The West Hollywood City Council last night approved a pilot program that calls for testing security cameras at four locations in the city.
The approval came with criticism from Mayor John Heilman and council members John D’Amico and Lindsey Horvath about the length of time it has taken City Hall to begin installing such cameras. Heilman also objected to the fact that these installations, for a period of nine months, are only a test.
“I would like us to stop studying and just do it,” Heilman said.
A memo to the City Council from West Hollywood’s Economic Development and Public Safety departments describes the two-and-a-half year process for launching a test of possible cameras.
The City Council voted in December 2015 to direct the city’s Public Safety Commission and the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station to study the possibility of installing video systems in public areas. The Public Safety Commission established a subcommittee to study the feasibility of such a program, its possible cost and where such cameras should be installed. In September 2016, the City Council authorized the city’s Public Safety Department to request proposals from contractors who would evaluate the capabilities and costs for cameras in public places and design such a program. Two months later, the Public Safety Department reached out to seek such proposals, with a deadline of Jan. 5, 2017. It received 13 responses and narrowed the list to two qualified applicants, who it later decided were not satisfactory.
Six months later, in June 2017, the project was transferred from the Public Safety Department to the city’s Innovation Division, which was working on a plan to “weave technology into the city’s infrastructure. ” The Innovation Division researched possibilities, which included interview public safety officials in Beverly Hills, Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and the federal Department of Homeland Security. Last month the City Council approved the proposed “Smart City Strategic Plan” and asked that the division come back in 30 days with a proposal for the test project.
A document from the Innovation Division says that City Hall plans to release the requests for proposals immediately with a deadline of April 24 for submission. It will screen them and select four firms in the middle of May and sign contracts in June, with the goal of having the rest cameras up in July.
The test cameras will be installed on Santa Monica Boulevard at the intersections with Robertson, San Vicente and La Cienega boulevards and La Brea Avenue. City Manager Paul Arevalo responded to the questions about the need for a test by saying that while there are standard cameras available, ” there are liability and logistics issues regarding maintenance” and the city is seeking “a model that provides us flexibility.”
Among the factors it will consider in making a final choice are ease of installation and maintenance, the projected cost for expanding the camera network to other parts of the city, the quality and reliability of the video feed, its accessibility by West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station and its effectiveness in fighting crime and increasing public safety. The test program is expected to cost $40,000.
“There better be some cameras up by July 1 or otherwise I’ll be angry,” said Councilmember Horvath before joining Mayor Heilman and council members D’Amico, Horvath and Lauren Meister in voting for the proposal. City Councilmember John Duran was absent.