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California City Solutions: San Leandro Becomes A Destination for Innovation with Super-Fast Fiber Optic Network

April 25, 2014
This story is part of an ongoing series featuring Helen Putnam Award entries. These entries are also now available on the League’s website as a resource for cities in a searchable database called California City Solutions. Lit San Leandro was submitted in 2013 for the Community Services and Economic Development award category.
A unique public-private partnership was born in October 2011 when the San Leandro City Council unanimously approved an 18-mile fiber optic network designed to enable data transference of up to 10 gigabits per second — more than 2,000 times faster than the average U.S. connection.
The project, Lit San Leandro, has 11.5 miles of the fiber optic network already in place, with an additional 7.5 miles projected to be built and funded by a U.S. Economic Department Administration grant.
For much of the city’s history, a large majority of San Leandro’s businesses related to manufacturing, including national companies Caterpillar and Peterbuilt. By the 1970s these businesses began to downsize and leave the Bay Area in search of low labor costs, cheap raw material, minimal regulation, low cost land and tax breaks. This left several well-located, relatively affordable but underused properties. Most of these industrial buildings lack the broadband infrastructure required to house the types of innovative technology companies that have created the phenomenal economic growth and jobs in the Silicon Valley and San Francisco.
A local software company owner who was considering relocating his company in 2010 to acquire the fast fiber optic connectivity needed to maintain his business approached the city. OSIsoft LLC moves millions of bytes of data around the world from its headquarters in San Leandro and employs more than 300 employees. The relocation of OSIsoft LLC would have been a huge loss of employment opportunities within the city.
Dr. Kennedy, OSloft’s owner and CEO, knew that the city had miles of conduit under city streets that contained fiber optic cables used to run the city’s traffic control system and provide connectivity between city facilities. He proposed building a fiber optic loop, using fiber cables provided by his other business, San Leandro Dark Fiber LLC, at no cost to the city. Through this public-private partnership, which created Lit San Leandro, San Leandro Dark Fiber LLC would pull the fiber through the city’s conduit at its own expense in return for leasing the conduit, and the city would get 30 strands of fiber to use however it wanted.
The fiber optic ring provides the fast connection and also innovation, which enabled San Leandro to look at itself differently. The city council’s approval of Lit San Leandro called for creating a new chief innovation officer position to develop and pursue new revenue-generating business relationships with targeted firms, identify and secure additional business opportunities among existing clients, and foster relationships with both.
Lit San Leandro provides an essential element of a communications infrastructure that is critical to businesses of any size. Approximately 100 businesses of a variety of sizes are connected to Lit San Leandro, with roughly 400 connected to the wireless network.
These developments include:
  • The Bayfair Shopping Center, featuring retailers including Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Kohl's, Macy's, Old Navy and a 16-screen state of the art Century Theatre;
  • The Oakland Airport;
  • The San Leandro Marina development (planned for 2017);
  • Type A Machines, a company that develops desktop 3D printing machines for professionals in fields such as engineering, architecture and design; and
  • The Gate, an industrial space turned into an innovative hub of startups, artist studios and manufacturers.
San Leandro’s new Chief Innovation Officer Deborah Acosta describes how Lit San Leandro has changed the city for the better. “The fiber optic loop is not just a great infrastructure tool, its inspiring innovation and connections.”

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