Unsupported Browser

We've detected an older browser version that will not give you the best experience while using The Atlas. Please consider revisitng this site after downloading one of the alternatives below.

Facilitating Community Engagement for Smart City Growth in Pismo Beach, CA

Pismo Beach, CA, USA
Nutter Consulting

Government Champion

Office of the City Manager


Zero upfront cost to local government
25 Thousand USD

Project Status

Operational since 2018

At a Glance

The City of Pismo Beach created an actionable roadmap to define opportunities and priorities for technology and data projects. The five recommended projects will improve community engagement, transportation, and water management to better serve the residents and visitors of Pismo Beach.

Problem Addressed

Named the "#2 Coastal Small Town" by USA Today in 2018, Pismo Beach is a popular beach destination along the California coast with 8,000 residents. The city thrives on tourism; however, the overwhelming population swells of up to 50,000 people during busy summer weekends have impacted the community.

Under California's drought conditions, these significant population peaks presented issues with the City's waning water supply, pushing the city to prioritize securing future water supply and maximizing water conservation efforts. In response, Pismo Beach created goals that address conservation, inefficient infrastructure, and education on individual water use.

To address these challenges, the City sought a way to maintain its “classic California” feel while addressing the related problems of congestion and sustainability, using data and technology to modernize services for both residents and seasonal visitors.

The City of Pismo Beach used/is using the Better Cities Today Opportunities Assessment to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

To reach water conservation goals while managing congestion during busy season, the city looked for a strategic plan that met all of their goals.

In collaboration with Nutter Consulting, the city implemented the Unlock Process™, a three-phrase process used to understand existing city priorities and engage both staff and stakeholders to create an actionable plan based on community needs.

The initial phase of the project was aimed at unlocking the city’s key priorities through a review of 13 city goal-setting documents, a survey of 29 city staff, and 9 stakeholder interviews. This review provided insight into the city's vision, key challenges, the current staff capacity, and recognized opportunities to utilize technology and data effectively.

The final smart cities roadmap serves as an implementation guide for five key technology projects to improve community engagement, transportation, and water conservation.

Under community engagement, the Roadmap identifies improvements to the City website, including informational tools, e-services, transparency, and engagement features that can increase the effectiveness of the City's communications and services. In the downtown area, recommended strategies to reduce congestion and increase revenue include a dynamic pricing model for the smart parking meters and digital signage for accessibility in the Pomeroy Promenade. Additionally, dynamic messaging through digital signage on CA-101 freeway could create an opportunity to divert unnecessary traffic during peak congestion. To increase water conservation and reduce water loss, smart water meters can be installed to quickly detect leaks and show consumers real-time water use.


  1. Created an implementation roadmap for 5 key technology/data projects to address city challenges that included specific solutions, a timeline, budget, and key considerations
  2. Identified dynamic pricing for smart parking meters to help traffic flow and earn more revenue during the busy summer season
  3. Increased ability to quickly recognize leaks and show consumers real-time water usage
  4. Engaged the city team and community leaders to match recommendations specifically to the needs of the Pismo community after extensive community outreach
  5. Recommended an improved city website used to more effectively communicate and engage with the Pismo Beach community

Something Unique

Through this effort, the City now has a defined smart city roadmap with key project milestones and vetted technology providers to support the City through the procurement and implementation. These recommendations aim to improve sustainability, resilience, bottom line, quality of life and visitor experience.

Who Should Consider?

Small and medium-size cities that want to develop an actionable smart cities strategy based on community needs and staff capacity.

Related Local Gov Case Studies

Browse our full case study database

or read more case studies tagged with

Looking for more?