SF supervisor wants the lights off

March 24, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
San Francisco Supervisor David Chiu introduced legislation Tuesday that would prohibit downtown commercial buildings from leaving the lights on after hours.

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If one San Francisco supervisor gets his way and the city skyline is going to lose some of its sparkle. San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu wants lights turned off in downtown buildings whenever offices are not in use.

The skyline is certainly breathtaking, but to some it's big a waste of energy.

At night, the San Francisco skyline definitely impresses visitors like Mike Rickson who is visiting from upstate New York.

"I'm staying with my brother right now. On the roof of his building you get a really great sight of it at night and all the lights. It's absolutely gorgeous," says Mike Rickson, a tourist.

However, the president of the board president wants the lights out. So much so, he's introduced an ordinance giving building owners one year to figure out how to keep them off during non-business hours.

"All parents teach their children to turn the lights off, but for some reason in our downtown office buildings, folks who work in the downtown office corridors have not done that," said David Chiu, President of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors.

The idea is to encourage businesses to sign contracts with their cleaning companies, requiring custodians to turn lights on-and-off as needed. The city is also trying to push companies to take advantage of state rebates for motion sensors. The Bingham McCutchen law firm in 3 Embarcadero Center installed their system four years ago.

"So even if you move a slight bit it will keep the lights on, so it' very, very high tech and it really works for us, saves us money, and is very environmentally friendly," said Sean Walsh, Bingham Law Firm.

Nearly half the energy San Francisco consumes comes from downtown buildings, so forcing them to keep the lights off is expected to save a lot of energy. The proposed ordinance would ultimately fine building owners up to $500 for each offense. City dwellers are a bit torn.

"It's sort of part of what you like about living in a big city, to see the lights and the city lights, and the view and things like that," says Rhonda Stewart, a San Francisco resident.

"I guess beauty's cool, but it's better to save energy," says Jason Fordley, a San Francisco resident.

This proposed ordinance was introduced this week for a reason. Earth Hour will be taking place this Saturday, that's when cities across the world will be turning off their lights from 8:30-9:30 p.m.

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