By Kevin Collison
When the Quality Hill neighborhood first opened in the mid-1980s on the west side of downtown, among its charms were the old-fashioned black street lamps that complemented its quiet, leafy streets and brick residences.
These days however, many of the original 120 street lamps have gone dark, leaving residents upset and confused about who’s responsible for repairing and maintaining them.
“It’s the number one complaint I’ve heard about since becoming president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association two years ago,” said Jared Campbell. “It’s really a messy situation.”
McCormack Baron Salazar, the original developer of Quality Hill which installed the street lamps, no longer owns the development.
In its place, there is one large property owner, Somerset Apartment Management, and some small owners who’ve proven difficult to find.
Last spring, the city met with Somerset which agreed to repair the 78 street lamps under its control. Of that number, 76 are now operating.
But that still leaves 42 unaccounted for, and at a DNA meeting last week, residents were told resolving the problem is a work in progress.
“Residents and members of the community improvement district are going to walk through the district and determine which lights aren’t working,” Campbell said.
“We then need to research the ownership of the parcels responsible for the lights.”
Rick Usher, an assistant city manager, is helping the DNA and Quality Hill residents find both a short-term and long-term solution to the lighting problem.
“Somerset has come forward, but there are two or three property owners we’re trying to track down,” Usher said. “The residents think the city owns them and call 311.
“The new owners haven’t been aware of their responsibility to maintain the lights goes with the property.”
On a long-term basis, the idea of creating a community improvement district for Quality Hill that would maintain the street lamps with the cost shared by residents has been suggested.
There also is the possibility of the city assuming control and replacing the existing fixtures.
“They’re 35 years old and not manufactured anymore,” Usher said.
The City Public Works Department has estimated it would cost $300,000 to repair the existing street lamps. No estimate has been provided for what it would cost for a complete replacement.
Campbell said even the functioning lights do a poor job of illuminating the sidewalks and streets of Quality Hill.
“We want to get these lights up and running, and install brighter LED lights that will provide more light,” he said.
Despite the gloom, Usher and Campbell said there have not been any incidents reported by residents related to the problem.
“Residents are wary because of the potential with the darkness, but we have not heard of any crime statistics,” Usher said.