A Highlands resident contacted CTN early October 27 to say that power had been out since midnight. “If there’s ever an earthquake that knocks the power out, it will be days before its restored here,” he said, and queried what caused the outage.
“The electrical system is hung together with a band aid at that station on Sunset. When are we going to get another distribution station?” he asked.
The lack of power at Palisades Charter High School meant that school and the Friday night football game that was labeled as senior night was cancelled.
Spokesperson for LA DWP Deborah Hong wrote in an November 7 email that “The outage started around 12:08 a.m. on October 27, and that 1,600 residential customers were without power for 14 hours.”
The next day, October 28, those same customers were without power for an additional four hours.
Hong said the cause was an underground cable fail and that “Underground outages can take longer to restore because crews must search numerous vaults to find the fault, isolate the work and then start repairs.
“Crews worked to reroute power and were able to restore power to affected customers on Friday evening,” Hong said. “Then on Saturday, another problem was experienced on the circuit in an underground location.”
Both pole-top distribution stations (corner of Temescal Canyon Road and Sunset Boulevard and at Marquez Avenue and Sunset) lost power related to the underground cable fault.
Those pole-tops were originally restored, Hong said.
“Pali High School was originally restored, but when the second cable fault occurred, it affected the high school again because that portion of failed cable that ran to the vault located at Palisades Drive and Sunset Blvd had to be repaired,” Hong said.
She was asked if there would be fewer power outages in Pacific Palisades if there were another distribution station.
“Reliability is a challenge because the Pacific Palisades is on the edge of LADWP’s service territory,” Hong said in the November 8 email to CTN, and added that “Increased capacity and redundancy would benefit the community by improving resiliency.”
The sole electrical distribution station for this area Distributing Station 29 (DS-29), at the corner of Via de la Paz and Sunset, was built in 1935 (prior to the condos being built next to the station).
In November 2022, DWP came to the residents and invited comments on an environmental review in connection with the construction of a proposed distributing station (DS-104) at 16931 Marquez Avenue.
Then DWP said that a second distrusting station was needed because of the current and expected increase in power demand as customers slowly replace products that consume fossil fuels with those that consume electricity.
DWP wrote “The Pacific Palisades community has contributed to this increase in power demand especially through residential electric vehicle charging. DS-104 will allow for the continued reliable delivery of power . . .and will prevent blackouts from occurring especially during periods of elevated power consumption.”
If everything is approved, construction would start in the fall of 2024 and continue for 42 months. Once completed, it would alleviate electrical loads on existing facilities and the two 65-ft. pole-top distributing stations (PTDS), at Temescal and Sunset and at the western terminus of Marquez Avenue and Sunset, would be removed.
The DWP staff was unaware of the contentious history that had led to the two unattractive power top stations that were built along Sunset, a scenic highway.
In 2012, the DWP announced plans to build a new substation (DS-104) on its Marquez Avenue property, south of Marquez Charter Elementary School.
DWP wrote, “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.”
An uproar from the community about the proposed location of a new station, led to a task force being formed. That group rejected the Marquez location and recommended several alternate sites, which included Los Leones parkland (behind Fire Station 29). All proposed sites were investigated and rejected.
While discussions ensued over the next few years, periodic blackouts continued, particularly in the Palisades west of Temescal Canyon.
In January 2017, DWP officials attended a Pacific Palisades Community Council meeting and said that to keep electricity reliable in the Marquez and Castellammare areas in lieu of a station, it would have to install two PTDS. Each installation would feature two 60-ft. industrial-sized steel poles, but they would be removed after a permanent distribution station was built.
At the time, “This is a good band-aid,” DWP’s Jack Waizenegger said about the pole-tops, but noted there were two issues with those stations as opposed to a substation: the PTD is fused and has no backup transformer, plus it has overhead exposure and minimal remote monitoring.
Waizenegger said that even if residents switched to alternate energy sources and low-energy appliances, this area would need a second substation.
The pole tops, which were temporary went up and the much-needed distribution station went on hold as Marquez neighbors threatened to litigate, if it were built.
The current electrical station (DS-29) is located less than .2 of a mile from Palisades Elementary, surrounded by condominiums that house about 400 people and less than .1 of a mile from an assisted living facility.
The proposed site for DS-104 is about .1 of a mile from classrooms at Marquez Elementary.
Many who opposed the DS-104 Marquez site, cited fire safety as a concern.