Southern California Edison representatives promised the utility will take the necessary steps to improve reliability in the city, particularly along the Ravine Circuit that delivers electricity to 1,337 customers in east La Cañada Flintridge.
Ken Bodenhoefer — the manager of the Monrovia District, which serves 23 cities between La Crescenta and Covina — was responding to complaints from LCF city officials.
City leaders shared residents’ frustrations following three extended power outages last month, including one on the Friday before Labor Day weekend that left 232 customers — including several businesses — without power from 5:23 a.m. until 11:08 p.m.
Bodenhoefer told council members that he has secured funding to replace 9,000 feet of underground cable on the circuit, which serves customers along Foothill Boulevard, from Commonwealth Avenue to Angeles Crest Highway. He said plans were to be drawn up by the end of the week and that he expected the work could be completed by the end of the year.
He also told them a second phase early next year could introduce branch fusing to the neighborhoods associated with the Ravine Circuit, “so if something happens in a neighborhood, it doesn’t take down the entire circuit.”
The first part of the project, Bodenhoefer said, would require some inconvenience to customers, though SCE would strive to do the bulk of the work replacing those underground cables at night. The second phase, he said, wouldn’t cause as much disruption because it would be primarily overhead work.
Mayor Jonathan Curtis commended Bodenhoefer on the plans, calling them “some wonderful work in a short amount of time.” But Curtis also advocated for the city to consider hiring a consultant to monitor SCE’s work going forward.
Bodenhoefer said he would be fine with that, but “personally, I would hate to see you guys spend the money.”
Council members disagreed and directed City Manager Mark Alexander to look into hiring a consultant.
“It’s something we have to do,” Councilwoman Terry Walker told Bodenhoefer. “Our citizens are crying out for us to do something. No disrespect to Southern California Edison, we’ve had the conversations, and the reassurances sound wonderful, but I think we need to educate ourselves to the point that we can look at our citizens and feel confident that we know that what you’re doing is what we need to have happen in this town.
“We need somebody independent to do that for us, to educate the staff and the council, so we can educate the public and let them know, ‘Hey, they’re doing all the things right,’ or if we think you’re not, then we have some expertise to base our conversations with you on.
“I think it’s money very well spent.”
Before Bodenhoefer put forward his plans, council members considered some other potential actions. Among them: authorizing Alexander to approach neighboring cities that operate municipal power departments to determine the feasibility of them taking over electrical utility service in LCF.
Other options included exploring legislative measures with state and California Public Utility Commission representatives to establish reliability standards, as well as meeting in closed session with the city attorney to explore what legal causes of action the city might have.
Bodenhoefer sought to remind council members that, according to SCE’s reliability reports, LCF experiences fewer outages than the average in the utility’s coverage area.
“That doesn’t make the outages that you’ve experienced acceptable, not at all. There’s still more work to be done,” he said, adding that SCE is in the process of replacing older electrical poles in the city with new ones, which are stronger and safer but, to some residents’ dismay, larger.
“You can’t make everybody happy all the time,” Councilman Dave Spence said. “You either have electricity and your refrigerator and your air conditioning runs, or we have a problem. I think people sort of pick this up after a while.”
Walker told city staff that she’d heard recently from a contractor who volunteered to lend his expertise to suggest ways the city could make the medians more drought-tolerant. She wondered, “Does the city have a long-range plan to gradually turn over the medians to more drought-resistant planting?”
Alexander told her the plan currently is to continue with the status quo, which includes using recycled water to irrigate the medians. Gov. Jerry Brown eased some water usage restrictions in May, but the ban on watering grass in public street medians remained.
“When the drought restrictions were put in place, we didn’t know what the long-term effects were going to be, so we looked at alternatives for maintaining what we have there,” said Alexander, who suggested that members of the Design Commission could weigh in if the council members decided to consider replacing the grass and ornamental vegetation currently in place.
Curtis suggested such a project also would need input from others, such as members of the Public Works Department and local businesses, and asked Walker whether she could work on the idea with Alexander and Edward Hitti, the city’s director of public works.
With a nod, Walker said, “I can do that.”
HIKE WITH THE MAYOR
Curtis plans to take a hike on Saturday, Oct. 22, and the public is invited to join him at 9:30 a.m. at Hampstead Trailhead, located at 4171 Cherry Canyon Motorway. The trek will be to celebrate 30 years of open space at Cherry Canyon, and it will feature refreshments and a seed bomb throw.
For information, contact Greg Kwolek at (818) 790-8882 or firstname.lastname@example.org.