Lights Out in La Jolla: Malfunction results in weeks without street lights

The David family, visiting from Arizona, walked behind a cellphone flashlight the night of Wednesday, March 15, to find their way around La Jolla Shores. The lack of street lights and malfunctioning street lamps is keeping the area in the dark.

According to La Jolla Shores Business Association president Angie Preisendorfer, 33 out of 74 “acorn” lights in La Jolla Shores have been out since Monday, March 13. She took the concern to the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation (LJT&T) board meeting March 15, hoping for resolution to the safety problem. “On La Jolla Shores Drive, between Vallecitos to Camino del Collado, all of them are out, but every other street has five or six lamppost lights out on each street, as well,” she said.

But that’s not all.

La Jolla Light canvassed The Village the night of March 16 and found that all the acorn lamppost lights on Wall Street and Herschel Avenue (plus some on Ivanhoe and Fay Avenues) aren’t working either. Erika Torri, executive director of the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, said at the LJT&T meeting that she noticed the acorn lights on Wall Street “have been out for a very long time. We’ve called the City about it, but haven’t seen any (repairs) yet.”

At the same meeting, La Jolla Shores resident Nancy Lo petitioned for street lights for Ardath Road, which runs parallel to La Jolla Parkway. “There is a quarter mile where there are no light (fixtures). If you head east, our street has one light fixture. If you head west, there are no lights until you get to Hidden Valley and Ardath Road,” she said.

Lo added that she used to go for walks from her house to the beach, but doesn’t anymore because, “in the evening it’s very scary to walk around ... a lot of people walk to the beach for sunset, but walking back (in the dark) is scary.”

LJT&T board chair Dave Abrams forwarded Lo’s request to the City.

Old wiring?

LJT&T board member Brian Early said the acorn light wiring in La Jolla Shores was installed in the 1930s, and suggested the cable work might be “running thin.”

According to the City’s website, San Diego has more than 40,000 street lights in operation and there are two types: Induction Lights, which emit a white light; and Low Pressure Sodium (LPS), which emit a monochromatic yellow light, aka “acorn lights.”

The newer Induction Lights largely remain running in different areas of La Jolla.

Preisendorfer, who in the past worked with former District 1 Council member Sherri Lightner to repair street lights when they went out, said her efforts got “a few” fixed, but “now there are so many out, I think it’s more than a light-bulb issue.”

The Light contacted the City for background information. Public information officer Anthony Santacroce said the City is aware of the outage along La Jolla Shores and the lights were “energized” last week, but suffered another outage over the weekend. “These lights are ‘series circuit’ lights. Imagine a string of old Christmas lights. When one goes out, the entire strand goes out,” he explained.

Santacroce added that 11 circuits malfunctioned across the City. “Troubleshooting circuits can be a time-consuming process that involves staff manually checking the wiring for each light until the damage/short is located so the proper repairs can be made,” he said. “City crews are working diligently to resolve the core circuitry issues brought on by an incredibly wet season so far. We are aware of the other lights out in the surrounding area — Wall Street, Herschel Avenue, etc. — and will be working on them shortly.”

Santacroce said recent rains and flooding caused many of the “series” circuits throughout the City to stop working, but in La Jolla Shores, “it’s possible that construction in the area might have affected circuit infrastructure — but that’s just speculation.”

Preisendorfer is certain that, whatever the cause, the outage in The Shores is a public safety issue. “With all the damage to our streets from construction, and the potholes (caused by rains), we’ve got a dangerous situation here,” she said.

The Light has received an e-mail from a San Diego Gas & Electric liaison requesting information about the street names and cross streets involved with the malfunctioning street lights.

A statement from District 1 Council member Barbara Bry’s office said, “Our La Jolla representative is out in the community, he’s aware of the issue and in communication with local merchants. We’re going to continue to monitor it.”

— Ashley Mackin and Susan DeMaggio contributed to this report.