Palo Alto's night owls will soon see their city in a different light -- a whitish glow, to be exact.
The City Council on Monday night approved the purchase of 600 LED (light-emitting diode) streetlights to replace the traditional and currently prevalent high-pressure sodium lights.
The project would affect about 10 percent of the city's total streetlights and replace the familiar yellowish glow with a whiter one. Utility officials hope to replace the other 5,400 streetlights over the next five years.
The new lights would be installed on El Camino Real between San Antonio Road and University Avenue, and on Alma Street between San Antonio Road and University Avenue.
The project is funded by a federal grant, which aims to promote energy efficiency. The new lights will give the city greater power to adjust brightness and will last roughly four times longer than the current bulbs.
Purchasing Manager Greg Pustelnik wrote in a report that these lights have "excellent thermal management and weather-resistance capabilities." The city gave these lights a trial run last spring.
The council voted unanimously to accept a staff recommendation to buy 600 bulbs from the Leotek Electronics USA Corp., for $355,281. Though several council members said they were worried about the broader problem of inadequate lighting in some parts of Palo Alto, everyone agreed that LED lights are the greener and more effective option than the sodium lights currently in use.
Councilman Larry Klein said other cities have already switched to the greener LED lights and said it's time for Palo Alto to follow suit.
"Not only are the LEDs much more cost effective and environmentally sound, they also give off in many ways brighter light and better light," Klein said.
Councilwoman Karen Holman said she was concerned about the broadcast of light in some areas of Palo Alto and called for the city to re-examine whether Palo Alto needs to install new light fixtures.
Councilman Greg Scharff mentioned inadequate lighting in some parts of town. Scharff said he noticed poor lighting in some parts of his neighborhood when he took his son Trick-or-Treating last month.
"I'm shocked by how badly lit it is," Scharff said. "It doesn't seem safe -- sometimes it seems pitch black."
He agreed that clean energy is important, but said the city should also "look at basics," which includes "lighting the streets where my children walk."