The Spy Street Lights of Ocean Beach and Point Loma

by on March 21, 2019 · 7 comments

in Ocean Beach

Without much fanfare or public notice, the San Diego City Council in December 2016 approved a $30.3 million project to upgrade 14,000 street lights with sensors — and a portion of them with cameras.

Since then 3,200 have been installed to collect data that the City or developers can use for future infrastructure and sustainability projects. They’re called “City IQ nodes” and as Deputy Chief Operating Officer, Erik Caldwell said,

“The information will give us great insight into how people move through the urban environment.”

Matt Potter at the San Diego Reader calls it “a video and audio surveillance network.” On top of street lights or inside lamp posts, the cameras an sensors can count cars and people, and can also keep track of the climate while the cameras record public property. And more. And police have access as do corporations.

Neighborhoods with the highest concentration of smart sensors include Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach, Little Italy, Bankers Hill, North Park, Hillcrest, University Heights, Normal Heights, La Jolla and parts of Carmel Valley along Del Mar Heights Road and Carmel Valley Road. San Diego Union-Tribune. 

Here’s the “inter-active map” showing individual locations of the spy street lamps.

Here’s Matt Potter’s at the San Diego Reader with an overview:

San Diego’s own streetlight story has been plotted behind closed doors, and bereft of transparency, leading critics to question city hall’s ethos of secrecy and willingness to bend ethics in the pursuit of campaign money.

Here in California’s second largest municipality, at least 3200 streetlights have been equipped with video and audio collection devices at public expense, turning the city into a stealthy laboratory for infrastructure-embedded intelligence collecting with devices regularly used by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and other security agencies. No notice was provided to residents or business owners where the devices have been installed and are now operating.

At the center of the intricate matrix, for which San Diegans are paying more than $30.2 million, is General Electric, the Connecticut multi-national whose ex-board member, Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf, and his chipmaking company, is tied to San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, the mover behind the intelligence network.

Here’s background from the City’s website:


With what began as a cost-savings effort to replace high energy use streetlights with more efficient LED lights, the City of San Diego is now deploying the world’s largest smart city sensor platform. The system is transforming the City’s existing street lighting infrastructure into a connected digital infrastructure which will lead to energy savings and new technological opportunities.

The anonymous data collected by the sensor nodes can be used to develop applications and systems that benefit the City and the community. These sensor nodes generate metadata (static data on parking, vehicle counts, pedestrian counts, temperature, humidity, pressure). The nodes connect to technology partner GE’s CityIQ cloud database to make the metadata collected by the sensors available. This open data platform possibilities range from pedestrian safety and directing drivers to open parking spaces to mobility planning and optimization, to helping first responders during an emergency and urban and real estate development planning. Our hope is that new applications will be built using this technology to help improve city services and initiatives.

Here some more important background:

  • San Diego’s street lights that spy –  Faulconer’s secret dealings with G.E. and Qualcomm
    By Matt Potter San Diego Reader, Feb. 20, 2019
  • Thousands of San Diego street lights are equipped with sensors and cameras. Here’s what they record. San Diego Union-Tribune, March 18, 2019
  • Cameras on nearly 3,000 street lights all over San Diego, police take interest in video, San Diego Union-Tribune, March 19, 2019

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

thequeenisalizard March 22, 2019 at 10:10 am

“This is not a surveillance system, nobody is watching it 24 hours a day,” There is no facial recognition they say. I always believe the Police, don’t you? After all they never ever lie or mis-lead the public. Remember they always investigate themselves, and so far have never found that they did anything wrong. That’s why they fought so hard to stop the release of any information under the states new police disclosure laws isn’t it? Welcome to your “secure” future.


mikekrohde March 22, 2019 at 11:10 pm

Welcome to 1984. And good ole faulconer did it in secret, behind our backs. And of course law enforcement won’t abuse this technology, they can be counted on to protect and serve. NOT. They fight tooth and nail any form of control we attempt to exercise over our police employees, as if they deserve some special status. They don’t and these new “intelligent” street lights are just another form of control. I hope we don’t allow this to go forward without some one stepping forward. It doesn’t appear it was done legally and violated open government requirements. Someone please, HELP.


Sam March 23, 2019 at 1:30 pm

I’m glad they are there, we don’t need help fighting the police, we need help fighting the trolls and all of their childish dangerous behavior. I hope they install cameras on every street corner, street light and alley in OB.


unwashedwallmartThong March 23, 2019 at 4:29 pm

And who shall watch the watchers, Sam? Someone sane? Perhaps Son of Sam.


sealintheSelkirks March 23, 2019 at 7:05 pm

Sam seems to have a serious problem with what he calls ‘trolls’ as his use of this term has cropped up before in Rag comments. Unfortunately he doesn’t seem to understand that ‘trolls’ are not just those homeless people in dirty clothes begging for money he dislikes but also clean-cut smiling people in $50000 suits that ruin the financial lives of millions of fellow citizens for their own benefit and laugh about it, and who also easily lie a country into committing war crimes and mass murder against other countries and suffer no consequences.

He also seems to have a serious problem with a lack of historical knowledge of totalitarian police states and how they form. Or how easy it is to become homeless in a country where half the working population is living paycheck to paycheck dreading a broken car or injury/sickness.

That certainly sounds like classic troll mentality to me but that, of course, is just my opinion.



Sam March 24, 2019 at 9:41 pm

Oh Seal, so quaint! My issue is not with people who are legitimately homeless, my issue is with the trustafarian thug drug addicts and other able bodied people who, rather than find a job, aggressively panhandle and threaten people at the end of Newport, making an otherwise beautiful seaside town a dystopian nightmare.

These people shouldn’t be able to congregate down there just because they feel like they have some sort of god given right to just plop down wherever they happen to be and then call it home. Living in vans and using the sidewalks and alleyways as their personal toilets.

These people are not entitled to live wherever they please, just because they think it would be nice. Its a real shame that this community is so welcoming to such a bunch of dirtbags, it only encourages more to come and hang out.

I understand why you don’t like my point of view, but I’ve got news for you, OB is going to continue to gentrify at an “alarming” rate and with any luck we’ll be rid of these ruffians in the next 10 years or so.


TrollExposer April 14, 2021 at 8:39 pm

Yeah bro homelessness and living on the street is on its way out! In your suburban wet dream maybe… The lack of clue that you possess is frightening.
Much like our prison system they are a reflection of society as a whole the society that you consider yourself an exemplary member of no doubt.


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