I live near Jackson Park in Potrero Hill and the massive lights for the two baseball diamonds have been on every night for the past few days. Obviously with all the rain, no one is out there playing softball so the field is just empty and bright at night. Any idea why this is?

Mystery solved: Jackson Park’s lights are now controlled by an automatic timer. San Francisco Recreation and Parks spokesperson, Steven Cismowski, told me in an email that Parks and Recreation “recently installed a timer to automate the lights rather than having to pay an employee to turn on and off the lights manually every evening. While this does mean that the lights are on on days like today, when the fields are not usable, overall, it reduces the cost to the City to provide lighting for field use.”

Of course, this inspired more questions from the Appeal staff, so we followed up with Cismowski.

What times/days will the lights be on?

During normal weather, the lights will operate from dusk to 10:15 pm daily. As Jackson fields are regularly permitted, that would be similar to how they were operated manually. We are actually adjusting the timer for Jan and Feb so the lights will go on only until 6:30 pm. This will allow our schools to use the field for practices for high school softball and baseball. We do not have enough diamonds, and this way we can have practices from 3:30 to 5 and from 5 to 6:30.

How much did it cost us to have them turned on and off manually?

The hourly cost of staff to stand by or be available to operate lights is roughly $40 per hour. Figuring 7 day per week permits at roughly 5 hours per night (average time year round) that would be $72,800 annually in staff time. The savings is projected to be that annual staff fee.

How are the lights powered? How would you address concerns from citizens who say that this new strategy wastes power?

The lights are electric as is the timer operation. It is now possible to override the timer and keep the lights off during times when the field is not playable (during rainy weather of during intensive maintenance periods). This should allow us to maximize the efficiency of both energy consumption and tax dollars.

Think of “Ask the Appeal” as your own personal genie: no Bay-related question is too big or too small. Whether you’re concerned with a municipal question, a consumer advocacy issue or simply with consuming alcohol, email us your questions at (or, find answers to past questions here). We’ll either do the dirty work and talk to the folks in charge, contact an expert in the field, or – if your question is particularly intriguing or juicy – develop it into a full-blown investigative article.

Please make sure your comment adheres to our comment policy. If it doesn't, it may be deleted. Repeat violations may cause us to revoke your commenting privileges. No one wants that!