Public Utilities - Street Lighting - Special Assessment Area (SAA)

Special Assessment Area (SAA) Decorative Lighting (Commercial & Residential Areas)

The City is in the process of moving 42 enhanced street lighting districts from Special Assessment Areas (SAA) to an Enhanced Lighting Fee that will be included on the monthly utility bill.  The City Council authorized a consultant study and public engagement to provide recommendations on an Enhanced Lighting Fee.  The consultant recommended fees in 3 level of service groups, or tiers within the Street Lighting utility.   As a utility there is the ability to bond so that operational costs can be lowered upfront.  It is estimated that as a utility the fees will be lower than if the program was continued under a “pay-as-you-go” assessment.
SAA  Brochure "LINK"
Enhanced Street Lighting Utility Tiers and Funding Video "LINK"  
(Rate consultant workshop presentation, discussion on groupings (tiers) and pros and cons of using debt to reduce cost)
Street Lighting Interactive Map "LINK"   
(Interactive Street Light Map.  Click dots to see if light is public or private and other details.)
Street Lighting Enhanced Parcel Map "LINK"
(Enhanced Service Fee Estimator.  Shaded sections of the map show areas that receive enhanced lighting services that we be receiving an enhanced service bill. Click shaded parcel to see an estimate of the monthly fee for that parcel.  Note: non-shaded areas will not be assessed for enhanced lighting but will continue to pay the current lighting utility charge.)
City Council - Lighting Special Assessment Area (SAA) Page "LINK"
(The City Council website has background information, formal reports presented to the Council, and official actions)
Comments are still welcomed at Public Utilities, or the City Council Office,


Question Answer
How and when did Lighting Districts get created? Dating back to 1916, residents requested the installation of decorative or additional street lights in their neighborhoods. Over the years, more neighborhoods petitioned the City for similar improvements and were willing to be assessed for the additional costs of the lighting.
What is an SAA? An SAA is a Special Assessment Area. SAAs are established to improve neighborhoods in a specific way, generally through additional landscaping, sidewalks, lighting, and other enhanced levels of service or amenities. For example, the Street Lighting SAAs are for neighborhoods where property owners requested enhanced street lighting. Property owners in these SAAs are required to pay the cost for the additional or special poles, as well as the ongoing operating and maintenance costs of the lights. This type of cost sharing allows property owners to participate in the cost for higher service levels than other areas of the City receive.

What's Happening?

What is happening with the Street Lighting Special Assessment Areas (SAA)? Street Lighting SAAs will be dissolved and a new process based on the cost of service will be applied.  To view Council meeting paperwork and other background information, visit
Will the bills still be sent on an annual basis? No, they will be on your monthly utility bill. This is the same bill that includes water, sewer, storm water, basic street lighting, and garbage.
How are the "base level" street lights in the city paid for? The City provides a "base level" of lighting, which includes standard light poles placed at the end of each block and mid-block section. This is funded through a rate charged to properties on the City utility bills. When neighborhoods desire more lighting than this minimum provides, it is considered an "enhanced" level of service and is paid for by the property owners who benefit.
Will the "base level" fee still be assessed? Yes.  All properties will continue to pay the "base level" service fee.
What is a Base Service Fee?

The Base Service Fee is the amount assessed monthly to each property, and is based on the number of ERUs for each property. The fee funds "base level" of lighting, which includes standard light poles placed at the end of each block and mid-block location.


What is an ERU? The Equivalent Residential Unit, or ERU, was created to ensure that fees are assessed fairly. Based on the average residential street frontage of 75 feet, all residential, duplex, and triplex properties are assessed one ERU. Commercial and institutional properties are assessed one ERU for every 75 feet of street frontage. 
Will it be more expensive to operate the lights under the utility than as an SAA? Costs to operate enhanced street lighting will be virtually the same because most costs are consistent regardless of how the budgeting is set up.  In other words, maintenance and power costs for the street lights would be the same if they were managed as either an SAA or under the Enterprise Fund. However, you will likely see an increase in your bill  for a couple of reasons. 1) The City will no longer subsidize 25 percent of the operation and maintenance costs for enhanced lighting. Since the recent formation of the Street Lighting Enterprise Fund, property owners who not in an SAA are bearing 100 percent of the costs of their lighting system through rates. The SAAs are still receiving a 25 percent subsidy, while no other City residents enjoy this benefit. 2) the assessment amounts typically fell short of covering the costs for operating and maintaining the system. This resulted in deficit fund balances and/or deferred maintenance that left the system looking shabby or having repeated failures. Rates will need to be increased in some areas to sufficiently meet the fiscal needs of an enhanced level of lighting. (Let's discuss this one more)
Will there be some sort of insurance for large unexpected expenses such as wire theft or multiple poles damaged? No, but the cost and risk will be applied to larger group than just the smaller SAA extension (neighborhood) groups.
Couldn’t we save money if we used the newer energy efficient technologies? Yes, LED lights can reduce power consumption by up to 50 percent.

Questions About My Bill

What will my new bill be for enhanced lighting? A rate consultant is currently analyzing data.  Proposed fees will be based on the cost of power, maintenance, repairs to maintain the infrastructure and energy efficiency upgrades.  The consultant will also look at grouping assessment areas based on similarities such as type of lighting and operational costs.  The findings will be presented to the City Council in May or June 2016.
I'm a property owner in a Street Lighting SAA, will my bill go up? A rate consultant is currently analyzing costs to prepare a tiered rate structure that will be presented to the City Council later this spring. Bills may go up, and it's likely that rates could vary by neighborhood. The funds are needed for more regular and consistent maintenance, repairs, and upgrades to aging infrastructure.  Some benefits of the rate restructuring include cost sharing with a greater number of properties. Additionally, neighborhoods will be more logically grouped, with residential areas grouped together paying a different rate than commercial or industrial areas.
How will my residential property be assessed? By ERU--one per property--just like your current bill.
How will I be billed? Monthly on the City’s utility bill (water, sewer, storm water , garbage, recycling and street lighting).
Will corner residential lots pay more because of the additional frontage along the street? No. Residential properties will use the same formula that is currently used for the base service lighting fee. In other words, each single family, duplex, and triplex will count as one ERU regardless of street frontage.
Will commercial properties get a discount if there is frontage on more than one street? No.  ERUs for commercial properties will be calculated the same way as they are for the base fee. 
How will my commercial property be assessed? By ERU, with an ERU being equal to 75 feet of frontage.  For example, if your business has 300 linear feet of frontage, you would be assessed for 4 ERUs.
My property is a rental property, who will get the bill the owner or the renter? Whoever is currently receiving the utility bill (water, sewer, garbage, etc.).

What's Next?

Will I get an assessment this year? Under this new program, there will be no annual street lighting SAA assessments for this fiscal year (July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016). Instead, property owners within the lighting SAAs will receive a monthly utility bill.
When will the new utility surcharge be in place? The City is working diligently to get it set up as quickly as possible. It will be in placed no later than June 30, 2016.
It seems that lights in my older residential area are constantly going out.  Will I see improvement with this new plan? The simple answer is Yes.  Upgrading wiring that is failing is one of the primary missions of the Street Lighting Utility Fund.  Repairs and improvements won't happen overnight, but they will happen.
Does this change mean we will lose our voice in what happens with the lighting in our neighborhood? No.  With our dedicated customer service programs, Public Utilities will be aware of and responsive to every  issue that is communicated to us.
We like the historic look that our lights provide because it is part of the character of the neighborhood. If you replace lights to modernize the system, will we lose that character? All retrofit options applied to historic designs will be selected by the respective neighborhoods.