Fiery DWP Meeting at Marquez


Councilman Mike Bonin had the right idea: Host a community meeting at Marquez Elementary on March 14 so that LADWP officials and residents could address the contentious issue of where to locate two “temporary” poletower distribution (PTD) stations in western Pacific Palisades. Unfortunately, the meeting was punctuated with angry hoots, residents trying to talk over other speakers or out of turn, and applause, even after a DWP representative asked people not to clap so that all would have time to speak.

DWP presented its electrical conundrum to the Community Council in January, emphasizing that the neighborhoods west of El Medio need a new substation (similar to the one located at Sunset and Via de la Paz), but that the DWP is still seeking a workable new location—i.e., one that will somehow withstand the inevitable lawsuits.

As an interim solution, the DWP revealed two desired locations for 65-ft. PTD stations, but Bonin’s office was flooded with calls from people who didn’t want those poles in their immediate neighborhood (on El Medio at Sunset and on Marquez Avenue near Marquez Elementary).

This led to the March 14 meeting, at which Bonin told the audience: “One thing is certain. We have a problem with power failure in Pacific Palisades. There is no consensus on a permanent solution. Unless we have a stopgap

measure, we’ll have serious problems this summer with brownouts and blackouts.”

DWP’s Bill Herriot explained that since 2009, three circuits (29-03, 29-06 and 29-05) have been overloaded. “The existing circuits cannot meet current demands,” he said. “The limited circuits available causes longer outages.”

Until a substation can be built, the PTD stations will act much like an extension cord does in a home.

One audience member asked, “Why don’t you look someplace else than the Marquez area?”

The man was told that if he had a problem with a light fixture in his home, he wouldn’t hire an electrician to go to his neighbor’s home and fix it. In other words, the electrical demands need are within the Marquez area.

Herriot also explained that the DWP had received calls from Palisades residents worried about the danger of EMF (electromagnetic frequency) from power lines. “The greatest exposure is from the use of everyday appliances,” he said, pointing out that the current overhead line at Marquez emits from 4 to 11 mG, that a coffee maker emits 12 mG, a hair dryer 33mG and a microwave 100 mG.

The DWP’s preferable choices are Marquez Avenue in front of its empty lot below the large schoolyard and on El Medio south of Sunset, just above the high school parking lot. The reasons are the location to the existing underground vaults and less disruption of traffic (installation would take about three weeks). The Marquez site would only involve one pole, alternate sites would involve two poles. DWP officials reiterated that the PTD poles would come down once a new substation is completed.

They were asked why the poles couldn’t go in commercial areas rather than near schools or residences. “There aren’t a lot of commercial areas in the Palisades; it’s mostly residences,” was the response. Another resident asked why this project couldn’t go underground. Well, first of all the station would have to be the width of the street, with ventilation vents on the sidewalks and water pumps working nonstop to keep the water out of the electrical area. Additionally, gas, water and sewer lines are already underground and they would have to be dealt with—and the DWP doesn’t have a company that could build one. DWP reps addressed earthquakes (never had an incident—two poles were near the epicenter of the Northridge earthquake), nuclear attacks and mylar balloons (an issue because they can damage the lines in front of one’s home).

Bonin told the audience, “We have an obligation to make this friendly for the community, even if it’s more expensive.” In addition to the Marquez Avenue location, DWP also investigated the empty lot along Sunset (at the former Bernheimer Gardens location) and the alley behind Bollinger and Sunset. They also considered putting a pole at Sunset and Las Lomas and one at Sunset and Los Liones (near two schools), or one at Sunset and Las Lomas and one at Sunset and Las Casas. (At those sites, it would mean putting in two poles rather than the one.)

The alley will not work because of lack of space. Audience members argued that there were more car accidents nearer Marquez Elementary than on Sunset, which is why a pole should go on the Bernheimer location (despite its landslide history). Many Marquez residents did not want the poles near their school, accusing the DWP that “You are not considering the children.” However, those who opposed the poles on El Medio urged that they be located at Temescal Canyon Road and Sunset above the Palisades High School baseball and AYSO soccer field.

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