One Bright Light + One Angry Neighbor = One Big Headache

One Bright Light + One Angry Neighbor = One Big Headache

Gregory Han
Jan 17, 2008

What a rough evening last night. I had a neighbor whom I've never met before pounding on my door, angry about a light that had been installed on a city power pole by the Department of Water and Power to illuminate the front sidewalk and walkway of our apartment building. I became a marked man after another neighbor informed him I was responsible for the installation of the new light, despite it being a communal decision made by all of us living on the street facing side our building. [continued]

As noted before, we've had people trying to break into one of the downstairs units, have sex in our stairway multiple times, found drunken strangers follow neighbors into their homes, drug dealers working their trade across the street and possibly most disturbing, found a comical and seemingly inhuman amount of human feces piled in front of a back door. By law, our landlord has no responsibility to add safer lighting, and he's of the cheapest variety who believes things like safe lighting is a luxury. So after hearing about a city light's program, I signed us up and had them install an external pole mounted outdoor light to improve visibility from sidewalk to our stairway. I was excited to see the put it up yesterday afternoon, but then dismayed our first night to discover that: A) the light is way too bright; it's brighter than any light within a 5 mile radius and may change the migrational patterns of wildlife, and B) the radius of light is partially directed into the rooms of my neighbors, turning their once private abodes into a shadow show of embarrassing proportions. It wasn't evident until they turned it on, but as one of my nicer neighbors showed me from his room, the light cast a glow that reminded me a lot of the "Chicken Roaster" episode of Seinfeld where Kramer had to endure the blinding light of a Kenny Rogers Roasters sign. It definitely had to go.

I feel nervously horrible for having a direct hand in such an eyesore as the point person, and sent out emails and talked to everyone about correcting the mistake. Everyone, although not pleased, were understanding and conveyed that it was a good attempt at improving our community's safety. But one particular neighbor was frankly just a...ahem...difficult [edited]. He lives on the other side of the building where it's already safely illuminated and his entrance is tucked into the corner, so he responded to the crime worries with an indifferent shrug. He resides in his unit only for a fraction of the year, mostly traveling to work on films and holding onto the unit not because he needs it, but because I was told he has an ongoing feud with our landlord (it's a highly desirable rent controlled unit and he's been in there for ages). Unfortunately, because of his extended travels, I had never had the chance to meet or discuss with him about the lighting plans, and he returned just recently to find the bright light outside his window. My angry neighbor's main concern was that his "view was ruined" because he could see "the power lines clear as day". I apologized and explained that the lights were installed because of the reasons noted above, and I had already contacted DWP to come back out to adjust or remove them. I reiterated several times I could see why the lights were not working for any of us, and assured him I'd take responsibility to have them removed. He'll have to endure one more evening with the light, for the soonest DWP can come to remove it is tomorrow (I had seven days to have it removed at no cost, no questions asked, and it was as easy as a phone call).

Hopefully in the meantime, our apartment isn't mistaken for the Eye of Sauron, and my neighbors and I will be all pitching in to have an electrician install wall mounted lighting on our stairways and walkways as solution. The sad thing learned from this all is that there is always one neighbor whose primary interests are limited to his own. Take away my neighbor's view and I finally meet my neighbor of three years whom I had never once seen before. But ask him about how to improve our neighborhood and he mostly implied it was for us to deal with. I guess the light outside illuminated not only the street but the character of everyone it affected. But at least my other neighbors have all banded together to work toward a solution, and that's no small feat.

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