Various types of streetlights started blazing in Imperial Beach on November 19. The designs — part of the city’s proposal to light up I.B.’s "crown jewel,” Seacoast Drive — have garnered attention and created at least one protester.
On the first night of the light show, resident Chuck Quisenberry was on Seacoast Drive holding a large protest sign representing the people who think no new lights should be installed until the city government takes care of unfinished business.
"The existing lighting is very good,” said Quisenberry. “There is no need for lights here when there are so many unpaved alleys and unlit streets. We can't afford to take care of our parks," he added, referring to the recent privatization battle over the local sports park. His sign read, "Thanksgiving + streetlights, no second helpin's before we all get firsts."
The Imperial Beach city government is a little more positive about the idea.
“The [display of lights] was organized to determine if lighting could be attractive and effective in providing a more welcoming atmosphere along Seacoast Drive during the evening hours,” the city announced. “The construction of the new Pier South Hotel together with the impending opening of the SEA 180 and Coronado Brewing Company on Seacoast Drive has created a synergy that will likely increase evening visitors to the area.” SEA 180 will be an upscale restaurant located on the hotel grounds.
City manager Andy Hall remained neutral while acknowledging the different sides of the issue.
"Some feel we should spread our resources throughout the community; others feel Seacoast is our crown jewel." Hall said that the city council will make the decision based on public response and that "they are having a very open and honest discussion." He noted that the display had been extended two days "to make sure everybody sees it."
When asked about people who object to the plan, Hall, who started as city manager in August, pointed out that it would be the city council that would "decide what's the right approach." He acknowledged that "there are a lot of improvements we still need to make...including getting our alleyways paved, getting lights in some other areas."
Hall mentioned another aspect of public illumination: some people don't want too much lighting so they can see the night sky better.
"There are probably some people in our community who say, 'Quit lighting it up, let us see the night sky.'" There are also logistical problems to lighting up some spots in town because, Hall said, “You can't just put one light here and one light there; that's not the way electrical lines work."
The city is displaying three streetlight designs proposed for Seacoast Drive besides one called the "Palm Street End Fixture,” which looks similar to a standard streetlight. Of the main three, one looks something like a bug-zapper (called the "Eclipse Post Top”); one is designed to shine intense LED downward in place ("Visionary Oden"); and one is an old-fashioned-looking covered light ("Promenade Acorn").
From attending the exhibition and talking to people there, Hall said he thought that people favored the brightness of the Oden design. "People think, 'You might as well light it up.’"