Dear PoPville – Blacking Out Blinding Lights?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr. T in DC

“Dear PoPville,

We just moved into a new building in Shaw and the street lights BLARE into the windows all night long casting bright yellow light into the condo. Even with shades it’s nearly impossible to sleep. Are you aware of any procedure or contact to ask the City to dim/mask/reposition street lights?”

When we previously spoke about this a couple years ago, a commenter advised:

“Indeed, I know the DC streetlight guy, DDOT participates in our regional street light working group. He says, just get it on 311 (or online), make sure they have the pole number, and they’d be happy to take care of it.”

37 Comment

  • I sent 311 multiple requests over the course of 3 years in an attempt to get dc to dim a alley streetlamp that blares right into my window. I ended up place tin foil on my window shiny side out after multiple “closed” requests. Standard DC operation.

  • We just ordered blackout/thermal curtains from for this reason. Way easier than dealing with the city and it will keep out the cold or heat too.

  • The globe style street light in front of my building is painted black on the side that faces my building.
    That seems to help a lot. I’m not sure if this was done by the city, but I’m assuming so.

  • Sounds like you need higher quality shades/blinds.

    Part of living in the city…City Lights…

  • Solution: black out curtains…
    I like bright lights when i’m walking. It means i’m less likely to get mugged or harassed and your house is less likely to get broken into.

  • Switch apartments with Seinfeld.

  • I have the same issue, so we order blackout curtains and it worked like a charm. I would like to echo other comments, please don’t ask the city to make lights less bright or turn them off. It took us almost a year to get the city to fix an ally light that wasn’t working at all. Street lights are safety issue and a crime deterrent.

  • The type of curtain really matters, too. We had a similar problem, and bought actual blackout shades that really don’t let any light through. Our previous shades were fine for privacy, but really didn’t do much about the light. Now, with the blackout shades, it’s actually pretty dark at night.

    On the one hand, that’s a more expensive solution than getting the city to dim the light. On the other, it’s something that you can do on your own _and_ I’d bet that even if you get the light dimmed, it will still be brighter than you’d prefer.

  • My neighbor covered the half of the light facing her unit with black tape and it seems to have worked well. Probably better than painting public property.

  • i can’t believe we’ve got 9 comments and some loon hasn’t piped up about ‘light pollution’ and questioning the fact that more light on the streets cuts crime

    • I am wondering if this isn’t a light pollution issue. Do lights really cut down on crime? Evidence please.

      There ya go

      • Brightly lit areas can actually increase crime, especialy if interspersed with darker areas, b/c people can wait in the shadows and your eyes don’t adjust to the darkness. There was an interesting New Yorker article about this 4 or 5 years ago.

        • i knew the loons were out there somewhere

          • “Marcus Felson, a professor at the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University, has concluded that lighting is effective in preventing crime mainly if it enables people to notice criminal activity as it’s taking place, and if it doesn’t help criminals to see what they’re doing. Bright, unshielded floodlights—one of the most common types of outdoor security lighting in the country—often fail on both counts, as do all-night lights installed on isolated structures or on parts of buildings that can’t be observed by passersby (such as back doors). A burglar who is forced to use a flashlight, or whose movement triggers a security light controlled by an infrared motion sensor, is much more likely to be spotted than one whose presence is masked by the blinding glare of a poorly placed metal halide “wall pack.””

          • how many acorn street lights are installed by the city in isolated spots that can’t be observed by passersby?

  • If it’s an acorn light, put in an online request for the city to paint the side facing your house black. Follow up with a call to your council member’s office and speak to their constituent services person. They should be able to help if your online request is lagging.

  • Agree with both sides.

    1. Blackout Shades: you see those ads on the back of The Washignton Post paper all the time.
    2. Don’t ask the city. Some residents are still struggling to get street lights. It’s a safety issue and a crime deterrent.

    Both sides win.

  • Isn’t this the inevitable result of the fancy, old-timey streetlamps they are using to replace the older versions that nevertheless direct the light toward the street? I know other communities have had to deal with this trade-off once they upgraded to lamp-style street lights.

  • Brighter street lights is a deterrent to street crime. Believe me, where there are brighter street lights, criminals tend to stay away. Neighborhoods with darker street lights attracts criminals. During the summer, trees are bloomed with leaves and many D.C. streets are dark. I’m happy to have bright street lights in my 16th Street Heights neighborhood. I remember attending a meeting several years ago in Shepherd Park and the residents were complaining about crime. Someone brought up having the city to install brighter street lights. Several residents opposed to this idea because they stated, the lights would be too bright and shine in their homes at night. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

  • WOW… People, part of living in a city is dealing with minor inconveniences including sparse parking, noise, and yes, streetlights! The streetlights are there for a good reason; to provide light on the sidewalk and give passersby peace of mind at night while walking in your neighborhood.

    Either get blackout curtains ($20 at Target) or stop complaining!

  • Good luck. I’ve had a request in since April and have left multiple messages with the ward POC and DDOT POCs that were provided on follow-up calls. My ticket is still open.

  • BB gun. A few shots and you will have no light!

  • The city dimmed my light, but it didn’t have much of an impact really – 311 was very responsive, but the light is still blazingly bright. I planted a tree in my yard on the axis between my window and the streetlight as a long term solution. Blackout curtains are a decent way to help the situation, but they are only semi-effective when the light is right outside your window. I support bright lights for safety, but there are ways to focus the light so it goes on the street where it’s actually needed.

    • Personally, I like the fact that there’s bright light shining on my front porch and the entire front of my house at night — I think the likelihood of someone breaking into my house or mugging me on my doorstep is much lower as a result.

  • I live on Sherman Ave., and when they put in the new street lights i got one right outside my bedroom. Bought some blackout curtains at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and the only problem I’ve had since was from guests staying in my room complaining it was too dark. Just make sure you get curtains that overhang the edges of the windows so you don’t get light coming around the perimeter.

  • I got good blackout shades from Smith & Noble – pricier than Target, but they work well and have a lifetime guarantee. That said, it is still possible to have safe bright street lighting without light pollution – which although some clearly do scoff – is a real problem – not just for annoyed residents but for nature.

  • I had this problem too, but just bought a night mask to cover my eyeballs instead of blackout curtains.

  • Anastasia Beaverhausen

    I put in a 311 request for this for my house on Sherman Ave. and the city had painted the side facing my house within 24 hours.

  • We used blackout curtains and WOODEN blinds (which don’t let bright light shine through the same way plastic ones do) … It’s definitely a pain! We always close the curtains at night and open them in the morning. Can’t even watch tv with the curtains open.

  • I’m puzzled. Is this temporary housing? Every time I’ve moved into a new place, the first thing I do is hang curtains. A room just doesn’t look finished without them. Sheers for privacy with light, curtains for decoration and light blocking. I close my bedroom curtains (just regular curtains, no special “blackout” shades; though they are a dark color, which helps) when I go to bed, and my bedroom is inky dark.

  • Did you not notice the bright street light on the building before you moved in? Or, did you and just thought you would address it and have the light moved after you got all settled in. Ahhhh, those that just aren’t made to live in the city, but try to anyway.

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