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The Bay Bridge lights are one step closer to returning

A light show illuminating cables on a suspension bridge shine at night.
The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was lit with Philips Color Kinetics lights that changed lighting patterns daily. | Rick Friedman/ via Getty Images | Source: Rick Friedman/Getty Images

The Bay Bridge Lights are one step closer to flipping back on after the beloved light art installation, also known as The Bay Lights, went dark in March.  

Illuminate, the nonprofit that is spearheading the money-raising effort to restore the Bay Bridge’s iconic twinkle, has raised $7.2 million in major pledges and $360,000 from crowdfunding for an $11 million fundraising goal. The group’s founder and Chief Visionary Officer Ben Davis shared the news during a talk about the Transamerica building at Mission event space and cafe Manny’s on Monday and confirmed the fundraising milestone with The Standard. 

Davis explained that the nonprofit is raising funds in two parts—$10 million in six-figure-plus pledges from major donors and $1 million in smaller donations from a crowdfunding site where anyone who loves The Bay Lights can chip in. 

“We've broken them into two real buckets for our fundraising, $10 million in large gifts and pledges, and then the 11th million through crowdfunding,” Davis told The Standard. He said that once the project reaches $10 million in major pledges, “the project is a go,” meaning that Illuminate needs $2.8 million more to get the restoration process started. Then the project will turn to crowdfunding to fundraise the remaining million. 

Davis said the nonprofit is also accepting matching gifts for the project, which will install 50,000 custom LED lights on the Bay Bridge—twice the number of lights previously installed—once the money’s in the bank. 

While there is no deadline for fundraising, Davis told the crowd at Manny’s that every night that passes without The Bay Lights is an incentive to donate.  

“The reality is we have a great motivator,” Davis said. “Every day that passes now without that $10 million being pledged is another night we live without The Bay Lights later on.” 

Davis is confident that Illuminate will be able to meet its fundraising goals in due time and estimates that installation of a renewed Bay Lights will take between eight to 10 months. 

“I have absolute confidence that it's going to happen,” Davis told The Standard. “I don't think it's a matter of 'if.' It's just a matter of 'when.'” 

Prospective donors can make a contribution at

Julie Makinen contributed additional reporting for this story.