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El Cajon, Calif., Officials Roll Out Smart City Roadmap

The city's new strategic plan — called El Cajon 2.0 — looks to introduce advanced smart city technology to improve infrastructure, efficiency, convenience and quality of life, officials say.

digital rendering of a smart city
(TNS) — El Cajon is inching ever closer to becoming a "Smart City."

The city has rolled out its "El Cajon 2.0" strategic plan that staff says will bring in advanced technology over the next decade.

Smart City initiatives such as the one planned in El Cajon use technology to connect and improve infrastructure, efficiency, convenience and quality of life.

Sara Diaz, El Cajon's director of information technology, told the City Council recently that a survey of nearly 1,200 residents and business operators revealed that 80 percent feel it is important for El Cajon to invest in technology and to continue to innovate. She said staff members were also queried and they overwhelmingly said they are ready to keep pushing in that direction.

Diaz said one of the most interesting questions the survey asked was if people would support the city adding cameras or sensors in public spaces if the information would solely be used by the city to enhance public safety.

"What we found was overwhelmingly 'Yes,' " Diaz said. "It was 74 percent overall. We delved a little deeper into that data. We looked at it by age group and pretty much every age group was overwhelmingly in support of cameras and sensors for public safety — with the exception of the 18-to-24 year olds. We also looked at it by education (highest education received) and again we saw the same trends."

From there, the City Council said it wants to prioritize:

Improving public safety, such as using specialized technology/software to improve response rates; efficient government operations such as improving customer service, lowering costs, streamlined processes, updated technology and cybersecurity; economic development within the city, including attracting new businesses and new advertising platforms for local businesses; environmentally friendly solutions such as enhanced street lighting and energy efficiency. During the discussion, the City Council agreed public safety was its top priority along with finding solutions to homelessness and sanitation concerns.

"I think philosophically, we're here to protect people, and I would say improve public safety would be my No. 1," said City Councilman Steve Goble.

Mayor Bill Wells said he was also on board with working toward alleviating traffic through "smart" street lights as well as putting high-tech security cameras in parks, specifically Wells Park, but said it would also depend on the costs involved.

Last September, the City Council said it wanted staff to begin work on a strategic plan and to have high level goals, specific objectives and criteria to assess potential Smart City projects. In October, the 13-member, multi-departmental El Cajon 2.0 Committee was formed to develop a plan.

Diaz said after reaching out to more than 50,000 people, the top request of people in El Cajon was for the city to gather more information and find more creative ways to help those living homeless in El Cajon, and with that, an increase in improved sanitation and cleanliness for the city as a whole.

"We have more to do and farther to go but this tells us that we're kind of marching in the right direction," Diaz said.

©2021 The San Diego Union-Tribune, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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