Area streets could soon get brighter

A survey found that many feel unsafe walking home at night, and groups are taking action.

Area streets could soon get brighter

Elizabeth Smith

After Alissa Holcomb  witnessed a mugging outside of her Southeast Como home earlier this month, she started being more cautious about walking alone at night.

The University of Minnesota senior’s street is so dimly lit that, while standing across the street from the incident, she could only see the attacker’s silhouette.

Results from a Minnesota Student Association survey of lighting quality in the Southeast Como and Marcy-Holmes neighborhoods released earlier this month show many students share Holcomb’s concern. The survey found that over 40 percent of the more than 1,200 respondents living in the neighborhoods felt unsafe walking home at night.

MSA, the Southeast Como Improvement Association and the University’s office for Off-Campus Living are working to give area residents motion-sensing safety lights.

Off-Campus Living, formerly known as the office for Student and Community Relations, was awarded $15,000 last year from the Good Neighbor Fund for adding street lighting.

Parker Evans, an Off-Campus Living neighborhood liaison, said the organization still has most of the money, and it plans to put it to use before it expires in June.

Organization members say they hope property owners will be open to the idea of adding porch and security lighting when they present it to them in April.

Off-Campus Living Coordinator Kendre Turonie said office members hope to install the fixtures in May.

An estimate in July 2014 from the city’s public works department   showed that adding lighting in Southeast Como alone, would cost about $2 million, said SECIA’s director Ricardo McCurley.

The proposal would charge homeowners an average property tax increase of  $4,000 over 20 years, which is slightly more than $16 a month per area property.

Nearly 70 percent of students who took the MSA survey said they would be willing to pay at least five dollars more a month for increased lighting.

“This data is invaluable to us,” McCurley said. “We are always looking for ways to connect with our students.”

Minneapolis Police Public Information Officer John Elder said adequate lighting makes a “huge difference” in crime prevention. He said people are far less likely to commit a crime in well-lit areas because they are more likely to be seen.

Evans, a first-year graduate student in urban and regional planning, said the ideal solution would be to add more streetlights throughout the Southeast Como neighborhood.

“It would be really excellent if we could get the city or University behind us on this because Como is in need of some serious lighting changes,” he said.

But currently 35 percent of property owners in the neighborhood have to sign a petition requesting more lighting before any street lights can be added. After the petition is sent to the city and reviewed, a letter explaining the project plan and cost in greater detail is sent to the property owners. Seventy percent of owners must return a form approving the city’s plan.

Evans said the project hinges on property owners volunteering to pay more in property taxes every month, without the tenants — who are more often affected by lighting — having any role in the process.

Ward 2 City Councilman Cam Gordon, who represents the University’s and surrounding areas, said city officials have been concerned with pedestrian lighting for years.

“I think it’d be a shame if we couldn’t figure out some way to get the lighting fixed,” Gordon said.

Both Gordon and McCurley said seeing that students are willing to pay for increased lighting could be an incentive for property owners to get on board with the idea.