San Diego

‘Broken Street Lights; ‘Broken System'

Street light repairs take an average of 17 days

Broken street lights are leaving some San Diego neighborhoods in the dark, a problem city leaders say could encourage vandalism and gang activity.

An audit released Wednesday found the city's street light repair service does not operate efficiently.

City Auditor Eduardo Luna found street light repairs are taking too long, beyond the 12 day goal, the department lacks documented procedures, and repairs are driven by citizen complaints.

"The employees rely on institutional knowledge because there are no documented street light repair policies or procedures," the audit states.

In Encanto, Kevin Horsch said the lack of street lights coupled with the lack of sidewalks makes evening exercise a scary endeavor.

"It's pretty dark, especially in the evening when people are walking around, it's pretty scary," Horsch said. "I'm a runner so when I'm out with my dog we carry flashing lights, but we're pretty much following behind cars so we don't get hit."

City Councilman Scott Sherman said the repair process is a "broken system."

"Coming from the private sector, that would just not be tolerated," Sherman said. "To have hundreds of street lights and not really even knowing where they are, it's unacceptable."

Street light repairs take an average of 17 days.

But the city does not prioritize work where lights are needed most, such as where there are more pedestrian accidents, in front of schools or in areas with high crime rates, according to the audit.

Repairs are mostly complaint driven, so the city only becomes aware of a broken light when someone requests service.

Luna says the ineffective system could lead to disparities in residents accessing city services. Neighborhoods that are more likely to complain are more likely to have their street lights repaired.

"We've seen that in other audits that we've done," Luna said. "There's some disparity in regards to who makes the request. Typically, it's a north of the I-8 vs. south of the I-8 disparity in regards to requests for city services, whether it's potholes or perhaps even street lights."

Currently, there are about 40 requests into the city for repairs to street lights, including one in City Heights next to an elementary school.

Residents can report graffiti, pot holes, and other issues by clicking here.

Some neighborhoods lack street lights in general. There is a $30 million backlog for installing new street lights in neighborhoods.

A breakdown of the number of lights per square kilometer can be found here

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