“Unpermitted” SCE Utility Work in City’s Crosshairs

PHOTO: Michael Cacciotti | South Pasadenan News | Unpermitted SCE Utility Work in City’s Crosshairs

“Unpermitted”, noise-ordinance-violating utility work around town by Southern California Edison is a “recurring” problem that “is absolutely getting more serious,” according to Mayor Diana Mahmud.  The matter came up during the Oct. 7 council meeting after Council Member Michael Cacciotti showed a picture he took of a utility truck surrounded by orange cones working on Garfield Ave. at the intersection with Mill Rd.

“This is Edison working illegally in our city at 7:30 on a Saturday morning,” he said as the photo was displayed. “Can you imagine that? Metal clanging and then a chainsaw by your house destroying the trees for an hour and a half?!”

Police were called, but the contractor doing the work asserted he had a right to be there, Cacciotti said. The police let him go, “but we found out they can’t be out there to break our ordinances. Anyone out there before 9 o’clock on a Saturday has no right to be there.”

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Edison declined to comment.

“Not only did the contractor violate our ordinance by starting so early,” Mahmud added, “Edison had no permit to do that work.” The mayor has spoken to the public works director about the matter “but I think we need a meeting with Edison to communicate to them the seriousness of abiding by our rules when they work in our city.”

Although notice was posted on a social media site alerting neighbors to a disruption in electric service, “they are supposed to clear that with us and there was absolutely no communication,” she added. “So Madam City Manager, we need to escalate the issue.”

A meeting will be scheduled, City Manager Arminé Chaparyan told the South Pasadenan News Thursday.

Chaparyan noted that the city’s Noise and Construction ordinances allow the operation of machinery, construction and tree trimming work only as follows: Monday-Friday 8 am to 7 pm; Saturday 9 am to 7 pm; and Sunday 10 am to 7 pm, though construction must stop by 6 pm Sundays.

Trimming or removing trees as part of “regular maintenance” does not require a permit, she said. But utilities can do emergency work “at any time without giving” the city prior notice, though they must give notice as soon as possible.

The city manager confirmed that the tree trimming SCE did on the morning of Saturday, Sept. 25 at Garfield was done without notice to the city, and noted the work began at 7:50 am, over an hour before allowed.

“Staff reached out to SCE, and they claimed it was emergency work as the tree branch was touching and leaning onto their main, which could have caused major outages in the area if it were not attended promptly.”

Nonetheless, she said city staff told SCE “that they must follow the City’s work hour restrictions and noticing policy.” She said “SCE has committed to following the City’s policies and will reiterate this to all of their staff and contractors.”

Ben Tansey
Ben Tansey is a journalist and author. He grew up in the South Bay and is a graduate of Evergreen State College. He worked in Washington State as a reporter in a rural timber community and for many years as an editor for a Western electric energy policy publication based in Seattle.