Starting in June 2013, 30,333 streetlights began conversion from “cobra head” High Pressure Sodium (at top of photo) to flat-panel Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology (at bottom). The new lights’ main goal is to increase public safety, via “a better quality of light”3 and fewer “dark spots” between poles. But the new lights also last longer (15 years minimum), need less maintenance and are (far) more energy efficient. Energy savings are expected to result in $1.5 million/year.

Oakland had been planning this for years. Desley Brooks was influential in getting it going. After a pilot project in 2012, the conversion was approved by Council in 2013. Oakland is reportedly one of the first cities to implement LED lights on a wide scale.

This citywide project started at the San Leandro/Oakland border, and worked west of I-580 to converge west and north. At the same time, another installation crew began at the Berkeley/Oakland border to converge east and south, below I-580. The final phase of the project started where Berkeley and Oakland meet above 580 and will converge.

This $15 million conversion was funded by a low-interest federal loan of $14M (and is also funded by the anticipated energy savings). PG&E is also giving a $2.9M ($3M according to Quan) incentives rebate.

It was estimated to be completed by December of 2013.


If your neighborhood wants the lights brighter for more safety, or dimmer to restore a more rustic ambiance, public works staff can make some limited adjustments if desired by residents on your block. Also, they can install shields to prevent lights from shining into your home. Email [email protected] or calling 615-5566.

If you want to see what different intensities look like, visit the demonstration lights on the 5300 block of Harbord Drive between Clarewood Drive and Amy Drive. The lamps are labeled and will be left for viewing through March 30.


  • 2013-07-09: Informational meeting, 6–8 PM, Beebe Memorial Cathedral – 3900 Telegraph Avenue
  • 2013-07-24: Informational meeting, West Oakland (may have been more of a media event)
  • 2013-11-14: Latest revision to Oakland’s Street Light Design Manual3 specifies, under “Design and Material Requirements - Lamp Type” (p.9) - “All street light and pedestrian lamps shall be High Pressure Sodium (HPS). No exceptions allowed.” (Did, uh, you get that memo about cover sheets on TPS reports? … Yeah … we’re doing that now … so if you could, uh, get your story straight … that’d be great.)
  • 2013-12-17: Market to MLK on 45th is complete. Only one on 45th between Market and Adeline, but it’s on the Emeryville side of the border.
  • 2014-02-20: total number converted: 27,938 (92%)3
  • 2014-03-05: lights finally show up in Adams Point (guess we’re chopped liver over here).


  1. Photo and info from Quan’s June 17th Newsletter.
  2. City Administrator’s June 21st Weekly Report.
  3. City of Oakland > Public Works > Infrastructure & Operations > Street Lighting