City of San Diego approves the installation of 500 Smart Streetlights

The project received $4 million in the 2024 fiscal year budget and will include automated license plate recognition technology.

Smart streetlight SDtoday

A light and camera to capture the action.

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After receiving City Council approval, Mayor Todd Gloria signed a law that will allow the installation of 500 Smart Streetlights across the City of San Diego. The controversial program aims to prevent, address, and solve crimes using surveillance cameras and automated license plate recognition (ALPR) technologies.

A snapshot

With this approval, the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) has entered a 5-year contract with Ubicquia, Inc. for the Smart Streetlights, and another agreement with Flock Safety’s ALPR technology. The Surveillance Use Policy outlines how data can be used for public safety purposes.

  • Per the policy, footage will only be reviewed for felony criminal investigations, to respond to critical public threats, or to locate at-risk missing people.
  • Cameras will be placed in public areas and have privacy screens to avoid filming private property; exact locations are still in the proposal stage.
  • Video will be erased after 15 days, and ALPR data after 30 days, unless it becomes evidence in a case.
  • Only authorized SDPD officers can access videos.

The program was granted $12 million for the next five years, with $4 million allocated to installations and connectivity costs in 2024. The first cameras could be up and running as soon as January 2024.

The new framework

Previously, San Diego installed 3,000 Smart Streetlights based on a 2016 proposal. In 2020, former Mayor Kevin Faulconer ordered them to be turned off due to concerns surrounding data transparency.

Last year, the city amended its Surveillance Ordinance to address privacy concerns, including the formation of a Privacy Advisory Board (PAB). The ordinance also requires a review of surveillance technology usage, which the city will need to provide in 2026.

The PAB recommended rejecting the Surveillance Use Policy, but City Council ultimately approved it. However, the board did include recommendations to address its areas of concern.