Getting through the Smart City Adoption

Getting through the Smart City Adoption

Dennis Gakunga, Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Chula Vista

Dennis Gakunga, Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Chula Vista

The technological advancements of the past decade have made for a very exciting time. Cities are looking to take advantage of information technology and other tools to better meet the needs of government agencies, increase the efficiency and effectiveness of government services, as well as meet the needs to do more with less. For many small to mid-size cities, such as the City of Chula Vista, that contend with limited budgets and competing priorities this is especially exciting. Today we have the ability to adopt innovative communications technology, advanced data tools and analytics to improve a wide range of city services including public safety, energy management, community services and economic development.

For the City of Chula Vista, being a smart and sustainable city means focusing on technology and advanced data analytics tools to grow the economy, engage the community, improve government efficiency, and enhance quality of life.

"A robust telecommunications infrastructure platform ensures the flexibility to deploy new and possibly unknown future technologies to further a city’s Smart City endeavors"

With the right implementation approach, expanding smart city technology can result in job creation, reduced crime rates, less traffic jams, and a stronger, more equitable community. Here are a few important elements for consideration as you embark on your journey to become a smart city.

A clearly defined vision is critical in helping a city articulate its long-term vision and engage stakeholders who are best suited to become long-term partners. The City of Chula Vista has established itself as a leader in the growing “smart city” movement, earning recognition locally, nationally and internationally for its innovative approach to using technology to create a more efficient and effective government. In an effort to clarify a smart city vision and formalize a strategy going forward,the City developed a Smart City Strategic Action Plan in 2017 to serve as a roadmap and outline the goals, objectives and initiatives of Chula Vista’ssmart city vision. As a smart city, Chula Vista is focused on leveraging innovative technology and data tools to better serve and engage citizens, enhance sustainability, improve public safety, and promote local economic development.

A robust telecommunications platform is the single most important tactic a city should focus on. For the most part, city governments agree that a clear vision and long range planning is paramount. Unfortunately, city governments don’t have a “crystal ball” to foresee the rapid changes to technology. Therefore, it can be a challenge to determine what future technologies may exist in the next few years. A major component of the City of Chula Vista’s recently created Smart Cities Strategic Action Plan is broadband connectivity.Cities should be encouraged to “over build” whenever possible when deploying fiber and conduit across their geography. A robust telecommunications infrastructure platform ensures the flexibility to deploy new and possibly unknown future technologies to further a city’s Smart City endeavors. In 2018, Chula Vista engaged a consultant to develop a comprehensive Citywide Telecommunications Master Plan with the goal of helping the City meet the demanding and challenging data infrastructure needs to carry out the goals of our Smart Cities vision. Similarly, in 2016, the City also conducted a fiber assessment study to evaluate the Chula Vista’s current infrastructure and review future planning initiatives.

Explore creative ways to find funding for their smart city projects. As cities across the country expand their smart cities efforts, they ultimately will be faced with the sobering reality posed by the following questions: “How much does it cost?” and “How do we pay for it?” This is especially concerning for small to mid-size cities, such as Chula Vista, with limited budgets. It is critical for cities to spend time exploring innovative and creative ways to find funding for their smart city projects. Some of the innovative approaches include, budget neutral deployments resulting from efficiency savings that are gained from deploying a new technology. Other projects, such as digital kiosks or open data programs could generate additional revenue through advertising space. In 2016, Chula Vista residents voted to make a major investment in City infrastructure by approving a ballot measure (Measure P), a temporary tax that will raise approximately $178 million over 10 years. More than $7 million of the Measure P Expenditure Plan is designated for traffic signal modernization, including the replacement of legacy telecommunications systems for police and fire.

Great things can happen through partnerships and regional collaboration. Success of smart cities efforts can only be achieved through sustained regional involvement and collaboration. The City of Chula Vista continues to work with our regional partners, including the Port of San Diego,San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), SANDAG, Caltrans, and Cleantech San Diego to identify opportunities for successful deployment of smart city technologies across our region. This includes continued regional collaboration to promote the pilot testing of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and autonomous vehicle (AV) opportunity areas in Chula Vista. The City, through collaboration with SDG&E and the Chula Vista Elementary School District, launched a Smart City Education Center at the Central Library focusing on teaching our children the importance of energy efficiency and renewable energy, by creating a fun and engaging experience for learning science, technology and engineering.

In April 2018, the City of Chula Vista, the Port District and RIDA, a private developer, successfully executed a Development Agreement for the multi-billion dollar Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan − one of the largest fully-entitled waterfront developments on the West Coast. The Chula Vista Bayfront development is one of the City’s biggest opportunities to showcase leadership in smart cities. The vision is to use the Bayfront development as a test bed where smart city applications can be deployed and then scaled up to other parts of the City to enhance sustainability, improve public safety and promote local economic development. The Bayfront project is expected to have a major regional economic impact generating approximately $1.3 billion and creating more than 2,300 jobs during construction. After completion, the project is expected to create 7,800 permanent jobs.

In conclusion, Chula Vista recognizes that its role as a Smart City is a continual work in progress—a process that we embrace and are proud to be continually refining for future generations. We are thrilled about the accomplishments and impact our smart cities efforts will have towards improving City operations and services, saving of taxpayers’ dollars, improving public safety and promoting economic development by encouraging business growth and jobs in our region.

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