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What is GIS?

GIS stands for Geographic Information System. A GIS is a computerized system for managing large amounts of information that is geographically referenced (related to a geographic location). A GIS integrates hardware, software, geographic data, database tables, and personnel to efficiently capture, store, update, manipulate, analyze, and display all forms of geographically referenced information.


What can GIS do?

A GIS can support many areas of work with virtually unlimited information compatibility. Besides using GIS to create maps of Santa Monica, our GIS is used as a tool to support decision making in areas such as planning, design, maintenance, repair, and emergency response. It allows City staff to work faster with increased efficiency and accuracy while providing improved decision making capability. The open architecture of our GIS allows import from and export to most CAD, database, spreadsheet, and word processor applications, as well as electronic image and scanned document support.


Is GIS a CAD or database package?

GIS is neither a CAD (Computer Aided Design) nor a database package. GIS is a hybrid system specifically developed to integrate vast quantities of diversely formatted data, efficiently handle data maintenance, allow extreme latitude for combing information to support application specific queries, provide a wide variety of user interfaces, and display information in a graphical or tabular manner. Information is typically geographically referenced, or tied to specific spatial coordinates like latitude and longitude.


Is GIS related to GPS?

GPS stands for Global Positioning System. A GPS consists of three parts: the 24 satellites orbiting the Earth, a portable receiver that you carry, and the control center that is responsible for maintaining the satellites. A GPS receiver uses the satellites to collect position data on Earth (like latitude and longitude coordinates). You can output the data from the GPS to a file which then can be imported into a GIS. Once in the GIS, the data can be mapped to show the position of data. GIS uses GPS data to locate objects and collect information. The City of Santa Monica uses GPS to locate objects such as street lights, signs, curbs, bus stops, etc., and brings that information into the GIS for analysis and mapping.


What is required to use GIS?

System requirements are broadly based on the application. Low level users may be satisfied with predefined queries in the internet browser environment. Higher level users, such as our City staff, require computer workstations running high end GIS software. The City of Santa Monica uses GIS software produced by ESRI ( )


How long has Santa Monica been using GIS?

The City of Santa Monica has been using GIS since 1989. The full potential of GIS was not recognized until January 17, 1994 after the Northridge earthquake. Our GIS was used to map the location of damaged buildings and sewer lines. It was also used for emergency response and planning. Most of the advancements in our GIS have been made in the last 5 years. Almost every department in the City is now using GIS for planning and decision making.


How do I get a map from the City?

We have many maps on our GIS web site for you to download. See our map catalog . If you cannot find the map you are looking for in our map catalog, please contact us . Let us know who you are, what map you are looking for, and why you need the map. 


Can I get GIS data from the City?

Yes you can, if you are a government entity or a consultant doing work for the City. You must request the data by sending a letter of request to:

    Information Systems Department
    1685 Main Street, Room 105
    Santa Monica, CA 90401


Make sure to state who you are, what data you want, and why you need the data. All GIS data requests are subject to approval. If your request is approved, you will be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement with the City of Santa Monica.


How current or accurate is the GIS data?

Most of our GIS data sets are updated on an annual basis. The accuracy of the data depends on the source material that the data was collected from and how it was entered into the GIS.

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