The City Council discussed important topics at its Sept. 19 meeting, including trash hauler companies, power circuit reliability and pickleball. The Council also heard from public safety leaders to discuss trends on larceny thefts, burglaries and wallet thefts.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department and the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station gave their public safety report for the months of July and August.
Interim Assistant Fire Chief Pat Sprengel reported a total of six fires within the months of July and August. The types of fires ranged from a cooking fire, trash fire, fence fire and vehicle fire.
Sprengel also noted that during Tropical Storm Hilary in August there were no major incidents to report, “although the calls for service were doubled that day.”
He updated the community on the fire season after the rainfall and said, “typically between now and the first of the year, we would typically have eight to 10 Santa Ana wind events … and we’ll see how that pans out [this year].”
Sheriff’s Station Capt. Robert Hahnlein presented the latest public safety report, which started on a sad note.
“I want to start out on a somber note that one of our own was ambushed and murdered in the city of Palmdale,” said Hahnlein. “I bring that up because the community has been outpouring with sympathy and condolences at our station. So, I really appreciate it, and our deputies really appreciate it.”
He continued his report which saw an increase in larceny thefts and vandalism in the months of July and August.
Larceny thefts have increased, with 21 in August and 15 in July, and have risen by 10 versus 2022 to total 165 by end-August. There was one vandalism incident reported in July and five in August.
Hahnlein said the station was happy to report a slight decrease in residential burglaries, with five in July and three in August. There have been 30 residential burglaries in 2023.
The station reported one illegal shooting on the La Cañada United Methodist Church property, where someone tried to shoot out a camera.
In other burglaries there was one in July and four in August. There have been 17 year-to-date for 2023, which surpassed the total 15 reported in 2022.
“There were two robberies [in August] one from Sprouts [which involved] somebody taking vitamins,” said Hahnlein. “We had another robbery in Target where somebody was stealing baby formula, and the employees recognized the suspects. [The suspects] did it 63 times already.”
There were 15 larceny thefts in July, three of which were at T.J. Maxx. Hahnlein said he recently visited the store and noticed improvements in their security measures. Larceny thefts increased to 21 in August.
The station also saw an increase in wallet thefts, with five in August, especially in the shops that surround the Town Center. Hahnlein told residents that the suspects work in teams, with one person used to distract the victim while the other takes their items.
There were 19 arrests in July and 17 in August.
TRASH HAULERS NOTICE
The discussion on the number of trash haulers in the community has been on the table for years, with some residents wanting to lower the count. The discussion at Tuesday’s meeting moved forward in that direction by voting to send a notice to the three haulers contracted by the city.
The item relating to the three trash haulers was originally under the consent calendar but was brought out for discussion by Councilman Kim Bowman.
However, the Council realized that in order to lower the number of haulers, they would have to publish a notice and wait five years to make any change. The Council did state that if a contracted trash hauler does not turn in reports or breaches the contract, then the city could terminate the contract, since they are on a year-to-year extension.
“Per state law, we are required to give a five-year written notice to the existing waste haulers because they have provided waste haul services in the city for three plus years, and that we are not allowed to make changes that would reduce three to one provider until the end of that five-year period,” said Bowman.
Although Bowman said he was happy to see some progress in lowering the number of haulers, he wished that the city had done this sooner.
“When did we know that that requirement existed?” Bowman asked. “Is that something we recently discovered or was it recently passed? Or is this something we have known about for quite some time?”
Both Councilmembers Keith Eich and Terry Walker, also members of the solid waste subcommittee, were not aware of the five-year requirement until May or June of this year.
“I wasn’t aware that we were to give a five-year notice before we could make changes to this,” said Bowman. “It was my sincere hope that we were going to take this issue up for action next year, but what I am reading is that our hands are tied for five years from whenever that letter is sent, right?”
City Attorney Adrian Guerra answered in the affirmative to Bowman’s question.
“So, I appreciate that we are now meeting that requirement so that in five years we can have a real conversation about it,” said Bowman. “I also want the community to be on the same page with us here — that means that while we can think about, we can study and we can consider — we cannot act on reducing the three providers that we have for a minimum of five years. It gives us a lot of time to get it right, but I do wish that we had sent that letter in before.”
Eich suggested that the city could keep all three trash haulers and do some zoning or breaking up the city into different geographical areas so that each only has one assigned hauler.
The Council ended the discussion by approving the item unanimously and agreeing to send out a letter of notice to all three of the city’s waste haulers.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA EDISON’S CIRCUIT RELIABILITY
Representatives from Southern California Edison came to the Sept. 19 meeting to give a review on circuit reliability throughout the city, and the Council was not satisfied with the results.
The company performs annual system evaluations to address the changing power needs throughout its service territory.
The SoCal Edison team presented the details on what kinds of outages there are, to what resources they use to help with their wildfire mitigation.
While the representatives, Marissa Castro and Tom Tran, were going over the basics of SCE and what their work looks like in contracted cities, Mayor Rick Gunter started to ask questions related to tree trimming.
Trees are trimmed around the city so that they are not in the way of circuit lines by contractors hired from SCE.
“I noticed anecdotally myself and many of my neighbors that often, there was the same tree trimmed three, four or five times in about a six-month period,” said Gunter.
He suggested that there should be a long-range plan in place on how the forestry is managed around residents in the city, “because we are a tree city and there are trees everywhere.
“So, I’d liked to see a more sophisticated plan around forestry management [and] with more thought going into it, [not] waiting until it is a panic,” Gunter said.
Bowman seconded the mayor’s comment.
The SCE team suggested bringing in a vegetation specialist who covers the area to provide some more insight on power line clearing.
Walker mentioned a five-year program that is in place on the planning side for the city, where staff visits every street to see if there are any potential problems, and at the end of five years, they start the whole process again.
“So, it’s an ongoing systematic routine of checking all of our streets,” said Walker. “Does Southern California Edison have something similar?”
Tran said they do have a cycle that they go through, but it isn’t as straightforward as “walking down the street, from end to end,” since circuits branch off underground and overhead. Tran said that there is, meanwhile, a five-year constant cycle of checking power line equipment within the city but that it can be challenging since the maintenance takes place at different rates.
“Forestry is obviously a threat to the lines, but also a critical component to our infrastructure and biodiversity that is the city,” said Bowman, referring to Gunter’s main concern.
He continued to say that Gunter is proposing a plan and doesn’t want to see one contractor come in and do tree trimming, and later, another to come and trim the same trees.
“It’s hard from our perspective, and certainly as a member of the community, it’s hard to see the thoughtfulness that goes into that,” said Bowman.
He continued to say that it would be helpful to track the different trees in the area, and what the timing looks like for their growth.
“That’s the kind of planning that would be helpful and I think would demonstrate that you thought this through as opposed to [hiring] a contractor, who goes through and the more limbs they cut, the more money they make,” said Bowman.
Eich also weighed in on the discussion.
“I think if we were thoughtful in a different way, more aligning to the grid pruning that we do in public works, you might see better results and the residents and our businesses would also appreciate that,” said Eich. “So, it becomes this sort of good thing over time. So, just something to consider and plan about.”
“I think if we aligned it, residents will be more receptive,” said Eich.
Castro continued the presentation stating that LCF has a total of 18 circuits.
“La Cañada is unique because, throughout the San Gabriel Valley, this city probably has 99% of circuits [located in] high fire risk areas and considered as [Public Safety Power Shutoff area], except for one in Montrose,” said Castro.
The presentation listed various causes for outages that ranged from equipment failure or a tree branch or a car hitting a pole, to name a few.
The city averaged on the higher side in 2022 in its sustained interruption numbers compared to the SCE grid. Tran said this was caused by the amount of rain incidents during the month of January 2022. The average minutes of sustained interruptions in LCF in 2022 were nearly triple the amount of the SCE grid and the average frequency of sustained interruptions were about double the number in LCF versus the SCE grid overall.
“But in 2023, when you come next summer or fall, is there going to be a similar thing that occurred because of the rains this year?” asked Eich.
Tran said in 2023 they are actually seeing an improvement in numbers of outages systemwide but have not specifically looked into LCF.
“I think it would be interesting to know, so that we are not waiting a full year,” said Eich.
Gunter agreed and didn’t like the rise in the city’s numbers for sustained interruptions over the years. “That’s really not the trend we are looking for,” he said.
Gunter also didn’t like the reasoning that Tran provided about the rain being the main cause for the higher numbers, since it rained everywhere and not just in LCF.
“So, I am a little concerned that from 2019 to 2022 [the numbers are] literally double on the average minutes sustained and the average frequency sustained,” said Gunter.
The SCE team said that they could start forecasting the numbers instead of waiting a year later.
“Per the mayor’s comments, it’s bad, it’s getting worse,” said Bowman. “I think if you show them this and say, ‘the folks in La Cañada demand that we do something quicky,’ because this is unsustainable.
“But please go back to your project management folks, show them this and let them know that we are very unhappy,” he added.
The SCE team continued its report and showed the Council outage causes for 2022 related to sustained interruptions within the city, and Gunter interrupted.
“We are actually just interested in how to get our performance to look like the grid,” said Gunter. “Why it happened is not super interesting, not super relevant.”
The SCE team cut the presentation short with a few slides left and said that they would try to incorporate the suggestions made by the Council.
“We know that you are our advocates, and you are doing everything you can,” said Eich. “We appreciate you. Just let us know how we can help you channel our frustration and our residents’ frustrations to effect some of that change.”
The Director of Public Works Pat DeChellis presented an update to the pickleball skate park conversion.
On Sept. 12, the city executed a task order with one of the city’s on-call engineering consultants to prepare the planned specs and estimate for formula bidding.
“Construction is now anticipated to start in December and be completed in spring of 2024,” said DeChellis.
First published in the September 28 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.