City Council Examines Pressuring SCE for More Upgrades

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A pair of consultants encouraged the city of La Cañada Flintridge to pressure Southern California Edison to focus on improving the worst five of their 24 citywide circuits — including one that SCE already is in the process of removing — in order to maintain reliable service.
SCE spokesman Adrian Garcia told the City Council at its meeting Tuesday that the agency is currently doing such monitoring, but that it would review the report compiled by independent consultant PMCM and “take those recommendations into account.”
The City Council decided earlier this year to invest $27,700 to bring on the consulting firm to evaluate the status of SCE’s infrastructure to help council members and staff understand causes of recurring outages in LCF over the past several years.
On Tuesday, PMCM principals Bina Vatanpour and Reggie Wright presented their analysis of 2,372 outages since 2006 and offered the following observations:
• “Sharon Substation top priority for elimination because of age or equipment and lack of contingency.”
• “Pickens and Hillard circuits have numerous outages due to underground cable failures.”
• “Eliminate Oil circuit breakers because of reliability and age.”
The consultants acknowledged that SCE already is addressing the Sharon substation issue, and they were unsure how many oil circuit breakers are being used in LCF, among other details, because SCE was limited on the data it shared for privacy and proprietary reasons.
Vatanpour also presented council members with a graph that indicated LCF has experienced more outages than SCE customers did systemwide since 2012, and, more locally, than the rest of the Monrovia District had. That was according to the system average interruption duration index, commonly used as a reliability indicator by electric power utilities.
The consultants couldn’t, however, specify why there were spikes in the index, which showed LCF alternating between having many more outages than other areas in 2014 and 2016 and significantly fewer in 2013 and 2015.
“In terms of the recommendations, we don’t even know the numbers of some of these things,” Councilman Greg Brown said. “It’s important to put a cost number on this. If it’s somewhere in the millions to 10s of millions of dollars, even 100s of millions … obviously we’re not going to call Edison up and [demand that]. So we need to frame a strategy.
“Some of this data is very good: We are in worse shape than your average consumer, so [SCE] needs to make some investment here. They’re already fixing Sharon, our top priority, so what’s our realistic expectation? I’m sure every city in the county would like to have their equipment replaced, and we’re not going to get that.”
Said Wright: “If I were in your shoes … go circuit by circuit and get them to focus the right resources. I think they’re willing to improve the numbers, but it’s more giving them the proper direction of where to focus their money.”
Councilman Jonathan Curtis noted that electrical service in LCF has improved in the past year, and that he appreciated SCE’s ongoing local upgrades, including efforts to update all of the 4 kilovolt distribution lines to 16kV. He also said he found the information in the report “helpful and useful to us on council and to staff to help us understand a little more, so we can have intelligent conversations.”

PLANNING ANALYSIS

After some back and forth about the best way to do it, the council and city staff decided to revisit how to analyze planning case processing timelines.
Robert Stanley, LCF’s community development director, produced data during a discussion at Tuesday’s meeting that indicated the city’s overall average case processing time of, say, 2.8 to 4.7 months in 2016, was not much different than similar cities such as Arcadia, Burbank and Calabasas.
In some cases, Stanley said, LCF’s processing time was shorter. For example, he said Claremont, Malibu, Newport Beach and Rancho Palos Verdes all reported processing times of one year or more for large new homes, longer than it takes in LCF.
Brown suggested that averaging all of LCF’s cases together did not provide sufficiently specific data to respond to complaints from local residents and builders who claim the process in LCF is taking prohibitively long.
Eventually, council members agreed with City Manager Mark Alexander’s suggestion that Brown and Stanley and some others “hash through some different approaches, what the Council would like to see, what would be helpful from a staff perspective, what’s doable and come to a consensus on an approach and come back to Council.”
The analysis stemmed from another discussion in July, when the City Council OK’d an agreement to expedite planning consultant services, hiring Willdan Engineering to help. Prior to approval, council members asked staff to investigate local case processing times and report back.

PROJECTS AROUND TOWN

• Stanley alerted council members that after Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy presented its specific plan to the Planning Commission earlier this month, it is due to return to the Oct. 26 meeting with a few minor modifications to the proposal.
• Stanley also reported that Flintridge Prep will appear at the Oct. 10 Planning Commission meeting, where it will present changes to its campus improvement plans, which received much feedback, including criticism, during its last visit over the summer.
• Also, Stanley said he is expecting a submission soon from the Oakmont Senior Living facility that’s slated to be built at Foothill Boulevard and Woodleigh Lane, a project that also will have to be vetted by the Planning Commission as part of its approval process.
• The city is expected to hold a public workshop soon on a forthcoming project involving curb and gutter work intended to improve traffic flow around Paradise Canyon Elementary School in the area of Gould Avenue and Knight Way.

HIKE WITH MIKE

The second annual “Hike With the Mayor” event is scheduled on Saturday, Oct. 14. Its start time is yet to be determined, but the two-mile trek — led by Mayor Michael Davitt — is expected to start and end at St. Bede the Venerable Church. More details are forthcoming.

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