OAKLAND -- By the end of this year, Oakland expects to have outfitted all 30,000 overhead streetlights with brighter energy-efficient bulbs -- an upgrade city officials said should help reduce crime and electricity bills.

The $14.8 million project is already underway in East Oakland, where more than 1,000 bulbs have been replaced.

"This is extremely important," Councilman Larry Reid said Tuesday as a crew replaced bulbs in his district at 98th Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard. "If you come out here at night and you drive this corridor you see how dark it is."

The LED lights being installed use about half the energy of their predecessors and are designed to disperse light throughout the street. The bulbs produce about 10 times more light between the light poles, said Kristian Reyes, of Graybar, a St. Louis-based firm that is working on the project. He estimated the lights would save Oakland about $1.4 million per year on electricity costs.

Several major cities have begun converting to LED streetlights, but Oakland is sprinting to replace its entire inventory within about eight months. The city borrowed money to pay for the installation and plans to repay the debt through savings on energy costs. It also will get nearly $3 million in rebates from PG&E.


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Elsewhere in the Bay Area, Hayward is converting its streetlights to LED bulbs, and San Jose has an agreement with Chevron to do the same.

For many cities, energy savings is reason alone to make the switch, but in Oakland where robberies increased 29 percent last year, there is hope that brighter streets will deter crime.

"Maybe the community will get out and walk the streets a little more," said Fred MacKay, an East Oakland resident and construction manager.

Councilwoman Desley Brooks had pushed most forcefully for improved lighting. At a Tuesday morning news conference, also attended by Mayor Jean Quan, she thanked residents who also lobbied for the project. "If we all work together, we can make a change in this community," she said. "And that is what you see here today."

Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.