Editorial: Pacific Palisades Electrical Outages – The New Normal?

The latest power outage on the Castellammare mesa, in the Marquez area and lower Highlands started Dec. 16 and ended the next day, some 17 hours later. Dinner parties were interrupted, medication that needed to be kept chilled was in jeopardy and at least one resident on oxygen was affected. Streetlights and stoplights made travel dangerous in the darkened streets.

Early Dec. 17, power was available at the business plaza on lower Palisades Drive, and Tramonto resident Kelly Comras reported that Starbucks was packed as her neighbors, who still had no power, jockeyed for outlets for computers and cell phones.

Afterwards, the News received several letters from residents demanding an investigation into the L.A. Department of Water and Power and its ability to provide reliable electrical power in Pacific Palisades.

Pole-top distribution station is proposed.
Pole-top distribution station is proposed.

We checked our past issues for references to power outages. In September 2015, a resident from the Castellammare area reported: “This was our second power outage in three weeks.” At that time, we asked DWP to investigate, and their spokesperson Carol Tucker responded, “By the way, LADWP has said many times in community meetings that the main reason for building a new power substation in that area is to meet increasing power demand and improved reliability.”

On Jan. 6, 2016, the DWP reported “More than 1,000 LADWP customers in Pacific Palisades are without power.”

Tucker told the News, “On average in L.A., customers experience an outage once every 16 months and lose power a total of 93 minutes per year. In the Palisades, outages are three or four times a year and last about three to four hours.”

This past April 15, DWP reported about 359 homes in Pacific Palisades were without power for more than six hours. On June 21, power went out again in the Marquez area and the News asked Tucker, “Do you know how long the power will be out in Pacific Palisades?” On Dec. 6, residents in the El Medio bluffs area suffered a three-hour power outage.

Hmm, no Sherlock Holmes needed here, no new investigation necessary. The outages and times are exactly what the DWP had warned because of inadequate infrastructure.

At a January 2016 Pacific Palisades Community Council meeting, the DWP proposed two pole-top distribution stations (PTDS) as a “band-aid” solution. Residents were warned that if a new station was not started soon, “We will have to continue to add [PTDS].”

Some residents have asked that if we all use LED bulbs and try to meet certain electrical needs in off-hours, and if several thousand homeowners switch to solar energy, would this make an important difference in the Palisades? The DWP has said it all helps, but not enough to keep electricity reliable without an additional distribution station.

Distributing Station 104 was supposed to be built in 1970-71 on DWP-owned land off Marquez Avenue (just west of Marquez Elementary). But after the Sylmar earthquake in February 1971, the focus shifted from construction to repairs citywide.

Construction was further postponed when the Palisades did not see much growth through the 1980s. By 2012, however, the DWP knew that a new distribution station was sorely needed to supplement DS 29 (on Sunset at Via de la Paz), which happens to be located across the alley from a large condominium building.

“DS 29 is working at its designed capacity and will exceed its capacity within the next six years due to increasing electricity demand in the surrounding community,” the DWP warned.

In a November 21 letter to a lawyer opposing a PTSD on Sunset, spokesperson Tucker wrote: “LADWP has stated that the PTDS is a temporary measure and will be removed once the permanent distribution station is constructed and placed into service.

“LADWP remains committed to working with the Council office and the community in finding a suitable location for the permanent Distributing Station 104 facility, and additional temporary PTDS’s will be required until a permanent DS is built, so that we can remove the temporary PTDS and achieve long-term reliable electrical service for Pacific Palisades.”

So, residents, it’s up to you to apply pressure to community leaders and Councilman Bonin’s office to settle on a location for DS 104, somewhere in the western part of town. Until then, count on more outages. No investigation needed.

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