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Goals and Objectives

The goal of the L.A. Lights the Way competition is to select and to put into service a new standard streetlight for the City of Los Angeles. It is important to note that this competition will not affect the installation or the ongoing maintenance of historic streetlights in a range of significant styles. It will instead select a design for the streetlight that is installed in areas where those historic streetlights are not used. A map of the distribution of the standard streetlight and some of the most popular historic styles is included on pages 30-31.


Los Angeles City Hall illuminated

As a City we ask a lot of this standard streetlight -- and over time we will ask even more. To begin with, of course, it needs to illuminate the roadway. Increasingly, we also want the pole to illuminate sidewalks and other pedestrian thoroughfares, which is why the City is asking competitors to include a pedestrian arm in their design entries. An LED strip will allow the new standard pole to add color-coordinated displays along streets and boulevards, to mark important events and milestones in communities around Los Angeles. (Think of the light displays illuminating City Hall tower distributed along corridors instead of across a building facade.) We are also asking teams in the competition to help us think through ways in which streetlights could efficiently accommodate hardware for shade sails or electric vehicle charging stations or equipment for 5G technology, among other new features. We are excited, finally, that this new pole may also include space for carefully selected written text, such as poems or descriptions of neighborhood history or nearby architectural landmarks.


Even as we ask the standard pole to take on more tasks, however, our goal is still a streetlight with an elegant profile. As our Mayor’s Office colleague, Jennifer Pope McDowell, has put it, we want the streetlight to operate as something of a Swiss Army knife without necessarily looking like one. Striking an effective balance between program and profile will be one key to success for competing teams.

A few words on the term “standard.” Over the decades, Los Angeles has become well known for the ambition and design quality of its historic and neighborhood-specific streetlights. The goal of this competition, in bringing some of that ambition to the standard streetlight, has something to say about how we treat the “average,” “typical,” or “background” sections of the public right of way. As we continue to invest as a City and County in new forms of public transit and in the quality of our public-realm design, our aim is to erase the gulf between those areas that have traditionally received more subsidy and design attention and those areas that might be thought of as generic, workaday, or overlooked. A successful design for the new standard streetlight for the City will be a symbol of this emphasis. In a city with a well-designed right of way, the background section has as much to say as the ceremonial one. And perhaps more. 

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