David Graham

Competing at the 2016 World Food Championship in Orange Beach, Alabama, with his yummy Yucatan achiote pork tenderloin sliders.

David Graham
Deputy Chief Operating Officer
Neighborhood Services
City of San Diego, California


After decades of underinvestment, San Diego’s street lights were acutely outdated and inefficient. The city (pop. 1.4 million) wanted replacements that maximized performance, energy efficiency, and financial savings.


It decided to pilot an upgrade of 3,000 street lights, each fitted with a meter connected through a cellular network so, among other features, new LEDs can be dimmed or brightened as needed. The result was a 60% savings on energy bills, or $250,000 a year.

Even more dramatically, the wireless mesh network allows the street lights to gather information and “talk back” to the city: A second pilot deployed 40-50 enhanced sensors (optic, auditory, and environmental) downtown that showed the public all available parking in real time and alerted enforcement to parking violations, thus turning over parking spaces faster.

To engage the public and solicit suggestions about the second pilot, the city held a street light block party downtown that showcased a huge mural (done by a social media artist) which asked citizens: “What do you think an intelligent city can be?” About 300 turned out, many writing on the mural their ideas on ways to use enhanced sensors (eg, providing the safest route to walk to school).

Based on this second pilot, the city is now doing a $30 million upgrade to its street lights (financed by GE Current) in which 14,000 street lights will be converted to LEDs with wireless adaptive controls, and up to 6,000 will have enhanced sensors with 100% deployment in the city’s underserved neighborhoods. Savings: $2.4 million a year on utilities alone.

David’s Background

Born Van Nuys, CA; grew up outside in the outskirts of LA County where he played in the desert and got into public speaking contests with the Lions Club. Bachelor’s in communication from Point Loma Nazarene University, San Diego (’01) where he was captain of the debate team and ran the school radio station (PointRadio/KPLR). Married with 20-month-old son and another child on the way in January; also has two stepchildren, a boy and girl (14 and 15).

David’s Job

Oversees several city departments including libraries, parks & recreation, development services, economic development, planning, and the arts and culture commission.

Startling Fact

Made his first omelet at age 6 and is a member of a pizza club that’s on a quest to find the perfect pizza. Won regionals for Game Day Chef competition last year and got to compete at the World Food Championships. Goal: to make the perfect Santa Maria-style tri-tip sandwich just like his grandfather used to make.

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