Not long ago, after a late dinner in Van Nuys for the first time in years, I had occasion to drive back into Burbank via the Ventura (134) Freeway.
I exited at Buena Vista and, as one must do, I turned left on Bob Hope Drive and proceeded north past Johnny Carson Park between Providence St. Joseph Medical Center and the old NBC studios. Suddenly, approaching Alameda, I thought every cop in town was behind me flashing their bright lights into my car.
Oh no! Was it something I said in one of my columns? What the heck was going on? Then after stopping on the corner and gathering my wits about me, I discovered the problem: The city has installed floodlights a few inches from the curb to light up the trees there, and it creates a blinding traffic hazard when the light bounces off the inside of your windshield as you drive by.
Floodlights? Shining all night long up into the freaking trees? Help me out on this one. Didn't I read somewhere that the entire world is struggling with how to use our natural resources in the wisest, most responsible manner, and we're doing this?
I wish I could say it ends on the corner of Alameda and Bob Hope Drive, but sorry, I can't, it seems to be a wild craze going on all over town.
During one night alone I counted 51 spotlights in the planters on Burbank Boulevard, 37 on South San Fernando Road, 26 at the Stalin Statue, 28 at the Buena Vista Branch Library and then the pièce de résistance, more than 40 of the little sweethearts directly in front of the Burbank Water and Power building at Magnolia and Lake Street. Magnificent!
Now, keep in mind that these are the very same people who send us that lovely, full-color, six-page "Currents" newsletter every few months advising us to, and I quote, "Please use water and energy wisely." Well, thanks for the tip, guys, but does shining 40 spotlights happily off into the cosmos every night really set a good example? I don't think so.
Wondering specifically what this bright idea might be setting us back, I contacted Burbank's sterling public information officer, Keith Sterling, and he checked out what wattage bulbs the city was using. After approximating an average cost per hour, I came up with the figure of roughly $1,000 a month.
Keith volunteered, "We work diligently to provide the necessary lighting for safety throughout our city while also being mindful of the need for aesthetic lighting to maintain the appeal our citizens and visitors have come to expect."
A valid argument for some, I suppose, but I'm a jeans-and-T-shirt sort of guy, and that stuff rolls off my back pretty quickly.
Maybe if we were living back in Fat City before the economy went kaboom, we could reconcile spending $12,000 a year to mindlessly light up a bunch of trees all night (and create driving hazards along the way), but I would just bet my eyeballs that the people down at the Burbank Temporary Aid Center could buy one whole heck of a lot of bread and vegetables for what we're throwing away out there every night.