Heather Knight plugs the Bay Lights

 Heather Knight is trying to sell us the Bay Lights. Perhaps Ms. Knight has become a convert to the cult of Illuminate.  She is fund-raising for Ben Davis on the front page of the Bay Area section of the Sunday edition of the San Francisco Chronicle (Knocking ‘Lights’ out proved arduous, March 19, 2023).  Davis is the self-described Founder & Chief Visionary Officer of Illuminate, the private non-profit that pays him a six figure salary to promote himself and Illuminate.  According to Propublica, Davis was paid $169,623 in 2021. Illuminate calls itself an arts organization but Davis is the only person getting paid.

Do we really want a lead reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle boosting this glorified promoter?  In the very first paragraph of her article, Ms. Knight tells two untruths: that the Bay Lights are “stunning” and “famous”.  They are neither.  Ms. Knight has featured Davis prominently in her reporting.  In addition to the Sunday Chronicle feature on March 19th, replete with a photo of the dashing Ben Davis in hardhat, there was an article on March 4th, S.F.’s Bay Bridge lights are about to go dark by Ms. Knight, also with a photo of Davis, this time dressed very haute couture and dramatically lit as he poses beneath the Bay Bridge.  Also, an article, on March 13th, Bay Bridge’s light display has gone dark again. What happened?  This last, mercifully, without a photo of Davis.

That’s not all. The Chronicle can’t get enough of Davis and the Bay Lights. Last chance to see: Bay Bridge lights turn off on Sunday byJordan Parker

March 2, 2023.  Here’s Heather Knight again: S.F.’s famous Bay Bridge lights will come down soon — unless $11 million is donated for an even better version, Jan. 7, 2023. Was it just that these were slow news days?  Don’t we have more important issues in San Francisco than fundraising for the light-polluting, energy-wasting Bay Lights? This is a shameless promotion of a private arts organization, run by one man, who serves as a front for a group of elite businessmen seeking to influence government policy in San Francisco and the Bay Area.  Usurping public space is part of their agenda and, unfortunately, Phil Ginsburg of SF Rec and Park has helped them do it. 

For example, “The city has extended the permits for his Golden Mile on JFK Promenade in Golden Gate Park — featuring yellow Adirondack chairs, Doggie Diner heads and a whimsical whale tail — through Leap Day 2024. ‘I’ve heard it described as the happiest place in San Francisco,’ Davis said” (Knight 3/19/23).  In typical self-congratulatory fashion, I might add.  A “whimsical whale tail.”  Isn’t that cute?  Something’s not right here.  And really, aren’t there better uses for the $11 million they’re trying to raise?

Ben Davis, in his endless quest for self-aggrandizement, co-opts the very idea of art and of beauty.  The Bay Lights, in his self-serving reality, represent art and beauty,  I’m surprised he didn’t add in truth.  In addition to taking over the Bay Bridge, he is trying to take over Golden Gate Park.  It’s his special property now; his “happy place.”  He has even co-opted the City of San Francisco: “Los Angeles is the City of Angels. San Francisco is the City of Awe.” says Davis (Knight 3/19/23)  Illuminate has rebranded San Francisco as the “City of Awe”. It’s the first thing you see on their website now.  Here’s Heather Knight, ” But the loss of  ‘Bay Lights’ would be a setback for a city that, more than ever, needs not only beauty and art, but affirmation that it still brings the biggest dreams to life.”  Are you kidding me?

Where would Ben Davis and Illuminate be without the dark of the night sky? Without the dark, the Bay Lights and Illuminate’s lighting displays would be meaningless, invisible. They depend on the dark, they need the dark, but they have no respect for it. They take it and use it to their advantage, pay nothing for it and do nothing to mitigate the damage they may be causing. They are exploiting a natural resource that belongs to everyone. The Bay Lights are also a waste of energy. Our resources are precious, and we shouldn’t be using them in lighting displays that serve no practical purpose.

The lights of Illuminate are like sugary sodas or candy.  They initially provide a rush akin to the sugar rush and a pleasurable sensation but, just like too much sugar degrades the human environment and results in diabetes and illness, too much light degrades the natural environment and also human health. “In ways we have long understood, in others we are just beginning to understand, night’s natural darkness has always been invaluable to our health and the health of the natural world, and every living creature suffers from its loss.” The End of Night by Paul Bogard

We need to reduce energy use and light pollution. Both can be accomplished by letting the Bay Lights go dark.