Wednesday, March 28, 2018

"2700 K" is Big News for Street Lights

    The new Director of the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has announced an important policy shift for the future of all of the city's 71,000 street lights. If carried out,  the policy could keep more of the historic character of Washington's streets and avenues when the new lighting infrastructure is rolled out. The change would be good for residents' health, too!

    Director Jeff Marootian spoke about DDOT's street light conversion at the meeting of Sheridan-Kalorama Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2D on March 19, using a technical term for the color temperature of the new Light Emitting Diode (LED) lights.

   "My goal is to go to 2700 Kelvin in many places, if not all places, in DC."

    Visible light has different "colors" depending on the wavelength. Street lights shine at different "color temperatures" depending on technology. DC's  present system of incandescent and high pressure sodium street lights glow in amber tones about 1900 to 2100 Kelvin. But they suck up many times the power of new LED lights.  

    In the photo below you see DC's amber-hued high pressure sodium lights on the west side of 18 Street where it crosses Mass Ave NW.  On the east side of 18 Street (at left, where guide Bonnie Garrity is pointing) you see a 4000 Kelvin LED.  (The photo was taken during RMA's  February 21 Street Light Tour. See Tour Slideshow for more. )

    Most cities are converting to LED street lights to save on power. Also a modern light system includes other "smart city" services like local light controls, wi-fi and monitoring of traffic (the latter prepares for driverless vehicles).  In his remarks to the ANC, Director Marootian stressed that technology for these systems is moving very fast and he hopes the District will be at the forefront.
    But the city began planning its move to low-power LED lights years ago. For much of the last decade, a higher blue-white color temperature was associated with safety.   Some cities such as Milan, Italy installed blue-white LEDs throughout. In the District DDOT began installing 4000-5000 Kelvin lights in alleys and elsewhere. 

    A DDOT pamphlet on the modernization program, some years ago, said that by 2014 most lights would be 4000 Kelvin.
   But the American Medical Association issued a report in 2016. (1) It warned that high color temperature street lights interfere with human melatonin, which naturally prepares our bodies for sleep. Pollinators get confused by these lights; they also interfere with plant growth. Their glare presents a hazard, especially for older drivers.

    To promote better policy, a DC Street Lighting Task Force now represents more than 100,000 residents by enrolling local groups including ANC 2D and Restore Mass Ave.  The Task Force has amassed technical data to show the streets would be just as safe for traffic and pedestrians with lights no more than 2700 Kelvin. 

      It appears the new Director of DDOT agrees. "I meet with the Street Light Task Force monthly," Director Marootian said at the March 19 meeting.

      Not clear is where 4000 and 5000 Kelvin blue-white lamps will be allowed in the District in future - or which of that kind already installed will stay.  The Street Light Task Force counted more than 4,000 LEDs of 4000 and 5000 Kelvin in 2017. (2) Fully 24% or 1,107 are in Ward 7.  But these very bright lights are not hard to miss in Ward 2, which includes downtown and Dupont Circle, and in the commercial corridors of Ward 3.

Correlated Color Temperature in Kelvins (US Department of Energy)

    At stake are the terms of a Request for Proposals (RFP) which DDOT is preparing with the Office of Public and Private Partnerships (OP3).  The RFP would enable private companies to bid for the job of modernizing all the city's street lights and related infrastructure. (3) The RFP is to be issued this spring but it must be reviewed by the City Council first. 

     Council Member Mary Cheh, as Chair of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, held a roundtable on the issue in June 2017. At that time, the Director of DDOT appeared to agree that such bright lights would not be installed until a policy was agreed. (According to local reports, such lights have been installed anyway.)

     At the public ANC meeting, Marootian, who took office in January, did not say whether or which of the present 4000- 5000 Kelvin LEDs would be replaced. 

    He did say "my goal is no more than 3000 Kelvin along Massachusetts Avenue," where, starting west from Dupont Circle, his department plans to replace the lights as part of a big infrastructure project.     

    Restore Mass Ave, a member of the STLF,  has urged warm-white lights of 2700 along Massachusetts Avenue.   The residents of 2540 Mass, one of Mass Ave's most famous apartment houses, have petitioned Council Member Cheh and Ward 2 Council Member Jack Evans for lights no brighter than 2700 Kelvin.
RMA President Deborah Shapley and Jeff Marootian 
at a Dupont Circle meeting in December
(1) American Medical Association

 (2) What-is-the-Street-Light-Task-Force (June 2017).

(3) Smart Lighting Project page

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Street Lights: Make Your Voice Heard

Please forward RMA's Testimony on Street Lights to City Council members and your friends.
RMA's position is informed by experts at the Street Light Task Force and the Dark Sky Association. You can help save the historic character of Embassy Row (ie no bright 3000 Kelvin lights) and improve future lighting for the whole city. 

RMA's Feb 21 Tour of Street Lights drew many from Dupont Circle and elsewhere.
On our tour slideshow see for yourself the differences in present lights (amber, HPS) versus the very bright blue-white LED lights (some at 4000K )which the Department of Transportation is already installing.

Many people from Ward 2 and Ward 3 are joining the ranks of residents trying to make the nation's capital do better than some other cities (Milan, Italy). Other cities are models (Phoenix, AZ) How Washington builds out its new lighting infrastructure in the next 15 years will be decided soon!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Join Our Street Light Tour Wednesday Evening

Restore Mass Ave is advocating for new fixtures and bulbs that are healthful and preserve the historic character of streets and avenues.  Here's our tour map.

See for yourself which new lights are too bright and too blue. Same may be needlessly high, so trees must be cut out for light to reach the street. Compare the old lights; they use too much power but give off soft color.

Our tour will be guided by experts from the DC Street Light Task Force, Delores Bushong and Bonnie Garrity.

New Date: Wed Feb. 21
Where: Start/finish at Embassy Row Hotel, 2015 Massachusetts Ave NW
Times: 6:15pm     Gather
             6:30pm     Start walk eastward  
             7:45 pm    Happy Hour drinks and discussion at Embassy Row Hotel  "Station"

       The Street Light Task Force has engaged dozens of local civic groups and ANCs to push for new energy- saving streetlights that are BEST for alleys, streets and avenues.

      Why is Restore Mass Ave concerned? Why now? We want healthful, appropriate lighting to save our Grand Avenue's character and trees. RMA seeks to influence which LED lights the Department of Transportation will choose for Embassy Row: lighting will be replaced as part of the big Massachusetts Avenue Rehabilitation Project (MARP).

     But street lights on ALL avenues, residential streets and commercial venues will be impacted by DDOT's lighting choices.  Walk with us, see for yourself and learn how to make your voice heard!

     Tour contact/RSVP    Follow us on Twitter  @restoremassave

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Haiti's Resilience Rewarded with 9-11 Survivor Tree

You'll see a small new tree planted by Haiti's Embassy at 2311 Massachusetts Avenue this spring. The tree will be just a sapling about 4 feet tall. Not a lot of branches nor leaves.

This little Callery pear may manage a few white blooms, briefly.  But if not now, in future years its white cloud of blossoms will herald the start of renewal up and down our Grand Avenue.

The tree's parent was discovered in the wreckage of the World Trade Center in October 2001. Rescuers saw "lifeless limbs, snapped roots, and blackened trunk." It was nursed back to health (after another disaster) and replanted at Ground Zero in December 2010.  At right is this Survivor Tree last spring, in full bloom. It is visited reverentially by millions of people now. 

Haiti too has had more than its fair share of disasters.  Its eleven million people have shown resilience despite gnarls of problems with infrastructure, environment,  politics, disease and misdirected aid.

Since 2012 Haiti's ambassador to the US, Paul Altidor, has worked to disentangle aid issues. He has tirelessly put forth an alternative story about the intelligence, hard work, artistry and dignity of Haitian people. His Embassy has opened its doors to the Haitian diaspora and general public, who come for Haitian art shows, cooking classes, crafts and music. Busboys & Poets hosts open-mike discussions about the country.

(Now the Embassy has a hotline to help Haitian deportees clarify their status. The charge that Haiti is not a good country is being refuted by the Ambassador and many in the US public.)

Haiti's struggle to recover from the 2010 earthquake, the largest natural disaster in history, was recognized last fall when the National 9-11 Memorial & Museum awarded a seedling of Pyrus calleryana from the 9-11 Survivor Tree.   Seedlings are awarded to communities "facing and overcoming tragedy" says the award letter from chair Alice Greenwald. 

Just twelve Survivor Tree Tree seedlings have been awarded since 2013, such as to Gulfport, Miss. (Katrina in 2005) and Newton, Conn. (Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012).

Restore Mass Ave has worked with the Embassy of Haiti on green restoration projects for years. It was one of the first foreign missions to help us water city street trees, for example. The Embassy hosted our 10th anniversary in May 2017 as well.

We are glad to assist the Embassy of Haiti with planting and protecting the Survivor Tree seedling when it arrives in early spring. Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Emmet Statue Invisible at Night

Irish Patriot Robert Emmet was hanged, drawn and quartered by British rulers back in 1803 -- but not before his speech from the dock in the Dublin courtroom lighted a torch for seekers of freedom everywhere.

Across the United States, Irish immigrants named towns Emmetsville (Fl., Tx.), Emmetsburg (Md., Ia.) and Emmetstown (Oh., Mn.), to name a few. Statues commemorating his martyrdom abound.

But on Embassy Row in Washington, DC, Robert Emmet remains in the dark.

 What may be the best statue of Emmet giving his famous speech is barely visible - even after the National Park Service (NPS) turned on the lights in a park that features the statue at Mass Ave, 24th and S Streets NW.
Spot the statue?  Statue of Robert Emmet seen from Mass Ave at  5:30 pm on December 30.
Restore Mass Ave pushed the NPS to illuminate this beautiful bronze figure. We want it to be seen on this busy thoroughfare thronged by cars at night. In 2015, the NPS proposed to refurbish the park improve the statue's visibility, including removing a gigantic cedar tree.  We fought removal of the tree while pushing for lights.  See Emmet Park: Statue and Cedar can Coexist  (November 2015).

NPS took the tree down in time for a centennial celebration of the 1916 Easter Uprising, held at the park in April 2016.

Still - no lights! We reminded the NPS and Smithsonian American Art Museum which owns the statue.

Cheerful NPS workers activated the lights in September, in time for another ceremony featuring an address by new Irish Ambassador Daniel Mulhall.  Still, per our December 30 photo taken at 5:30 pm, travelers can barely discern the statue - and miss a great moment.

The nation's capital needs this inspiring public art to be accessible and admired. Otherwise our Grand Avenue falls short of its purpose as an inspiring civic space.
Daniel Mulhall, Ambassador of Ireland, speaks at Emmet Park. Photos: RMA

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Park Service to Plant Historic Trees in Sheridan Circle

Statue of General Philip Sheridan is focus of the Circle and the Avenue
We are delighted that the National Park Service decided to change the tree species to be planted in its famous park - Sheridan Circle - at the heart of Embassy Row.

Elsewhere along Embassy Row, the area shaded by trees, or tree canopy, has expanded by 13% in ten years.  But in Sheridan Circle, there may be less canopy according to satellite data.
American Linden planted 1904 is removed in 2011.
Why? The original big trees planted in 1904 have been dying off. Further, the trees NPS planted to replace them have not done well.  Or the replacements are okay but are too small to increase the canopy.

Our group has urged that trees in this circle be American lindens, not the little-leaf linden variety planted in recent decades.
Now replacement trees will be American linden, announced Yue Li, Park Landscape Architect for NAMA, the National Mall & Memorial Parks division of NPS, which governs this park.  Ms. Li met onsite about the trees with RMA Board member Robert Nevitt and RMA President Deborah Shapley as part of our emerging partnership to restore grandeur to this amazing but neglected landmark.
Ring of mature American lindens around the statue in1970.
The importance of this streetscape to the nation is in our book, A Grand Avenue Revival.  The original, even-spaced ring of 16 trees were integral to the flowing formal landscape of the Grand Avenue.  

Many of the mansions and the statue of General Sheridan were erected after the city planted 500 American lindens in double rows along the sidewalks and within this circle. This is why architecture and landscape are married here in “a street façade unique in the city and perhaps the nation.”*

The statue of  General Sheridan was dedicated in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt. At the same time, mansions by noted architects - Waddy Wood, Glenn Brown, George Oakley Totten,  Nathan Wyeth - rose there, along with the prominence of their owners.

Rob Nevitt Tree Project Director and Yue Li of NPS-NAMA
See our Historic Initiative page for a slideshow of the amazing original trees of Sheridan Circle through the decades. Pictures compare the little-leaf variety  not suited to our Grand Avenue – with the bigger linden type.  The slides have more on our developing Sheridan Circle Restoration Project.

Under the new NPS/NAMA policy, only the two empty sites in the tree ring will get American Lindens; more should be planted at NPS replaces other trees in the ring, though it will be years before we see visible change in the Circle's landscape and canopy area.

But, to quote the Chinese proverb: "The best time to plant a tree was 10 years ago; the next-best time is today."
* National Park Service 1974 nomination of the Massachusetts Avenue Historic District. Quoted at A Grand Avenue Revival, page 10.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Treekeepers work fast to help10 second row trees

Restore Mass Ave volunteer Treekeepers gather for 2 hour workshops to help at-risk trees. We welcomed four new Treekeepers Saturday Sept 16. The Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies was well represented thanks to Board Member and Yale alumna Lindsey K. Larson. (We welcome new signups on our Volunteer page.)

Back row L to R: Max Lambert, Paul, Winters, Nora Hawkins, Kevin Finneran

Front row L to R: Deborah Shapley, Karen Peterson, Lindsey Larson

Photo:  RMA Board member Marty Scherr

Right: Lindsey & Kevin
carry away stakes that braced the little trees against the wind for 2 years. Now the trees are strong enough to stand on their own.

Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) 'Wildfire' was chosen for the prominent point at 30th and Mass.  In fall 40,000 motorists passing daily will see its brilliant red foliage announcing the majestic row.

Left: Karen Peterson consults with the group on cutting little roots at the base of this tree. Since they could weaken it, she snip-snipped.

 Back Story: In 2014 the State Department Office of Foreign Missions decided to green the empty lawns with a second row of trees. Casey Trees designed the planting aided by RMA. 
Right: RMA's Kevin Finneran posing in the exact corner in need of a prominent tree, in 2014. 

In 2011, Casey Citizen Forester Gary McNeil paced these lawns seeking the original linden row from 1904.
Below: Gary measures for replacements;
the mysterious finger code shows which tree.
Further down: Casey Trees' planting and design. ⬇
Led by Jim Woodworth, Casey Trees installed the ten second row trees in December 2014.
Left: Planters at work. Right: How to lay out a double row design, from our award-winning book A Grand Avenue Revival: Massachusetts Avenue Landscape History & Design Guide. Pdf here.

Photos and image: RMA    
  • The land we planted on is city land known as "parking." How a second row in the "parking" helps neighbors and the city is on RMA's second row page.
  • 3003 Mass was the Residence of the Ambassador of Iran. 3005 Mass is the former Embassy of Iran. Since 1979 when the United States broke relations with Iran over its seizure of US diplomats as hostages, these properties have been in the custody of Department of State Office of Foreign Missions.