle City Light has launched the streetlight pilot project, as the streetlights in this area of Magnolia are approximately 50 years old. Therefore, the streetlights are at the end of their lifecycle and must be brought up to the existing environmental codes. After discussions about the project with the Chamber, a flyer explaining the SW Magnolia streetlight project was mailed out to the affected Seattle City Light customers in mid-November 2022.

The project aims to seek a consensus on one of three options for streetlight effectiveness and designs and replace approximately 350 streetlights around SW Magnolia.Consistent with other utilities in our state and consumer preferences, older street illumination lights are being replaced with LED lighting (see location of the three options, below). The environmental benefits are great. LED streetlights are more energy efficient, use no toxic elements such as mercury, distribute light better with less energy waste, and have considerably longer life spans than traditional fluorescent or incandescent lighting. In addition, innovations in LED lighting have improved the illumination experience for users.

The Magnolia streetlight project also recognizes that effective and well-placed street lighting improves pedestrian visibility and personal security. Streetlights increase safety by allowing pedestrians and motorists to see each other. It also adds to property safety and street side aesthetics. In addition, it can help reduce vandalism and improve neighborhood security. Finally, attractive streetlight fixtures can enhance a neighborhood’s appeal and sense of design.

Some stops and starts in the streetlight project. As mentioned, Seattle City Light mailed an initial informational flyer to Magnolia’s impacted Seattle City Light customers in November 2022. The flyer proposed three new pilot streetlight designs, with three different decorative “post-top” light fixtures, and the three options were installed along specific areas of West Viewmont.

The intention was to encourage residents to look at the three streetlight designs following dusk and seek feedback on preferences from the community by January 13, 2023. Seattle City Light established an online survey to make the process easy to access and fill out.

However, due to the misplacement of the pilot streetlights, the time it took for relocation, and a delay in the electrification of the pilot streetlights, the feedback date was extended to February 24th. In addition, the Magnolia Community Council engaged in the process and had specific concerns, questions, and resident feedback to share with the project leadership. As a result, Seattle City Light held additional informational meetings with concerned residents to address new problems and further describe the streetlight project in SW Magnolia.

The community engagement process helped to clarify details about the project. For instance, SCL explained that the decorative post-top light fixture options are specific to the underground wired section of SW Magnolia. In addition, residents shared concerns that the original survey focused on aesthetics. Yet, the project must also assess the functionality of streetlights in protecting pedestrians’ and motorists’ safety and reducing criminal activities. SCL welcomed additional public comments and extended the survey deadline to February 24th.

Next Steps. The Magnolia Chamber of Commerce encourages affected residents in SW Magnolia to visit the three streetlight options on Viewmont Way at night. After evaluating the three options, residents can go online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/magnoliapilotstreetlights and vote for their favorite streetlight based on lighting effectiveness to protect pedestrians and motorists and for visual attractiveness.