Rancho Palos Verdes City Council





Staff Coordinator: Nicole Jules, Sr. Engineer


  1. Receive information regarding radar photo-enforcement for automated speed control.
  2. Approve the installation of speed humps along Via Rivera between Rue de la Pierre and Via Del Mar in accordance with the City’s Traffic Calming Program.
  3. Authorize the expenditure of up to $40,000 for the final engineering and construction of speed humps, signs and pavement markings along Via Rivera.
  4. Adopt Resolution 2002- , A Resolution of the City Council of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes Amending Resolution 2002-45. The Budget Resolution for Fiscal Year 2002-03, for a budget adjustment to the City’s Gas Tax Fund.


At the September 17, 2002 Council meeting, staff recommended the installation of speed humps along Via Rivera in an effort to reduce vehicle speeds. The City Council requested staff to explore the use of cameras for speed enforcement and consider the legal complications, practicality and costs involved.


Photo Radar Technology

Photo Radar is used as a tool to enforce speed limits established pursuant to an engineering and traffic survey. It is a technology that combines a radar speed detection system with a high-speed camera and microprocessor. This entire system is typically mounted inside of a vehicle manned and operated by a law enforcement employee.

The system automatically photographs vehicles exceeding a pre-selected speed threshold. The resulting photograph shows the front of the vehicle, including the license plate, and the front-seat occupants. The date, time, location and speed of the vehicle are also recorded and superimposed onto the photograph.

A citation is issued and mailed to the registered owner, generally within 3 to 5 working days, along with instructions on how the violator is to dispose of the matter.

In the United States, photo radar system is implemented on a public private partnership basis. The designers of the equipment provide a turnkey-system with minimal involvement by the local agency. The vendor handles all development and processing of photographs, license plate matching with DMV records, and mailing of citations to registered owners.

Photo Radar Uses

Photo radar has been used in California by a number of municipalities. The most successful agency to utilize photo radar is the City of San Jose, CA who initiated the Neighborhood Automated Speed Compliance Program (NASCOP) in 1995. NASCOP is a photo radar system used solely on residential streets that have been identified as having severe speeding problems. NASCOP started off as a pilot program and due to its success, evolved into a full-time speed compliance program in 1998. This system is a van staffed by a civilian employee to operate the camera and act as a witness. Violation notices are mailed to registered owners to comply or contest the violation. City of San Jose has identified a 15% reduction in drivers exceeding the speed limit by 10 or more miles per hour. NASCOP is funded entirely from the City’s General Fund. The start-up costs were $85,000 for the van and surveillance system. Annual operating costs are approximately $145,000 for administrative, supplies and clerical costs. The vendor spends approximately $69,000 annually for processing the violation notices. A sample brochure of the NASCOP system is attached.

The City of Pasadena, Culver City, and Oakland all attempted to use photo-radar but were unsuccessful due to improper use that conflicted with the California Vehicle Code.

The City of Pasadena, CA used photo radar in the 1980’s but discontinued it’s use in 1992 because their photo radar enforcement was inconsistent with the vehicle code, claims of invasion of privacy, and difficulty with validation of offenders. The photo radar system that Pasadena used in the 1980’s was a fixed camera system that automatically generated tickets without trained law enforcement personnel manning the system. An example of a fixed photo radar system is attached. Eric Chen, the Director of Transportation for the City of Pasadena, stated the City of Pasadena is looking into emulating the San Jose NASCOP system in the near future.

Legal Implication

Current California legislation presents legal ambiguity associated with photo radar. The vehicle code addresses red light photo enforcement specifically, but not photo radar for speeding violations. Issuance of speeding violation citations by an unmanned photo radar system conflicts with CVC section 22350, Basic Speed Law, which provides that a violation occurs only when the motorist’s speed exceeds that which is safe and reasonable for the location and under the conditions prevailing at the time. An unmanned photo radar system eliminates the contemporaneous stopping of the vehicle by an officer and the officer’s exercise of judgment concerning a perceived unsafe condition. Additionally, under CVC section 40504, a motorist cannot be compelled to appear in court for a moving violation unless a signed promise to appear is secured or the court issues an arrest warrant. An automatic issuance of a citation does not secure a signature of the violator.

Photo Radar Effectiveness

According to a 1995 study conducted by the Automobile Association of America (AAA), "there has been no conclusive evidence presented that shows photo radar to have been effective at reducing speeds. Its effectiveness at reducing speeds has been shown to be no greater than a speed display board and far less cost effective".

As seen in the attached AAA policy on speed control, AAA opposes the use of photo

radar surveillance systems.

Speed Display Boards

As an alternative to photo radar, speed display boards have proven to be a viable tool in automated speed control devices. The speed display board employs radar to detect speeding vehicles but rely little on speed limit enforcement. As vehicles approach the speed display board, their speeds are detected by radar and displayed on the board as the vehicle passes. The permanent speed display board is typically mounted securely on an existing streetlight standard.

The speed display board device costs approximately $7,400 per display board. This includes installation. Maintenance costs are nominal. Currently, the City of Garden Grove has installed 40 speed display boards in their City. Attached is a sample of a speed display device.

In 1998, the Automobile Club of Southern California conducted a study that compared the speed reduction effects of photo radar and speed display boards and concluded that both devices significantly reduced the number of vehicles traveling ten or more miles above the posted speed limit. Particularly, the study concluded that the speed display board was the most cost-effective device of the two.

Similarly, in 1996, the City of San Jose conducted a study that compared the speed reduction effects of speed radar and speed humps and concluded "speed humps have been shown to slow traffic considerably more than photo-radar in an isolated situation. However, photo-radar has been shown to have a greater system-wide effect because psychologically, the individual that receives a citation will typically drive more carefully on every street, not just on the street where the photo radar is deployed.

The following table summarizes the costs of speed humps, photo radar and a speed display board.


Cost Comparison


Speed Humps

Photo Radar

Speed Display Board


High (isolated)

High (system-wide)

medium (isolated)

Start up Cost




Annual Costs




To date, information comparing the effectiveness of all three devices is not available.


Although photo radar can be a useful tool for automated motor-vehicle speed control, the cost to implement and operate the system outweighs the benefit and does not generate substantial income. Additionally, language in the California Vehicle Code does not support a fixed photo radar enforcement system.

Speed humps are the preferred method for traffic calming. When constructed correctly, they have been shown to slow traffic considerably more than photo-radar. Additionally, speed humps are economically more feasible than photo radar. The cost to maintain the photo radar system is considerably more expensive. The Speed display board is economically more feasible than both speed humps and photo radar. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of the speed display board is diminished when not used in conjunction with police enforcement.

Therefore, Staff recommends approving speed humps as a feasible traffic-calming device for Via Rivera.


An alternative is to consider fixed speed display boards as a viable and feasible speed control device and authorize staff to install two speed display boards, one in each direction on Via Rivera at a location to be determined by the City’s Traffic Engineering consultant.


This report has been coordinated with the Lomita Sheriff’s Department and the City Attorney’s office.


Supplemental police enforcement improves the effectiveness of any traffic calming practice and adds to the cost of the program. On Via Rivera, enforcement was increased and in the last 10 months, 16 citations were issued.


If Staff’s recommendation to install speed humps as a viable traffic calming measure for Via Rivera is approved, the estimated total cost to install the speed humps is $40,000.

Installation of speed humps


Installation of signs & pavement markings


Final engineering, inspection & Administration




Funding for this project was included in the adopted FY 2001-02 Budget; however, it was not carried over as continuing appropriations. Therefore, an adjustment to the budget is required. The FY2002-03 projected ending Gas Tax Fund balance is $91,847.

Respectfully Submitted,

Dean E. Allison

Director of Public Works



Les Evans

City Manager



NASCOP Brochure

Fixed-Site Photo Radar Camera

AAA Policy Speed Control

Speed Display Board Brochure

Resolution 2002-xx

9/17/02 City Council Staff Report

8/26/02 Traffic Committee meeting minutes

Notification List

Notification Map