Home / News / City Council OKs return of 'smart' streetlights

City Council OKs return of 'smart' streetlights

Aug 08, 2023Aug 08, 2023

S1: This week on Kpbs roundtable. The San Diego City Council has cleared the way for police to once again use streetlight cameras and this time automated license plate readers. But there's questions about how they'll be used.

S2: Within smart city circles nationally. San Diego is known as the model of what not to do when it comes to streetlight infrastructure.

S1: The police say these cameras help solve and prevent crimes , but some argue that it's an invasion of privacy.

S3: They want to make sure that this is written down and that we're not just going to take the police's word for it , that they're not going to do these things.

S1: Don't go anywhere. Roundtable is coming up next. Smart street lights are making their return in San Diego. The San Diego City Council approved adding more streetlight cameras and for the first time , license plate readers to the San Diego Police Department says they're going to be used to help solve crimes. But opponents argue that they're an invasion of privacy and they have concerns about how and where all this data is going to be stored. Joining us to break down everything that's been happening are Kpbs science and technology reporter Thomas Fudge. NBC San Diego's political reporter Priya Schraeder is back with us. And freelance journalist Jesse Marks is here with us. He's been covering this story in these Times magazine. Priya , we're going to start with you. Let's go back to that long discussion at city council this week. It was hours long.

S3: So the final votes were 7 to 2 to move forward with the smart streetlight cameras. The two council members who voted against them were council member Monica Montgomery , Step and council member Shawn Rivera. And then the vote was 6 to 3 with the automated license plate readers , which that technology has never been used in the city of San Diego before. And so both Shani La Rivera and Monica Montgomery voted against the automated license plate readers. And then in addition to that , council member Vivian Moreno voted against it. She had a lot of concerns about whether or not the information that was gathered from the automated license plate readers could be shared with immigration authorities. And of course , because her district is along the border , that's a particular concern for her constituents. So it definitely was far from unanimous like we've seen in other places in the county like El Cajon , who voted unanimously there to install the automated license plate readers. But yeah , it , of course , did move forward.

S1: And we're going to dive into all those concerns in just a minute. But first , let's back up just a little bit. Jesse San Diegans , they're already familiar with these street light cameras. They were first used under previous Mayor Kevin Faulkner , and they're still up and recording but not being used by police. Right. I mean , how do we get to this point now ? Yeah.


S2: So to understand the genesis of this this project , you actually have to go back about a decade and think the high level takeaway , the thing that that people should know is that within smart city circles nationally , San Diego is known as the model of what not to do when it comes to streetlight infrastructure. So back at about 2014 , if I remember correctly , the city started experimenting with these sensor control technologies on their streetlights. And the idea was that they were going to brighten or dim the lights from afar and it was going to save money and their energy costs. So a couple of years after that , city officials decided that they like this project so much that we're going to bring it to scale. And they were going to put it along. They were going to install it along thousands of different streetlights. So essentially the idea was let's retrofit , let's modernize this technology , let's partner with General Electric. But in the process , the city council never disclosed to the public that the sensors , which could brighten and dim lights from afar , also had surveillance capabilities that it would be able to capture. Video It was initially pitched as a way to help with environmental goals like climate change , because it could measure air quality , it could measure traffic flow. But that's not how it actually turned out. By 2020 , the San Diego Police Department had been the sole purview of the streetlights , which upset a lot of people , and I think understandably so. A lot of them felt as though this had been a kind of bait and switch. Nobody had ever voted to give the police department the authority over this. And even though the police department said we're using it in a completely legitimate way , crime fighting is is completely justified and we've put some restraints on it. It wasn't good enough. Mayor Kevin Faulkner , in the uproar that followed , ultimately tried to shut that system down. And as a result of that , a group of community members in the city council set down to write some new rules and an oversight process , which is what we saw play out this week.

S1: And so I guess , Tom , why does the San Diego Police Department want to start using these again and I guess actually set up more of them ? Matt I'm not sure if they're going to set up more of them. What they want.

S5: To do is set up a system of cameras in 500 locations. Now they're going to be 500 cameras. There might be more than that , but there is a map on the city website that shows you where those locations are , what they say and an expression they use quite a bit is force multiplier. In other words , we don't have a big police department , but if we have these these cameras out there that can see things where officers do not happen to be , then we can we can detect crime. We can get evidence about crime to use an investigation. So it's a force multiplier. And if you've. Going to some of these public meetings and you've listened to the police talk about cameras. They say that they're they come up with lots of examples of where cameras have provided good evidence to put people behind bars. And they're not just talking about the cameras that have been used in the past decade. In San Diego. They're talking about cameras at coffee shops and cameras in convenience stores. They say that these cameras are always capturing video and very often they're very useful to fight crime and detect crime. And San Diego wants to do it , too.

S1: And we've also heard from the police department that they will not be monitoring these cameras 24 over seven. Here's San Diego Police Captain Charles Lora explaining more about how they're going to be used.

S6: After a qualifying crime , after you have a crime of significance , the murder , a homicide , a carjacking , a missing child. We want to make sure that after the fact that we are able to access that footage promptly , to be able to undertake quickly those investigations and get the process moving at the beginning quicker and ultimately moved to prosecution quicker.

S1: Now , allowing these use of cameras , it's really been working its way through city government from the Privacy Advisory Board to the Public Safety Committee and then finally to the city council earlier this week. And and at each of those stops , there were community members that turned out and a lot of them were upset with this potential idea here. Priya , why were people largely saying.

S3: That number one was basic privacy ? And people were saying that , you know , they don't necessarily want all of the details of their lives to be documented in a way that the government and the police could have access to. And in response to that , the police have said , hey , we're going to install masking devices on these cameras. And so we won't be able to look into someone's backyard , for example , but we will be able to see places where you wouldn't have a reasonable expectation of privacy like the road. Another concern was just the fact that , you know , there's been a lot of controversy lately over , you know , abortion access. And so what if , for example , someone comes from a state with limited abortion access into California and they visit an abortion clinic ? Could that somehow be documented and then shared with the governments of other states where that's not allowed or the law enforcement agencies of other states where that's not allowed ? And then the third big concern was sharing this information with immigration authorities. And so and , you know , a lot of people say , well , these are all hypothetical concerns , but there were actual lawsuits that happened in northern California , in Marin County , where the sheriff there was actually sharing a lot of this data with out of state law enforcement agencies. And so the ACLU and a few people up in Northern California actually successfully sued that sheriff's department. There are laws on the books in in California that prohibit local law enforcement agencies from sharing that information. But one thing that I noticed consistently for many of the people I spoke to who were concerned about these cameras and the license plate readers are they said that they want this codified. They want to make sure that this is written down and that we're not just going to take the police's word for it , that they're not going to do these things. And so I think that that was one concern. Like , let's not rush into this. Let's make sure that we have every single thing written down and so that that data and that information can't be misused. Yeah.

S5: Yeah. Matt , during Monday's meeting , what you saw with regard to the question about sharing this information with immigration authorities , the chief of police , Nicollet , was there and he said , no , we're not going to share this information with Ice. Representative of the mayor's office was there and said , no , we're not going to share this information with Ice. But as Priya said , people are still a little bit uneasy about that. You know , when you look at the public testimony that I've seen over the course of three different meetings , the vast majority of folks who spoke before the council and council committees were opposed to streetlight cameras , and they fell into a couple of different camps. One camp was concerned about privacy. People were using the expression mass surveillance quite a bit when they were describing what this would do. And then I think there's another camp math that simply does not trust the police to use this information in a way that's in the public interest. If you look at a map of where these are going to be located , they do tend to be in black and brown communities , also downtown. And a lot of the folks who live there think that these cameras are not there to watch criminals. They're there to watch them , law abiding citizens , and that makes them uneasy.

S1: Jesse , I know you've been following this for years.

S2: One , you can give all the assurances that you want , but there is plenty of history. I mean , there's not only examples you can point to in other cities , but there are actual examples you can point to in San Diego as well. And and that's why in that clip that you played a second ago of acting Captain Charles Lara , he was very careful to specify that there were qualifying crimes , that they would use the street lights to investigate. You got to take a step back and look at 2019 when when the uproar initially , you know , when the controversy initially exploded at the time , police chief in his light said very clearly that was only going to use the cameras for the most serious of crimes. And he ticked off a few of them. But in fact , a review of the access logs , which the city had released as part of a public records request , show that officers had had used the cameras for a wide variety of crimes , not just the most serious grisly ones like homicide , but also things like vandalism , illegal dumping. And I think would really galvanize the opposition to the project was the disclosure of the fact that CPD had tapped into the cameras to investigate protesters at Black Lives Matter demonstrations who'd been accused of relatively minor crimes like throwing bottles of water at cars during a demonstration. So think it's fair to say that nobody is against the solving of murders ? I think it is the mission creep of the project over the years that had people so freaked out. And I think that's what's raising alarm bells now at the moment , and that it's also worth remembering that that uproar was so intense in 2020 that Faulkner had to shut it down , mean he had no other choice. And I think what we're seeing at the moment now is a is an attempt to not only provide more disclosures of what the technology is and how it can be used , but but to write actual guardrails to make sure that there are actual meaningful measures in place to prevent the mission creep from happening again.

S1: Jesse , speaking about what the technology can do , I know you've written a lot about these street cameras sort of being able to do more , you know , as this technology advances , you know , Priya mentioned concerns about viewing on private property. There were also concerns about facial recognition.

S2: Security camera technology has advanced to quite a degree in the last couple of years. Now , to be fair to , they have said the model that we want to buy will not be equipped with facial recognition and we have no interest in doing it. So again , it comes back to this question of you've made a promise. How do we assure that you actually follow through on it ? And the fundamental problem and I think the most frustrating part about this conversation the last couple of months is that we've been talking conceptually about the project , but nobody's nobody's had the opportunity to review any legally enforceable details. What the Privacy Advisory Board was asked to do was to look at a proposal , then get permission , then allow the police department to go negotiate. So it was kind of like this chicken and egg question the entire time. How does the Privacy advisory board consider a project and its implications if it's just conceptual , if you don't have technical specifications in front of you , if you don't have a contract in front of you with legally enforceable details. And so that's been the fundamental problem here. And the other fundamental problem here is that the industry itself , even though sounds as though they're acting in good faith , it's making a lot of assurances. The security camera industry itself has been very clear about its ambitions over the long term. And whenever these guys get together to talk about their technology , they start quoting things like Minority Report , which is a dystopian future. They talk about predicting policing algorithms. They talk about their desire over the long term to turn people in objects into searchable data. And so I think that's what has people freaked out right now.

S1: Priya , I know earlier you mentioned in terms of potential access for federal immigration officials to to these cameras and license plate readers.

S3: So again , you know , the police consistently have made assurances , as Jesse said , that they're not going to share this information with Ice or any other federal authorities. However , I think one concern , too , is so Flock is one example of a company that makes automated license plate readers. They're used in El Cajon , they're used in Chula Vista , and they're all both of those police agencies use the same software and database to collect all this information. And they I was actually just in El Cajon today interviewing the police , who just started a one year pilot program using these automated license plate readers. And they said , yes , we can see what's going on in Chula Vista and they can see what's going on in El Cajon because they're using the same software. So I think there's just a lot of unanswered questions , like Jesse said , because we don't have the specifics about which company we would be using and what other agencies close by or even far away are using that. And if that will give other authorities the ability to go into our systems. Right , because we can make all the rules here in San Diego about how San Diego police is going to use the information. But if that information is obtainable by other agencies , what's stopping them from getting it ? So I think , you know , there are just so many unanswered questions right now , and those are questions that probably won't really get answers until we have a specific contract and company on the table.

S2: This didn't come up this week at the city council meeting , and I'm kind of surprised it didn't because there is to Priya's point there actually is an example locally of a police department inadvertently sharing license plate reader data with federal authorities. And it actually happened in Chula Vista a couple of years ago. The Union Tribune reported that Chula Vista license plate data had been passed along. I forget which regional database law enforcement database it was , but in the process of doing it , they forgot to check the wrong box , which meant that Homeland Security officials like Ice actually had access to it , and it was discovered later after the fact , and Chula Vista had to apologize. For it and then come up with a new game plan to prevent that happening from the future. So it's actually very relevant , recent history , and I'm kind of surprised nobody has made hay over it.

S5: It was kind of funny on Monday , Matt , because there was a lot of talk when Councilwoman Moreno was talking about that , she kept asking who is going to check the box to make sure that this information is not going to go to Ice or to the Border Patrol. And I think we kind of left the meeting not being quite sure who was going to check the box , but the police said , no , we have power over this. We can say , no , we're not going to share this information. And that was kind of where we left it. Yeah.

S1: And I think the rep from the mayor's office also said the same thing , that they would sort of make sure that that didn't happen. But again , these are assurances and I know you want to jump in here , but before that , does anybody know when we talk about license plate readers , what exactly are we talking about ? Like I think people are familiar with going through an intersection. You get your photo snapped , you get a ticket , something like that.

S3: What it does is it takes a picture of the back of a vehicle. And so what law enforcement says is that really what they can only see is the license plate. It gives them the ability , they say , to either proactively or reactively , basically deal with crime. So one of the things they say that it helps them with is things like Amber Alerts and silver alerts. So if they have a license plate number , if that license plate goes past any of the cameras that are up in that city , it'll then send a notification to the system and an officer can then respond to that camera and that specific location and ideally track down the suspect with the victim of the alert. The other way it can be used is , let's say , for example , in a robbery situation , if they have details or descriptors of a vehicle like it's a red Honda Civic or they have a partial license plate number , they can then search for that in a database and then it'll basically look through all of the cameras that are in that city. And if any red Honda Civic , you know , matches that description at that time period , it will alert them , hey , a red Honda Civic with this partial license plate just drove by this camera over here. And so then the authorities can respond to that camera and hopefully track down the suspect. So those are basically the two big ways that they say that they can use it.

S5: You know , Priya , we have a map from the city showing where the streetlight cameras are going to be.

S3: So they had listening sessions that took place in various places around San Diego over the last several months. And they said that they wanted to install more cameras in what they called high crime areas. Right. But as you mentioned , you know , a lot of those high crime areas are in neighborhoods that are full of black and brown people who are also just , you know , historically have been very distrustful of law enforcement. So beyond that , I mean , they've given a sort of heat map of , hey , here's what we would like to do. I don't think anything's been decided just yet. By the way , that's something that council member Kent Lee brought up in his amendment that he wants to be able to go back to the negotiating table to discuss exactly where those cameras can be placed and if they can be moved based off of if people feel as though there's crime happening in their neighborhood versus another one.

S1: Yeah , I think Kent Lee actually said that he was looking at the map and he didn't see any of these proposed cameras up in convoy , which is in his district. So he's wondering how they kind of got decided. But despite these concerns , Tom , San Diego police say that they are valuable in deterring and solving crimes. And we even heard that echoed by a couple , at least , of the San Diego City Council members. Have police said how it's been used in the past to maybe solve crimes.

S5: In fact , they've given some specific examples. The police examples I can't really remember off the top of my head , but there was a lady who testified , like I said , most of the people who testified were opposed to the streetlight cameras , but she was speaking in favor of them. And she gave the example of her brother being murdered in , I believe , 2019. And she said the police were able to identify the killer and find him because he revealed his face to a streetlight camera. You know , so there are these examples out there of streetlight cameras , whether they're run by the San Diego Police Department or by a coffee shop , actually identifying people who have committed crimes. You know , so that's that's what the police are saying. These have shown that they have value for crime fighting. And we believe that that , you know , they should be using in the future.

S1: Coming up on Roundtable , our discussion about streetlight cameras continues. Why some want them and others don't. And what's next.

S5: The vast majority of folks who spoke before the council and council committees were opposed to the streetlight cameras. People were using the expression mass surveillance quite a bit when they were describing what this would do.

S1: More just ahead. You're listening to Kpbs Roundtable. You're listening to Kpbs Roundtable. I'm Matt Hoffman. This week , we're talking about the return of streetlight cameras in San Diego. With us is Kpbs , Thomas Fudge , NBC , San Diego's Priya Schraeder and freelance journalist Jesse Marx. You know , guys , I think , Jesse , you mentioned this earlier that the San Diego Police Department stopped using the old streetlight cameras back in 2020. I mean , the video is still rolling like people like the people like the district attorney could subpoena that. But CPD was not looking at it. And they and others say that , you know , there's no doubt that these help solve crimes , but then other people push back against that. It's an invasion of privacy. They're going to track people , I mean , generally. Anybody else feel free to jump in here.

S2: And I think it I think it really stems from initially the fact that this was just blundered from the start and the city could have come back and it could have just started over from scratch. But instead it just gave this thing to the police department without anybody's consent or without anybody's knowledge of it and without any real rules. You got to remember , during the first iteration of the Street Lights Project , the policy was written by the police department and nobody else. I mean , they wrote their own rules for access to it. So I just think it's engendered a lot of mistrust. And then I think also because in 2020 , when the mayor moved for the program to be shut down , you got to remember the vendor at the time said , no , we're not going to do that. That was Ubiquiti , the same vendor that we're talking about now at the moment. They said we're going to keep it going for free. Don't worry about it. When the city came back and said , No , actually , you need to shut that down. We're we're a democratic body and we represent the people of San Diego. And you're a private equity field company in Florida , so please do what we say. Ubiquitous said no again. And so what we were stuck with was this crazy situation where the Internet connection had been severed , but the devices themselves met were still rolling , which meant that they were still recording and you could still get access to it through a warrant , which a lot of police departments actually did. I don't know if San Diego ever pulled down any of those physical devices , but other jurisdictions within San Diego County did and then pulled the footage off of it and nobody was tracking that. Nobody was talking about that. We still I still don't even know to this day what happened to those devices or where they are or whether the footage was even useful. So there's just a big question mark that's been looming over this thing for so long and people are just right to be suspicious.

S5: Well , Matt , I think one of the reasons that this has gone on for so long is , let's face it , people don't like being watched. That is , I think , a very basic thing that has made this so controversial. It has raised questions about whether this is the kind of information you need a warrant for. Now , the police say you have no expectation of privacy in a public place. And so , no , we don't need a warrant. I mean , a police officer who's standing on the street doesn't need a warrant to watch some activity going on. But then there are other people who argue that if they're using artificial intelligence and maybe you've got two cameras pointing in two different directions at the same location , maybe it can be used to track people. And if you're tracking people , if you're following people , that's a different that's a different situation. You're not just taking a snapshot of something that's that's happening. And so that is also one of the questions that is coming up.

S3: But I think the biggest difference about these cameras and cameras like that are they're that they're being monitored by people who are in authority positions in people of power. Right. So I think that's the big issue. And we're at a time right now where , you know , Americans distrust of the government in general is at an all time high. So I just think it's not about the camera itself. I think most people are very used to the fact that we live in a very , you know , technologically advanced world. It's about who has access to the information that's being obtained by the cameras and how are they going to use it. So I think that's that's really what's at the heart of this debate.

S1: And I think you just kind of mentioned there who has access to this data ? Jesse , I think you mentioned this earlier in terms of vendor that the police are going to be going with to store the information and we hear it's not going to be kept forever. I think like 15 days for video , 30 days for the license plate pictures. But there were also just general concerns about data being sold where it's being stored.

S2: I think the big concern at the moment is , is where into which database is the data going to end up ? If it's going to end up at Argus , which is a regional law enforcement database , who has access to it ? Those databases don't exist for the for the purpose of just storing your own and. Formation there by design their hubs into which other agencies have have access to it. So theoretically , it could be any police department across the region. It could be state authorities , it could be federal authorities. And that's why it's so concerning that this this this data is going to end up somewhere. But we don't know where just yet. We don't know how it's going to be encrypted , how it's going to be stored. There's just so many unanswered questions. And then the looming fact that it could be used , say , for reproductive health prosecution or it could be used as part of a deportation proceeding is extremely concerning. And we just don't know. I mean , I wish I had a better answer for you , Matt , but because we don't have the technical specifications and all we have is our assurances , we're left to just kind of speculate.


S2: And to to Priya's point a second ago , I think several people brought this up at the meeting this week that what was actually on the agenda was the oversight process itself. Literally what the city council did was authorize the use of streetlight cameras and license plate readers to be paired together on infrastructure. But that's only one step of it. The other step has to be the implementation of it. So all that the City Council said effectively this week was , yes , we agree that conceptually this is something we should pursue. Now they need to sit down and they need to look at a contract. So this process is going to start all over again. That contract has to go back to the Privacy Advisory Board. It's going to be meetings and discussions there. It's going to be a vote , a recommendation for or against. Then it comes back to the city council. So we're only actually halfway halfway through this. But the significance of the vote this week was that the city council said , yes , in theory , we want to do this now. Show us more of the details.

S5: You know , Matt , I wanted to follow up on something that Prius said when she was saying , well , the thing that makes people nervous is the fact is not the fact that there are cameras out there because we're used to that. But these are controlled by people who are in authority. And I think that's a very interesting point. And it makes me think of one conversation I had with a guy who is a futurist and a science fiction writer in San Diego. His name is David Brin , and he's very optimistic about the future of technology. And he says when it comes to cameras in public places , it's not just Big Brother watching you , it's you watching Big Brother. And that's kind of the context he puts it in. You know , the murder of George Floyd. That was something that was captured by a camera in a public place. And , you know , it wasn't helping the authorities. It was working contrary to what the authorities were trying to do in that situation. And so cameras are everywhere who should have control over them. That's a very tricky thing to say. And it , you know , results in very controversial conversations.

S1: And I think they actually brought up it could also be used to help with police oversight. I think they pointed to like a sheriff's deputy that was prosecuted for shooting a man in the back because of these streetlight cameras. But Jesse , go ahead.

S2: Yeah , I was just going to say , you know , the purpose of this project is obviously to what Priya said a second ago , it's the authorities want to use it. It it is different it to a certain degree than , say , Facebook on your phone or the fact that you just have a phone that's tracking you all the time. One is a commercial purpose and one is one is a law enforcement purpose. But I do think the lines between those two things are increasingly blurring together. And part of the suspicion over this project also comes from the fear that longer term , if there aren't guardrails in place , you could have private entities that are again in the service of law enforcement , but trying to monetize public places. And that's what they did with the First Street Lights Project , which is worth reiterating and thinking about. They wanted to use the sensors in order to capture mobility data so that app developers could then go and say , make a parking app. That's totally fine if you want to do that. I'm not necessarily opposed to that in principle , but I do think that we should be clear about where all this is headed and if we are going to start monetizing public spaces and giving that data away to people who can make money off of it , we should know about it.

S3: I would just say that , you know , this entire debate has been going on for several years , right ? Like even with the Patriot Act after nine over 11 , you know , we felt as though our country was our national security was at stake. And so that conversation began. Like , how much are you willing to sacrifice for security or safety ? Or at least that's what they were telling us. And I think what's really interesting right now is technology is advancing so rapidly , but the regulations aren't there. So what's happening in a lot of different areas is that the regulations and the rules and how this is all going to be used , the oversight , the accountability is happening after the fact. So the technology is being introduced to the world. People are using it , how they're going to use it. I mean , it's the same thing that we're seeing with the military. And I it was the same conversation we had when we were talking about. Drones. And , you know , now there's hearings that are happening on Capitol Hill about how exactly will the military be using AI ? And and I think what's interesting in all of this , being a political reporter , too , is that I think what a lot of the citizens that I heard at all of these different meetings were saying is like , let's hold on. Let's do this very thoughtfully. Let's go slowly. Let's not rush into this. However , when it comes to elected officials , they're on terms and they want to say , hey , we accomplished this during our time in office because we're up for reelection now. So , you know , I think that it's important for our elected leaders or , you know , if you're if you're a constituent and you're worried that all of this is moving too quickly , like let your elected leader know that you'd rather move slowly , have things more thought out , because even at the end of , you know , the city council meeting this week , there was talk about , wait , should we just go back to the drawing board ? Are we even ready to vote right now ? You know , and there was like alarm bells across the room like , oh , my God , are we really going to start this all over again ? But , you know , as Jesse said , there are going to be a lot more meetings discussing once we have a specific vendor in mind how this is going to be used and all of that. So I just think this is a very localized debate that's been happening for several years on the national and the international stage when it comes to technology. And that whole , you know , how do we balance safety and security versus privacy.

S1: It was interesting to see some of the council members seemed to be a little bit confused or it's like , what exactly are we voting on As we wrap up the show here , we want to hear from everybody. What's next here or what are you going to be watching for in the weeks and months ahead ? Because I think , as Jesse pointed out , you know , this discussion is far from over. And Tom , we can start with you.

S5: Well , what are we going to see in the future ? I guess I guess I'm not not entirely sure , Matt. The San Diego Police Department is going to put together a program and it will be put in place and hopefully every year or every so often we can check in with it and see how it's going and hear from the public again.



S2: That in the short term , I think the devil's in the details. And I think once we have an actual contract in front of us , we can have a more meaningful , substantive debate that frankly , we should have had the first time around. And I also think longer term , I think we should keep an eye on the courts and how they treat AI and how they think of privacy in context , political context , economic , social context going forward. Because one of the points of the Privacy Advisory Board kept making over and over again , which is that the police department's contention that that privacy is not a right within public spaces is questionable at best. I mean , there's a reason why anti stalking laws are a thing. You do have a certain right to privacy in public. And I think finding that line long term and where cameras and helpers fall into that , it's going to be really fascinating conversation.

S1: And Priya , you have the final word.

S7: Oh , wow. So much pressure.

S3: No , I think I'm going to be interested in I know that , you know , as Jesse said before , San Diego tends to be sort of like a guinea pig when it comes to a lot of this stuff. And from what I understand , the fact that we're going to be pairing the automated license plate readers and the cameras together is the first of that we've ever seen nationwide as far as the city doing both at the both together. So I'm curious to see , you know , when that rolls out , how that's going to work for us.

S1: Well , I've been speaking with Kpbs science and technology reporter Thomas Fudge , NBC San Diego's political reporter Priya Schrader , and freelance journalist Jesse Marks , who's been covering this story for In These Times magazines. Guys , I just want to say thank you to everybody. It was a great discussion. Coming up on roundtable. Other top stories we're watching in San Diego with the roundup. And we say goodbye to a member of the Kpbs family. That's next on Kpbs roundtable. You're listening to Kpbs Roundtable. I'm Matt Hoffman. It's now time for the roundtable roundup , where we take a look at some other top stories that are happening in and around San Diego. Producer Andrew Bracken is on vacation , so filling in is producer Harrison Patino. Harrison , great to have you here this week.

S8: Hey , Matt , Good to be with you.

S1: All right.

S8: And she's reporting about the big bucks that are being spent in the run up to this district for special election. There's a lot of money going on in this special election to replace former county Supervisor Nathan Fletcher's seat. More than $1 million is being shelled out by organizations and individuals in the camps of these various candidates , and they're actually able to bypass maximum contribution limits through something called independent expenditures. Long story short , is they can skirt the campaign limits and it's protected by the First Amendment. It's an interesting read. Candidates in that election include Janessa Goldmark , Monica Montgomery Stepp , Amy Reichert and Paul McKeague.

S1: Yeah , I actually live in that district. I've been getting a ton of information about all the different candidates and it seems like there's been a little bit of controversy there.

S8: Yeah , there's probably a hallmark of all the money that's being spent on promoting the different candidates for this election. So definitely something to watch out for.

S1: And as you mentioned , replacing Supervisor Nathan Fletcher seat who resigned from the board amid sexual assault allegations , something he denies. But all right.

S8: We've seen a lot of criticism aimed at Montgomery Step for her supposed views on defunding the police. Lopez Villafane actually writes that Montgomery Stepp has continuously voted to approve city budgets that increase police department spending. But she has proposed overtime cuts , sought opportunities to reallocate funding. So kind of cut it between the noise of this rhetoric coming from her critics and a bit of a reality check on what's actually going with one of the more prominent candidates from that district.

S1: I think it was the San Diego Police Officers Association that were maybe putting out some of those mailers. And then I think , as you mentioned , there was like I think there was an I news source story that talked about the validity of some of those. And then I saw they put out another statement saying that the I news source story was incorrect. So it seems like a lot of back and.

S8: Forth , of course , and invoking that phrase , defund the police , it's really become sort of a battle cry. And a lot of these political races when it comes to invoking things like public safety or neighborhood safety or what the candidate's values are. So this article is really sort of a reality check in terms of what's actually going on with Monica. Montgomery Stepp has been pretty prominent about her views on public safety in the past few years.

S1: All right. It sounds like you have some more about local government or government agencies , that is. Yeah.

S8: Up next , we have another I news source story. This one is from Crystal Nebula. And it's about some progress that Sandag is making on basically how they're going to improve the public transportation infrastructure at the San Diego Airport. Speaking from experience , I don't think I've ever made it out of that airport without considerable traffic. So it's going to be interesting to see what they come up with. But one big suggestion of note that caught my eye is this proposed either aerial train or underground train that would shuttle people to and from the airport. Cool idea. But this wouldn't come cheap. Sandag estimates that this kind of shuttle could cost anywhere between 2.4 to $6.3 billion , depending on whether or not it would be built overhead or underground. So certainly San Diego Airport could benefit from some better public transportation infrastructure. But regardless , it seems like it's going to come with a pretty big paycheck.

S1: All right.

S8: And that's how the city is taking over ambulance services from its previously private providers. To recap , Folk USA , the previous provider was dealing with a lot of issues surrounding long wait times. The move from this city aims to address those wait times , but it's going to come with an increase in patient fees. Ambulances operated by Folk USA , as well as American medical Response. They're still going to be transporting patients in San Diego , but they're going to be turning control of staffing , dispatch , a deployment billing and other major decisions over to the city.

S1: Yeah , I know. It's a move that they've been working on a long time. They call it the Alliance model , and Falck is still the primary provider. They be providing the vast majority of ambulances on the streets. But it's sort of like before Falck held all the marbles. And in terms of where ambulance were going , how many staff that they had on , but then they they allowed them to subcontract to bring on Amr because they weren't meeting the required number of ambulance hours to have on the streets. They've since hit those hours. But now , like kind of you just alluded to the fire department , it's going to have even more control where they're like , okay , we're going to do the dispatch. We're going to say where the ambulances are going to go. But with that comes some increased risk , though , because they're going to be taking over the billing. So maybe if you had a private. Right before it covers some of the ambulance transport , you get a bill from Falwell. Now that bill is going to be coming from the city. Yeah.

S8: David Garrick writes that the city's independent budget analyst says this deal makes sense on paper. But if problems arise , if things do exactly according to plan , this could cost the city up to $18 million a year.

S1: All right. What else is.

S8: Next ? So we'd be remiss if we didn't mention what moves the Padres were making during the MLB trade deadline. The friars added starting pitcher Rich Hill to the rotation , and he's going to make his debut this Sunday against division rivals the Dodgers. Other newcomers to the team include reliever Scott Barlow , first baseman and Doug McCoy and infielder Garrett Cooper. There's also a lot of speculation about what's going to become a veteran designated hitter. Matt Carpenter. He hasn't played much this season and there seems to be some internal discussion about whether or not his presence in the clubhouse outweighs the potential offensive output they could generate if they call up somebody from the minors. Carpenter is 37 , and he's been pretty candid about where he's at with his career in the league and how it might be coming to an end pretty soon.

S1: If you're a Padre fan , you got to be feeling pretty good because at the trade deadline , you know , teams can either sell off some of their stars or they could pick up new stars or they could pick up some some smaller additions. And and the Padres ended up not selling off , even though that was something that fans were worried about. So it should still be an exciting time. Padres have been selling out games and it looks like , you know , they're going to try to make a run for the playoffs this year. So very exciting times. All right. What else is.

S8: Next ? So finally , I thought this last story would be a fun way to end things going into the weekend. Apparently , one of San Diego's iconic landmarks is at the center of a row involving , of all things , the wrong coat of paint. I shouldn't say wrong because architectural purists are saying that basically they're in uproar over the fact that the 100 year old Balboa Theater was recently painted. Get this , colors that are historically and accurate and inconsistent , they say , with the building's Spanish revival style. If you're unaware the theater was recently repainted white and gray with a little Burgundy trim back in June. Critics are saying that this new paint job clashes with its original color. This story comes from Jennifer Van Grove from the U-T. And you've just got to love one. A new coat of paint on a building creates more problems than it solves. There's also just a lot of great history and background in this article and the building itself. It's got an interesting past , so this was a really fun read.


S8: History is kind of a trademark of San Diego architecture. Just think of all the beautiful buildings in Balboa Park and stuff that you can see all over town. People I think are just really protective of keeping that architectural history pure. You're going to find a lot of people who are going to have their feathers ruffled when building or a remodel of a building doesn't exactly fall in line with keeping things historically accurate.

S1: So , well , the paint's already on the building , so I don't know if they're going to repaint.

S8: We're going back at this point.

S1: But before we go , Harrison , we'd be remiss if we did not mention that this is actually your last week here at Kpbs News.

S8: It's been a pleasure working with you and working for Kpbs for the last two and a half years. I can't say too much about the next project. I'll be kind of taking a hiatus for the next month , going on a lot of fishing trips , going to the beach a lot. But yeah , it's going to be very bittersweet leaving Kpbs. It's been a wonderful place to work. I've loved the kind of work that I get to do , and I even got to do roundtable this last week , the first time into my two and a half years here. And it's been a lot of fun working with you , my colleagues on Midday Edition and my colleagues at Kpbs as a whole. So sad to be leaving , but happy to be moving on to the next chapter. And thanks a lot. It's been a great work with you , Matt.

S1: We're great to have you here on Roundtable. We wish you the best of luck in your new position , whatever it might be. And Harrison , thanks so much for joining us here on the roundup.

S8: Thanks a bunch , Matt. Good talking with you.

S1: That's going to wrap up roundtable for this week. We'd love to hear your thoughts on today's show if you want. Leave us a voicemail. (619) 452-0228. You can also email us roundtable at Keep in mind , if you miss any part of our show , go ahead and check out the Kpbs Roundtable podcast. Our show airs on Kpbs at noon on Fridays and again on Sunday at 6 a.m.. Roundtable was produced this week by Harrison Patino , and Rebecca Chacon is our technical director. I'm your host , Matt Hoffman. Thanks so much for being here with us and have a great weekend.

The San Diego City Council has cleared the way for police to once again use streetlight cameras, and now automated license plate readers. But there are questions about how they’ll be used.

Guests:Jesse Marx, freelance journalist

Thomas Fudge, KPBS science and technology reporter

Priya Sridhar, NBC San Diego political reporter