The Return of ‘Devil Pole’ Fury

By JOHN HARLOW | Editor-in-Chief

There is no easy way to ensure that a stable power supply will meet growing demand in Pacific Palisades, and the situation is set to get darker with more and longer power failures in the future—unless the community makes some unpopular decisions not about what they want, but what they dislike the least.

This is the hard message that representatives of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power are expected to share with the Pacific Palisades Community Council on Thursday, May 11.

The community has been “under-powered” for at least a decade, with infrastructure being especially strained during summer months.

It is not just the arrival of newer, larger homes across town—some of which are relatively green—but also increasing popularity of power-sucking gadgets set to increase with the rise of the “internet of things,” engineers predicted.

Generations of community leaders have blocked LADWP attempts to push through plans for a new generating sub-station, or “temporary” fixes, in the unwelcome shape of pole-mounted drums that “step down” electricity to domestic standards, because they feel they are ugly and potentially unsafe.

Everyone is hoping new technology will change this landscape, but so far, the LADWP technology seems very 20th century.

The biggest debate will not be about where to locate a new sub-station—since the 1970s, land near Marquez Charter Elementary School has been earmarked by LADWP, much to parental anger, leaving the plan in limbo—but where to erect up to three more drums over the next few years.

One councilmember dubbed them “devil poles” for all the discord and legal actions they have prompted.

Sarah Connor, of the Pacific Palisades Residents Association, has questioned what “temporary” means in government terms, and whether the drums strapped toward the top of the 61-foot-high poles might be safer relocated on the ground.

More than 2,500 households have signed a petition urging DWP to switch to such ground mounted pads that would be sealed from sight behind high walls.

LADWP has claimed that such pads would take far longer to design and build.

PPCC is expected to also hear from the owners of the former Bernheimer Gardens on Sunset where LADWP erected a pole transformer without their knowledge; they planned to build homes on the site and are still suing.