City Council approves homeowner rebates for Ring video doorbells, weighs merits of new energy program

La Cañada residents interested in potentially staving off home break-ins by installing a video-doorbell answering system may now do so more affordably, after the City Council on Tuesday approved a joint rebate program with Ring.com.

The city will offer a $50-per-household subsidy, to be matched by the Santa Monica-based company for a total $100 rebate for La Cañada customers who purchase a unit through the company’s website using a special promotional code.

The contract between the city and Ring will last for 120 days or until the $5,000 the City Council designated for the program runs out. After that, the council will decide whether to continue the program by dedicating more funds toward the effort.

In an interview Thursday, city staffer Christina Nguyen said La Cañada officials had yet to sign an agreement with Ring, which would mark the start of the promotional offer.

Nguyen recommends residents call City Hall at (818) 790-8880 to confirm when the rebate program is scheduled to start.

Once the program begins, residents can email lacanada@ring.com and provide their shipping address. In return, they are assigned a unique one-time promotional code that takes $100 off the total cost of a unit purchased online. The company will also offer another $30 discount for additional cameras and doorbell units purchased and a 20% discount on accessories listed on its website, both applied at checkout.

The technology allows homeowners to see on their cellphones, by means of a video installed at a door or strategic location, anyone who rings the doorbell or triggers the camera. They can also talk to that person remotely through their smart device.

Recent versions of the software allow users to post videos of potential suspects on social media sites, share information on crimes or warn neighbors of suspicious activities. In a Feb. 13 meeting of the city Public Safety Commission, Sgt. John Gaw of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s Advanced Surveillance and Protection Unit said the systems are effective at scaring off most would-be burglars.

On Tuesday, Councilman Greg Brown said he has a unit at his home and was notified earlier in the meeting someone was at his own front door.

“I could have pressed a button and talked to them. They don’t know whether you’re home or across the country — it’s pretty amazing technology,” he said.

City weighs benefits of buying, selling its own electricity

Also Tuesday, the council discussed the possibility of entering a Community Choice Aggregation program that would allow local governments to purchase and sell electricity to residents instead of relying on traditional investor-owned utility procurement, such as Southern California Edison.

Carl Alameda, the city’s director of administrative services, explained there are currently two different CCA programs La Cañada could join. The county’s Los Angeles Community Choice Energy program would create a joint powers authority for member cities that would be governed by a board of directors comprising one representative from each city. Municipalities must decide whether to enroll by a Dec. 27 opt-in deadline for inclusion in the program that would begin in January 2018. The cities of South Pasadena, Alhambra, Sierra Madre, Calabasas and Rolling Hills have signed up to be members.

The city of Lancaster Choice Energy CCA program model would let La Cañada contract as an associate member under the city and fellow original member city San Jacinto, also under a joint powers authority, with the Lancaster City Council acting as board of directors. The city of Pico Rivera has joined this program.

Both models would let members operate on one of three “tiers” based on how much green-sourced energy they’d want to use — the first equivocates the 28% currently used by Edison, while the second provides 50% green energy and the third 100% — with increasing costs for higher tiers.

Alameda clarified that even if the city opts in, Edison would continue to provide transmission and distribution services, power line maintenance and customer billing. Benefits include potential rate savings of about 5.4% starting out, reduction in the use of nonrenewable power and access to fully renewable energy.

But the cost savings could be canceled out as Edison’s own energy contracts become cheaper in time, or as L.A. County turns to member agencies to pay back a $10-million loan the county Board of Supervisors offered to start the program. A future vote by the California Public Utilities Commission could also seek to impose fines or increases for CCA cities whose withdrawal from Edison’s customer base would constitute a financial loss to be picked up by cities who remain SCE customers.

“It’s not fair, in Edison’s view, to distribute that to customers that decide to stay in,” Alameda said.

Another concern is that joining a CCA would add a layer of administration to an already complicated accountability structure and “muddy the waters” in residents’ minds about the city’s perceived responsibility for supplying power, Alameda said. Also, Edison could deprioritize its investment in the infrastructure of cities who withdrew to join a CCA.

Council members decided more discussion was needed, and expressed an interest in hearing from Edison representatives and CCA organizers and member cities.

City Manager Mark Alexander said he’d determine whether opting in by the Dec. 27 deadline would bring any significant benefits to the city and schedule a study session at a later date.

sara.cardine@latimes.com

Twitter: @SaraCardine


UPDATES:

3:38 p.m.: This article was updated with information regarding the timeline of the Ring.com rebate.

This article was originally published at 5:25 p.m. on Oct. 18.

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