Santa Fe’s New Streetlights

You may have seen two recent articles in the New Mexican about the plan by the City of Santa Fe, Public Works Department, to replace all streetlights with shielded LED units. On Wednesday, February 24, the City Council will hold public hearings on ordinances relating to energy-saving contracts that will represent significant progress in Santa Fe’s commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2040. 

The City’s proposal has good and bad points. The good is that the new lights will be shielded and will do a much better job of directing light downward where it is desired, and not off into the distance or up into the sky. As they are light-emitting diodes (LEDs), replacing older high-pressure sodium lights, they are more efficient and will save money and energy. The replacement of these lights will be a great step forward for the city of Santa Fe and is to be applauded. 

HOWEVER: The City is following its chosen contractor’s specifications, but without providing convincing documentation or alternatives. The proposal states that these lights promote safer highways, which is true, but again no alternatives are considered. The specifications indicate 3000K and 4000K color temperatures, depending on the application, the latter of which is very bright and blue-white. This is detrimental to people, to wildlife, and to the preservation of a dark night sky.  Lower color temperature lights (3000K or less) are an option that provides the same benefits as the higher temperature lights, and are being adopted by places like Flagstaff and Tucson, AZ, where light pollution is taken seriously. 

These lights represent a major investment for the City, and will be with us for many years. It is imperative that we get this right and avoid having buyers remorse at some point down the road. Santa Fe can be a leader and not a follower. 

Please urge the Mayor and City Council to give this aspect more consideration in order to achieve a more environmentally harmonious result. You can sign in to comment in the meeting too,

Last year Audubon announced a partnership with the International Dark Sky Association (IDA). This is the first local opportunity to demonstrate the reality of this partnership. Thanks for your support! 

Members of the public will be able to view, listen, and comment at the February 24 City Council Meeting, which will be held virtually. Instructions for doing so and supporting materials will be posted on the PrimeGov Portal. Email addresses for the Mayor and City Councilors Can be found at: 

Tom Jervis, PresidentSangre de Cristo Audubon Society