Smart streetlights, De Anza Cove revitalization top residents’ concerns at Pacific Beach Town Council

Volunteers from Pacific Life Church ready to begin graffiti removal last year in Pacific Beach.
(B.J. Coleman)

Volunteers sought to help with next month’s Graffiti Cleanup Day


Audience questions drove much of the Pacific Beach Town Council’s latest meeting discussion as the approximately 65 people attending in-person and online brushed aside topics presented by city officials to query about issues important to them.

Residents on March 15 quizzed speakers about the installation of smart streetlights, the De Anza Cove revitalization plans and more, while the main presentation on the annual Graffiti Cleanup Day proved that spring — and associated spring cleaning — has arrived.

“I believe the PB Town Council is realizing a lot of potential as a community medium,” said Council President Charlie Nieto. “It is certainly not lost on us that we are seeing many residents attend our general meetings for their first time. It doesn’t take major guest speakers on sensational topics to get people motivated and engaged.”

A recent request by police to install 500 smart streetlights throughout the city that would include automated license plate readers and cameras filming public right-of-ways without audio recording and facial recognition features was among items scrutinized.

The proposal comes on the back of the Surveillance Ordinance passed by the city last August to bring tighter controls and greater transparency to the use of the technology by police after 3,200 smart streetlights were installed in 2016 but shut down in September 2020 amid controversy.

SDPD Community Relations Officer Jessica Thrift confirmed the proposal, but referred people to the city’s website for information.

Emily Piatanesi, representing the mayor, said the proposal needs to first be reviewed by a privacy advisory board created by the ordinance before being considered by the city. The board consists of legal, civil rights and high-tech experts as well as community members.

“This is a very new process,” Piatanesi said. “So anything from now moving forward that involves camera surveillance, privacy and the public right-of-way has to go to them first before it goes to City Council.”

According to city’s website, eight smart streetlights are proposed for Pacific Beach — one at Garnet Avenue and Mission Boulevard, two at Garnet Avenue near Soledad Mountain Road, two at Grand Avenue near Figueroa Boulevard and three on Mission Bay Drive around the Interstate 5 ramps.

In addition, eight smart streetlights are recommended at various sites in Mission Bay Park.

Although a date to review the smart streetlight proposal isn’t set yet, Piatanesi said the privacy advisory board, City Council and the council’s Public Safety Committee meetings are open to the public and each will hear the issue.

“I highly recommend you attend and call in for those meetings if you are either in support or opposition to the smart streetlights,” she said.

Non-agenda public comments brought attention to a draft amendment to the Mission Bay Park Master Plan submitted by the city’s Planning Department in March as part of the city’s De Anza Natural Plan for the northeast corner of Mission Bay.

The 84-page amendment tweaks intended uses in the master plan among other items. It includes a map and three alternatives allocating acreage to wetlands restoration, park space, active recreation and campground accommodations, but lists no specifics.

Advocating for the Mission Bay Gateway Plan that preserves current recreational areas while augmenting wetlands, Scott Chipman said 8,000 additional residents expected from developments around Mission Bay Drive and the Balboa Street Transit Station would only increase the 10 million recreational hours spent annually by visitors to De Anza Cove.

“I’m concerned about the loss of recreation in a community that already has not enough recreational areas,” Chipman said. “Now is the time to make public comment to the city on their proposed plans.”

Mark Sullivan said reclamation of a small sliver will make the current athletic field unusable. It serves girls softball teams from PB, La Jolla, Mission Beach and Bay Ho as well as Mission Bay boys baseball. He pointed out that a minor adjustment could save the field.

“We have between 500 to 750 kids that play softball, baseball and soccer there on a yearly basis,” Sullivan said. “This is the only facility in this part of town that they use. Those things will go away if the plan eventually (materializes).”

Forced to address the concerns, Piatanesi explained the De Anza Natural Plan has many hurdles to clear, including the Mission Bay Park Committee, Parks and Recreation Board, numerous subcommittees and the full City Council before being adopted.

“I just wanted to emphasize that this is the very first of many steps to come,” Piatanesi said. “The Planning Department is taking public input right now. ... There are multiple opportunities for you all to call in, attend, make comments.”

Rotaract member Erick Ramirez removing graffiti during the 2022 cleanup in Pacific Beach.
(B.J. Coleman)

With the 13th annual Graffiti Cleanup Day set for May 13, event coordinator Jim Menders asked for volunteers to eradicate graffiti across the community with a simple spritz and wipe of Motsenbocker Lift Off spray.

“Motsenbocker keeps getting closer to the event,” Menders said. “This year, they want to provide us all with free samples. Everybody who joins the event is going to walk away with all the stuff they need to keep removing graffiti on their own all year.”

Menders said volunteers are needed before the cleanup to survey Pacific Beach to determine exact graffiti locations so a list can be given to those removing it.

Surveyors can walk, bike or skate through any of the 12 designated neighborhoods to take photos of graffiti they encounter on buildings, utility poles and trash bins along various streets and alleys. Menders will use the information to create a virtual map for the cleanup day. Those who want to help with the survey but lack technical capabilities to log the graffiti they find will be given a detailed paper map so they can mark locations.

“You could survey your neighborhood and have volunteers show up to clean up your neighborhood,” Menders said. “How cool is that? That’s why everybody needs to be a surveyor for their neighborhood.”

To volunteer as a surveyor or to help on Graffiti Cleanup Day, visit