LANCASTER — “This is going to change the world. It will change your world before the year is out,” Mayor R. Rex Parris said at Wednesday’s State of the City address at the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
Parris held up a squat, boxy four-sided high-resolution camera that will be installed on streetlights throughout the city beginning in the next four months.
“We now have CCTV just like London and most of Europe have, but it’s a little better than what they’ve got,” Parris said at the luncheon, held at the John P. Eliopulos Hellenic Center.
The cameras have facial recognition technology.
“It can see anyone of us and tell the Sheriff’s Department where we are and where we were,” Parris said.
Parris added it is important to decide how to use the technology.
“Who do we want the facial recognition to go into that database?” Parris said.
Parris acknowledged there are some private citizens who are concerned about such technology. But he doesn’t care about the privacy of violent felons in the city.
“I want Watson to have their faces so that we know when they come to get them. If we need to know,” Parris said, adding they monitor crimes after they occur.
Once a crime occurs in the city, the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station knows who did it, Parris said.
“But the city has to decide, is that what you want,” Parris said.
Watson is IBM Watson, the data management technology the city uses that can identify public safety trends and give real-time traffic information. A test with Antelope Valley Hospital showed where people who use the hospital, or work at the hospital, go at night.
“We told them exactly where people were at night because you leave your cellphones on,” Parris said.
The technology will not only let law enforcement know where a gun is fired in the city, but the caliber as well.
“It will distinguish between a firework and a gun,” Parris said.
Parris also touted the city’s environmental credentials. The city’s goal was to be the world’s first 100% net zero city by 2020.
“We’ve accomplished it, and it’s only 2019,” Parris said.
Through Lancaster Choice Energy, a community choice aggregation program, customers can choose their electric provider and the source of their electricity. Lancaster Choice Energy replaces electric generation services with renewable energy at more affordable rates. For example, four to six cents per kilowatt compared to 19 cents per kilowatt charged by Southern California Edison.
There are 6,032 net zero homes that are being built or will be built in the city.
“Those net zero houses, it’s not just solar that we deal with. When you have a net zero house, you don’t have an electric bill. You can’t build a house in Lancaster that will have electric bills because it’s net zero. You create the energy, you either sell it back to the grid or you store it in the house,” Parris said.
Lancaster will be the first city to employ a new technology that uses the sun’s energy to convert water vapor into hydrogen to generate energy.
“It’s incredibly efficient, has no footprint on the environment,” Parris said.
Lancaster will be the first city to use such technology because city officials can eliminate the red tape.
“In Lancaster we recognize that government has to be a partner in businesses. It cannot be an obstacle, not anymore,” Parris said.
In regard to the homeless, Parris touted Kensington Campus, the 14-acre project under development on Avenue I and 32nd Street West that is designed to house, employ and rehabilitate the local homeless population. The community will include kennels for people’s dogs and places for couples, eliminating barriers often cited for why some homeless people don’t move into shelters.
“It’s going to be the first state-of-the-art homeless facility ever built,” Parris said.
Right next to it will be a drug treatment program to help addicts kick
“We really have to start investing in giving people the opportunity to walk away from it,” Parris said.
Parris also credited Supervisor Kathryn Barger for her support.
“I’ve never seen someone work as hard for the Antelope Valley as her,” Parris said.
The city will also establish its hybrid police department using Lancaster peace officers. He noted that 42% of the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station deputies’ time is spent at Walmart.
“Much greater cooperation occurs from the citizens just by calling it peace officers,” Parris said.
Parris also addressed housing.
Parkview Village, a working name for a future development near Kaiser Permanente Antelope Valley Medical Offices on Avenue L.
“It’s going to be a whole new way of living that the Antelope Valley has never seen before,” Parris said.
The development will be designed to be safe and include schools similar to SOAR High School.
“The city’s going to work with the districts, if we can to create something like that there, or we will do it ourselves. They will be top-quality schools,” Parris said, adding surveys show people want schools downtown.