What to Know
- The I-Team drove down nighttime Los Angeles streets and saw outages everywhere. We asked the city just how many there are. The answer: at least 7,000.
- Most outages due to copper wire theft.
- The City lacks the budget to fully repair outages.
It was nighttime when Robert, who didn’t want to use his last name, heard the alarm on his truck going off. He walked to the window of his North Hollywood home and saw thieves trying to steal the catalytic converter from his truck that was parked on the street.
Robert told the I-Team that he partially blames his dark street for the crime. He says his street lights have been out for more than a year, which he thinks is an open invitation to crime.
“At a certain point I gave up. I didn’t think it was going to get repaired,” he said.
Robert and his neighbor, Ginny Seiden, say they’ve repeatedly reported the outage to the city. Seiden says it’s a safety concern; she won’t go out at night.
“I really depend on the lights because I have low vision and I’m 80 years old, and so the lights were extremely a safety precaution for me,” she said.
Fifteen miles away in Northridge, neighbors there also reached out to the I-Team complaining about outages on their street. They say their street lights have been out for nearly two years. Joe Kozul said he’s concerned about nearby college students who walk the dark streets at night. But he said when he calls the city, he gets no action.
“We get nothing other than, ‘We’re looking into it and we’re working on it,’” he said.
The I-Team drove down nighttime Los Angeles streets and saw outages everywhere. We asked the city just how many there are. The answer: at least 7,000.
Miguel Sangalang, who heads the Bureau of Street Lighting, has the job of keeping the lights on. He told the I-Team that his job isn’t as easy as it used to be. He said a few years ago a street light outage entailed replacing a burned out bulb. But now, outages blanket entire streets. That’s because people are breaking into the access boxes in the sidewalk and stealing, and later selling, the copper wire that’s used to keep the lights on.
“What’s happening now is more akin to having to rewire your house. It’s a large capital expense,” Sangalang said.
Sangalang said the city is working to fix and seal up the access points, but he doesn’t have the budget to fix it all. So his 150 field workers tackle what they can.
“We’re taking cement, we’re taking welders, we’re taking steel, wrapping them around any of the hand holes, pouring concrete, trying to build the biggest castle that we can, protecting the lights all around,” said Sangalang.
Sangalang concedes that it’s going to take awhile, likely years, to get all the outages fixed. And while residents wait, more lights will likely go out.
This isn’t news that residents want to hear.
“It’s a tragic sort of thing because lighting is what brings us comfort and safety,” said Kozul.
In the meantime, Sangalang urges residents to report outages through the MYLA311 app. Here’s how:
- Download the MYLA311 app.
- Click “Create a Service Request” and report the issue under “Problems & Repairs.” Be sure to detail the location and how many lights are out.
- If you see copper wire theft actively happening, report it to LAPD by calling 911.