We Asked San Franciscans Their Favorite Memories of ‘The Bay Lights’

The Bay Bridge’s glowing light installation had existed as a “nighttime sister to the Golden Gate Bridge” up until this past Sunday.

When “The Bay Lights” shuttered this past Sunday, it was the end of a decades-long era. The evening’s balmy, wet weather only added to the deflating mood.


Illuminate, the nonprofit behind “The Bay Lights,” has assured the public these lights could be back as soon as the fall. Nearly $75,000 for “The Bay Lights 360” — a project that would better weatherize these lights, in addition to expanding their visibility to other parts around the San Francisco Bay — has been raised in donations, thus far; it’s still a far cry from the million dollars the current fundraiser’s goal; all in all, the project is expected to cost $11 million with the majority of those funds expected to come from large donors.

With those 25,000 LEDs having beamed from the Bay Bridge for over a decade, locals of the seven-by-seven hold fond memories of this light installation. For many, “The Bay Lights” existed as a focal point for almost daily habits; grounded monumental moments; represented the passing long swaths of time; offered family bonding moments that will stick for a lifetime.

All of the above in mind, here are recollections of “The Bay Lights” from San Franciscans you, too, can holster and find situational sentimentality in… until they (hopefully, someday) turn back on.

“Back in 2016, my family signed up to sponsor one of the Bay Lights and we were given the location somewhere just off one of the towers. Our then 11-year-old daughter looked for and pointed out that one light every single time we crossed the upper deck of the bridge. She still mentions it today just randomly. Truly a lifelong memory about arts making the city beautiful.” 

— Laurance Lee

“The first time I experienced the new bright and beautiful lights, I was driving on Highway 80 after eight hours on the road. There was a glow in the dark, then the outline of this beautiful bright bridge. And, finally this magnificent sight crossing of the bay. A nighttime sister to the Golden Gate Bridge. Thrilling.

I truly hope there is a way to relight the Bay Bridge in the near future.”

— Mary Stewart

“My boyfriend of seven years used to live in West Oakland, and it was really hard for us to make time for one another. I remember that when we could make date night work, driving over the bridge and seeing the lights made me glow inside. It became like a ceremony and a sign of the good times to come. I really cherish those memories to this day.”

— Gerald Flumar

“I’ve lived in my apartment for over 20 years and my living room has a great view that overlooks the Bay Bridge. I remember the first time ‘The Bay Lights’ went up in 2013. I saw the lights turn on while cuddling up to my newly adopted cat that’s now over 12 years old. Seeing the bridge’s beautiful lights turn off this past Sunday was a full-circle moment. So much has changed in this city.”

 — Brandon Herald

“I’m a night person. And going on long after-dinner walks has always been a thing I’ve done. When I lived in Manhattan, I would walk East 85th all the way to Carl Schurz Park most nights of the week. But none of my nighttime walks compared to those when I walked underneath the Bay Bridge all lit up. It was kind of like a metaphor, you know? Even during San Francisco’s darkest times, there’s light to be found. I hope those lights return soon.”

— Brittany K.

Feature Image: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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