Bay Bridge lights will go dark on their 10th anniversary. The display’s fate is uncertain

Vehicle headlights and taillights appear as long streaks on a bridge in a long exposure photo at night
Traffic crosses the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in a long-exposure photograph taken in October.
(Tayfun Coskun / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The iconic lights that have run alongside the Bay Bridge for 10 years will go dark and come down Sunday, but the fate of the public art display that has illuminated the San Francisco Bay is still uncertain.

“It’s going to leave a hole in the sky and punch a hole in the heart of San Francisco,” said Ben Davis, founder of Illuminate, a nonprofit that helped launch the art project with New York-based artist Leo Villareal in 2013.

At 8 p.m. Sunday, the 1.8-mile stretch of the western side of the bridge will be shut down and the LED lights that were first illuminated exactly 10 years earlier will be taken down, John Goodwin, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission confirmed.


But there is a glimmer of hope: Davis and his nonprofit this year launched a Hail Mary fundraising effort to collect $11 million to keep the art project alive, and are continuing their campaign to bring back the Bay Bridge lights after they go dark.

Davis launched an appeal directed at the state’s millionaires to donate $10 million by Sunday to expand and upgrade the lights.

The goal, Davis told The Times in January, was not just to replace the LED lights on the western side of the bridge, which had taken a beating and needed constant repair and replacement due to the smog, shaking and elements to which they have been exposed. Instead, Davis hoped to raise enough money to expand the project to both sides of the bridge and replace the lights with those that can better withstand the harsh environment on the bridge.

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The project would need 50,000 lights, which would extend the life of the display another 10 years, he said. But in order to do that, Davis needs 10 millionaires to donate $1 million each by Sunday.

Another $1 million would be crowdfunded to meet the expected $11-million price tag for the project.

At the time, Davis said it was uncertain what would happen to the display if the $11 million was not raised.


On Friday, Davis said in an interview that the group was continuing its effort to raise money for the project, but declined to say exactly how much progress had been made.

“We’re doing well, but we have more work to do,” he said.

Earlier in the week, his nonprofit Illuminate was continuing to promote the fundraiser for the new light project, dubbed Bay Lights 360.

This time, however, the fundraiser was titled, Help Bring Back the Bay Lights.

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“In total, $11M is needed for their return,” the group states in its website.

On his Facebook page, Davis announced Thursday what he called the “soft launch” for the crowdfunding effort to bring back the lights after Sunday.

“Let’s make some noise,” he wrote, along with a link to the fundraising site.

The crowdfunding effort to raise at least $1 million had raised just over $4,000, according to the site.


Davis said more information about the funds raised would be released on the weekend, and he still remained hopeful the display of lights would eventually return to the bay.