San Diego to evaluate La Jolla fixtures as part of plan to fix 6,100 streetlights citywide

Streetlights at Calle Frescota and La Jolla Shores Drive
La Jolla Shores has had problems with streetlight outages for years. These are at Calle Frescota and La Jolla Shores Drive.
(Brian Earley)

La Jolla’s place in a new algorithm designed to improve efficiency will be determined in coming weeks.


The city of San Diego is accelerating its efforts to shrink a growing backlog of more than 6,100 broken streetlights by contracting out thousands more repairs, using federal grants to replace outdated circuits and boosting efficiency with a new algorithm.

La Jolla’s place in that algorithm will be determined in coming weeks.

The areas of the city that will benefit from the new wave of outsourced repairs haven’t been chosen yet, officials said, but the city is looking to have streetlights in La Jolla evaluated in August.

The city is spending a $3.5 million grant to replace old wiring in some of the streetlights and is contracting with independent electricians to boost staffing.

April 16, 2023

The algorithm was created last year by the city’s Performance & Analytics Department to streamline repairs, make them more efficient and prioritize those expected to boost safety the most.

The algorithm, which remains a work in progress, weighs factors such as an area’s crime rates, historical service levels, proximity to schools and parks and frequency of lawsuits. The city says it removes politics and subjectivity from decisions on which streetlight repairs to tackle first. The algorithm also shifts repairs away from an “oldest case first” model to a geographical location-based model that allows crews to attack clusters of key outages more efficiently.

But that could be a problem for communities like La Jolla, where older infrastructure has meant darkened streets for years.

City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, previously told the La Jolla Light that streetlights go out because of a variety of factors that center largely on aging infrastructure.

“In La Jolla, the wiring is very old and it becomes trickier to solve that,” he 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.”

In recent years, residents across La Jolla have lamented darkened streetlights and reported them on the city’s Get It Done app multiple times, with little or no response.

All the streetlights along the boardwalk at La Jolla Shores were out in this photo from January 2022.
All the streetlights along the boardwalk at La Jolla Shores were out in this photo from January 2022.
(Keys Allan)

La Jolla Maintenance Assessment District Manager Brian Earley said malfunctioning lights now appear to be “sporadic except in La Jolla Shores, where large groups have been out for years.” He said he needs to update the inventory to confirm light outages.

The city’s campaign includes efforts to reduce outages, including tamper-resistant hand hole covers, and to boost safety, such as installing temporary solar lights in areas where outages have been accompanied by a rise in crime.

A key element of the campaign is the city’s plan for cumulative pay raises of 23 percent for city-employed streetlight repair workers over the next three years as part of a new labor contract. A 40 percent vacancy rate last year has shrunk to less than 10 percent, the city says.

City officials say the goal of the campaign is to dramatically reduce the average time it takes to address a streetlight complaint, from about eight months to just three days.

This spring, the union representing streetlight workers agreed to allow the city to use private contractors to repair 600 streetlights in the Gaslamp Quarter and East Village. The work — which is expected to cost about $400,000, or roughly $700 per streetlight — has been considered so successful that city officials plan to spend an additional $2.3 million on contractors during the new fiscal year that began July 1.

In the meantime, efforts are underway in La Jolla to try to improve the situation.

The Bird Rock Community Council announced in June that it is looking to boost the lighting on La Jolla Boulevard, the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare.

BRCC President Joe Terry said the board is working on a plan that includes improving the streetlights, installing new light fixtures and adding decorative lighting.

In La Jolla Shores, 37 new streetlights are to be part of a project to place utility lines underground from La Jolla Shores Drive west to the ocean and from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography south to Avenida de la Playa.

That project, being done by San Diego Gas & Electric, is scheduled to be finished with trenching work in the third quarter of this year.

Streetlight replacement is part of the project “because many of the lights are attached to the wooden poles [that] are coming down,” said Matthew King, an engineer with the city.

In addition, he said, the circuitry is failing and needs to be repaired, and many of the streetlights have lead paint and need to be replaced. ◆