Skip to main content

Apparently This Matters: L.A.'s fancy new streetlights

The Sixth Street bridge over the Los Angeles River looks a bit different with old, left, and new streetlights. The Sixth Street bridge over the Los Angeles River looks a bit different with old, left, and new streetlights.
Streetlights: Team Yellow or Team White?
Streetlights: Team Yellow or Team White?
Streetlights: Team Yellow or Team White?
Streetlights: Team Yellow or Team White?
Streetlights: Team Yellow or Team White?
  • In 2009, Los Angeles started a project to replace more than 140,000 streetlights
  • The new LED lamps created a distinctly different look for the city at night
  • Filmmaker Dave Kendricken recently wrote that this is having a major impact on film industry

Editor's note: Each week in "Apparently This Matters," CNN's Jarrett Bellini applies his warped sensibilities to trending topics in social media and random items of interest on the Web.

(CNN) -- Let me tell you about the time I spent $388.58 replacing a single light bulb.

It all started several years ago when one of the fixtures in my kitchen burned out. Which was no big deal. It happens.

So, naturally, I drove to Home Depot to buy a replacement -- a task that, in total, should have required 20 minutes, $5 and one calorie of actual physical labor.

And pants.

(I was down to my last strike. Couldn't risk it.)

The light bulb I actually needed was right there in front of me, patiently waiting to be purchased, taken home and screwed into the ceiling so I could get on with my life.

"Apparently This Matters" Is Jarrett Bellini's weekly (and somewhat random) look at social-media trends.

Which, to be fair, was nothing more than an unimpressive collection of naps and long spells of heavy mouth breathing.

It still is.

But then, as I stood there, I saw these new LED lights, and immediately I was fascinated, for they were both efficient AND sexy, like a German supermodel.

They were also really REALLY expensive. As in, unjustifiably expensive. Yet, I just had to have one because, you know ... shiny things. Yay!

So, I dropped $40 on a light bulb. And it was glorious.

However, I soon learned that one does not simply replace a single bulb in the house with a completely new type of light that is different from all the others. Apparently, this is how people end up in mental hospitals.

"Where's Jarrett?"

"Outside directing traffic in a bathrobe."

Thus, nearly $400 (and many hours) later, I had replaced every fixture in the entire house. Literally every fixture. And then I just sat there on the floor, basking in the warm glow of my new lights, silently wondering, "What the hell just happened?"

On a much smaller scale, I basically accomplished what Los Angeles has been working on for several years: updating every single streetlight in the city.

Which is no simple task.

"Say, Carl, are you busy?"

You see, in February 2009, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced a partnership with the Clinton Climate Initiative to swap out more than 140,000 bulbs with these fancy new energy-efficient, longer-lasting light-emitting diodes.

It was an expensive undertaking, requiring countless man hours. But, ultimately, this would save the city millions of dollars.

And it's working.

Upon completion of this first major phase in June, Los Angeles was already enjoying energy reduction of over 60% and carbon emissions reduced by nearly 50,000 metric tons per year.

Bill Clinton noted that it was like taking almost 10,000 cars off the road.

Mind you, those 10,000 cars are still ON the road. Because it's Los Angeles. And traffic is the official state sport.

In all, it was the world's largest LED retrofit. And, without question, the light is growing brighter now.

Much brighter. Or at least whiter.

Which is why the project sort of found its way back into the news this week when Dave Kendricken wrote an eye-opening story about the project's impact on L.A.'s film industry.

Kendricken's popular article appeared on the No Film School website and suggested that Hollywood movies will never again look the same because of these new streetlights.

"Environmentally speaking, this is a good thing," Kendricken writes. "Though it's easy to get a little nostalgic."

Quite simply, Los Angeles has lost its signature yellow glow in favor of a more surgically white, autopsy-table shine from the LEDs.

It was the old sodium-vapor lamps that provided the unmistakable artificial warm light, and they were once considered both cheap and efficient.

But not anymore.

And the new bulbs change everything.

Kendricken explains that "in a sense, every night exterior L.A.-shot film previous to this change is rendered a sort of anthropological artifact, an historic document of obsolete urban infrastructure."

However, that's not necessarily a bad thing. At least if you can get past the nostalgia.

From a filming perspective, Kendricken argues that "the LEDs should very well prove a benefit to existing-light photography -- better for the environment, and in nearly every case, better for cinematography."

That, of course, is a healthy debate for serious film nerds. As for me, I don't particularly care for the white light; the LEDs in my house are tinted for warmth.

But I DO like energy savings and can say that, in my case, despite the initial cost, I certainly don't regret retrofitting my house.

Now, years later, the electric bills seem lower, and I've yet to have a single bulb go out.

Which is to say there has been no disturbance in the force.

Commence naps and long spells of heavy mouth breathing.

Follow @JarrettBellini on Twitter.

Part of complete coverage on
Apparently This Matters...
updated 6:14 PM EDT, Fri October 10, 2014
I vaguely recall Pizza Hut's Book It elementary school reading incentive program. Though, to be fair, I vaguely remember what I had for breakfast.
updated 7:37 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
It took a lot of effort for Leo Bonten to turn his amputated leg into a fully functional lamp. For starters, he had to break the damn thing in a freak kiddie pool accident.
updated 8:22 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
If you asked me -- and God knows nobody has -- I would have to guess that never in the history of humankind has anyone ever actually slipped on a banana peel.
updated 6:23 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
I'm a napper.
updated 8:44 AM EDT, Mon September 8, 2014
Since the beginning of time, man has looked up into the cosmos at those shiny, twinkling stars and thought, "I wonder if lizards would do each other up there?"
updated 11:28 AM EDT, Sat August 23, 2014
We all have weird, irrational concerns.
updated 10:25 PM EDT, Sun August 17, 2014
"What does this thing do?"
updated 1:48 PM EDT, Fri August 8, 2014
Despite all the political tension in Crimea, it's nice to know things are still safe enough at the zoo for a zebra to get it on with a donkey.
updated 9:41 PM EDT, Fri August 1, 2014
Justin Sylvester's wife is pregnant. With a baby.
updated 8:10 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
There's a famous scene in the movie "Titanic" where Rose turns to Jack and says, "I want you to draw me like one of your French girls."
updated 4:15 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
For several months in 2003, I did the whole European backpacker thing. Which is to say I've seen nearly every cathedral within 1,000 square miles of the Danube.
updated 3:17 PM EDT, Fri July 11, 2014
The other day I saw a death metal band hanging out by their tour van in the parking lot behind a club. They were all dressed in black, and may or may not have been working on lyrics to a new song about fire and lamb meat.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
There are two good reasons to own a giant trampoline.
updated 6:51 PM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
I would love to say my dog is intellectually qualified to be a service animal. But he's not. There's barely enough brainpower there to be a lamp.
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Sun June 8, 2014
I've never really needed an extra ear.
updated 4:32 PM EDT, Wed June 4, 2014
I never actually caught a glimpse of the Tooth Fairy when I was young, but she was definitely real and in cahoots with my mom. This, due to the fact that I never woke up to find a Nintendo.
updated 3:57 PM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
Have you ever seen a man running in a marathon, bleeding from his nipples?
updated 3:52 PM EDT, Fri May 16, 2014
Brace yourselves, because this week's story is about sperm and poop.