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In the dark: La Jollans lament continued streetlight outages

All the streetlights along the boardwalk at La Jolla Shores are out.
(Keys Allan)

Some lights have been out for years, residents say. The city of San Diego says steps are being taken to improve response times and address the volume of reports.

The city of San Diego recently has been touting that its response time to fix broken streetlights has declined from 288 days to 268 days.

But for some La Jolla residents, that’s of little comfort.

In areas from The Shores to Bird Rock, residents say they continue to report streetlight outages to the city in hopes of repairs, with little or no response. Some count well over 1,000 days since their reports were filed.

In La Jolla Shores, both streetlights have been out at Calle Frescota and La Jolla Shores Drive near Brian Earley’s home for nearly two years.

Further, Earley estimated that dozens of lights are dark throughout The Shores.

“In 2021, it was noticeable that streetlights were not only out but not being fixed,” said Earley, who is a member of the La Jolla Shores Association board and chairman of the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board. “It’s really disturbing to have a major metropolitan city have streetlights out for over a year. It’s a cause of great concern for pedestrian safety. … What exactly are the priorities of the city?”

Earley requested repairs for the lights near his home via the city’s Get It Done app in October 2020. The city marked the case closed in March 2021, saying “city crews recently resolved the issue or conducted the necessary repairs.”

However, the lights were still out. Earley learned via emails with Carina Skiffington, a city public works dispatch supervisor, that the city had marked the case closed as part of an effort to eliminate duplicate reports.

Both streetlights at Calle Frescota and La Jolla Shores Drive have been out for nearly two years, resident Brian Earley says.
Both streetlights at Calle Frescota and La Jolla Shores Drive have been out for nearly two years, according to nearby resident Brian Earley.
(Brian Earley)

LJSA board member Keys Allan said the streetlights on two entire blocks of Paseo del Ocaso, including the block where he lives, are out.

However, he said he is most concerned about the boardwalk along the beach at La Jolla Shores, where every light is out. He said it creates a dangerous situation for pedestrians.

“If it’s lit up, people feel comfortable walking down there and aren’t worried about any crimes of opportunity,” he said.

Allan said he has observed the lights on the boardwalk go out one at a time over several months and that many neighbors have reported the outages on the Get It Done app, with no response.

La Jolla resident Lincoln Foster said he has been trying to get streetlights repaired on Prospect Street in The Village since 2018 — particularly the restaurant-heavy 1200 block of Prospect, which is frequented by pedestrians at night.

“New streetlights were installed a few years ago, but I don’t think they ever worked,” Foster said.

“I filed a report on the Get It Done app in 2018, and when nothing happened, I would follow up with another report,” he said. “This went on for a few months, then I started writing to the [District 1 City Council members], first [Barbara] Bry, then [Joe] LaCava. I eventually got an answer indicating the city was busy and they would follow up. But nothing happened.”

Foster said the lights are still not operating.

“This street is open late at night, when others are not. It’s pretty dark there,” he said. “There is light from storefront windows, but streetlights are there to provide illumination and safety. That’s why we have them. The lights aren’t there for decoration. We lose the safety and quality-of-life enhancement that lighting brings to the community.”

LaCava, who lives in Bird Rock in addition to representing La Jolla on the City Council, is not immune from similar outages.

LaCava told the La Jolla Light that on the block where he lives, four streetlights went dark last year. “I filed a Get It Done report, as did my neighbors,” he said. “When the lights came back on, we rejoiced, but we soon noticed that only three lights came back on; the one in front of my house did not. Then ... another one went dark. So, I think it’s a wiring situation, which is tough to troubleshoot.”

He said lights go out because of “a variety of factors,” including burned-out bulbs and faulty wiring.

“In La Jolla, the wiring is very old and it becomes trickier to solve that,” LaCava said. “The city’s first reaction is to replace the bulb. But if the problem is not the bulb, they don’t go back to double-check. It’s incumbent on the resident to refile a Get It Done report.”

But steps are being taken to improve response times and address the volume of reports, according to city spokesman Anthony Santacroce. They include hiring a second crew for streetlight repair and filling some vacancies on those crews.

“Development of the city’s fiscal-year 2023 proposed budget is underway, with the first draft anticipated for public release on April 14,” Santacroce said. As part of that process, he said, the city Transportation Department is “evaluating resource allocation compared to demand for services, including streetlight repairs.”

The department is looking at how to prioritize repairs by using a “new data-driven approach, taking into consideration factors including high crash and injury areas, age of service notification, the ability to group work projects,” he said. “Outages presenting the most immediate safety concern are prioritized.”

The Light’s inquiries into how many streetlights were repaired or replaced in La Jolla in 2021 were not immediately returned. ◆