In the News
The San Diego Union Tribune: San Diego launches campaign to repair 6,000 broken streetlights — with some federal help
April 10, 2023
By David Garrick
SAN DIEGO — San Diego launched a campaign Monday to fix nearly 6,000 broken streetlights that are making many city neighborhoods more vulnerable to crime and less safe for pedestrians and cyclists.
As part of that effort, the city will use a new $3.5 million federal grant to replace some of the aging circuit infrastructure that supports the streetlights, which will improve their reliability and reduce maintenance costs.
In addition, a shortage of city electricians needed to repair the lights is being addressed with independent outside electricians. The city recently signed contracts with those electricians, and they’ve begun helping tackle the problem.
“We’re doing everything we can to get the streetlights back on,” Mayor Todd Gloria said during a Monday morning news conference in Pacific Beach.
Streetlights in many of San Diego’s older neighborhoods were installed in the 1950s and 1960s, making them outdated and leaving city officials without detailed records about how some operate.
At last count, more than 5,900 of the city’s roughly 57,000 streetlights — more than 10 percent — were broken. And the average time to repair a reported outage has been more than 250 days.
“A lot of the streetlights in our older neighborhoods are like old-fashioned Christmas tree lights, where if one goes out, the entire string goes out — and the process to fix it is complex and time-consuming,” Gloria said.
The federal money, which Rep. Scott Peters (D-San Diego) helped secure, will pay for replacement wiring for roughly 200 lights — 30 in Logan Heights and 170 in Pacific Beach and Point Loma.
“Maintaining these streetlights is a matter of public safety, particularly the safety of our young people who use our parks for sports and recreation,” Peters said.
Other problems facing San Diego streetlights include damaged wiring, blown-out bulbs, outdated conductors, infestations by rodents and damage caused by homeless people tapping into electrical grids and thieves stealing copper wires.
Outages are often so complex that city officials say they must conduct a minor investigation to determine the best way to fix each one.
“It’s no secret that streetlights are failing faster than we can replace them,” Councilmember Joe LaCava said.
Another problem is that many of the city’s 18 electrician jobs have been vacant for months, leaving only a skeleton staff to deal with a worsening problem.
Gloria announced in February that he had reached an agreement with city labor unions to contract with independent electricians to help address the streetlight repair backlog.
”Fact is, we simply don’t have enough electricians working for the city to keep up with the often-complex repairs — which is almost always much more than a burnt-out bulb,” Gloria said. “So while we work to hire more city electricians, hiring contractors will help us fix streetlights much faster.”
In addition to replacing outdated wiring, city crews are adding tamper-proof covers and installing energy-efficient bulbs wherever possible, Gloria said.
Residents who spot a broken streetlight are encouraged to report it using the city’s Get it Done! tipster app.
Source: The San Diego Union Tribune