Firm to shine a light on Edison's system and service in La Cañada

Four months after La Cañada city officials confronted Southern California Edison about unplanned outages that left some 1,300 residents and businesses without power, the City Council on Tuesday agreed to bring in a consulting firm to evaluate the utility provider's transmission and distribution system.

Los Angeles management consulting firm PCMC has been awarded a professional services contract not to exceed $27,700 to provide an independent evaluation of Edison's infrastructure and service to the La Cañada community.

The firm will be asked to provide a report detailing its analysis of the utility's system as well as the effectiveness of recent improvements made by Edison in response to the city's complaints. At the end of last year, the agency installed more than 9,000 feet of underground cable and promised future improvements and upgrades in 2017 to improve reliability.

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The firm will review data on unplanned power outages occurring in the last 10 years, including their causes and correlations to weather conditions, outdated infrastructure, external interferences or insufficient power sources.

PCMC will be expected to confirm or refute SCE's past explanations for such outages and will review the utility's mobilization and response time, among other aspects of service and communications.

City Manager Mark Alexander said bringing in a consultant to look at such issues will help staff and officials figure out how to assess Edison's past performance and the efficacy of the improvements it's made.

"City staff really doesn't have the level of expertise to gauge whether the proposals made by Southern California Edison would adequately address the recurring issue," Alexander said. "So the council agreed to hire a consultant to evaluate that and report back."

Adrian Garcia, an appointed liaison between the city and utility provider, said at Tuesday's council meeting he was willing to work with PCMC, but expressed some concerns about what he called "confidential" and "proprietary" information Edison would not be able to provide.

"We do have some questions regarding the scope of work — our position is that it's a little broad," Garcia said. "But we hope to sit down with the consultant, as soon as you approve (a contract), to discuss a better understanding of what the true expectations would be of the final product."

Alexander stressed the consultant's review is not intended to cast aspersions on Edison's performance, especially given that, in the wake of severe rainstorms that hit the area in January, no significant unplanned outages were reported.

"I look at this as a very positive thing and, again, I want to commend Edison for their efforts," he said.

Council OKs closing on Sport Chalet HQ

In other action Tuesday, the City Council voted unanimously to approve and authorize the purchase and close of escrow to acquire the former Sport Chalet headquarters building at a total cost of $11.23 million, appropriating $5.5 million from the city's General Fund reserves.

When it approved an initial purchase and sale agreement for the property in October, the city deposited $250,000 into escrow.

Another $5.58 million in reserves funding was committed to pay off a 30-month interest-free promissory note, secured by a deed of trust, offered by La Cañada Properties, Inc., pending alternative financing.

In a staff report, City Atty. Mark Steres explained the city completed a due diligence period, originally set at 90 days and extended by one week, during which some issues were discovered.

"The building, in general, appeared to be well-maintained, but there were certain equipment and mechanical components that were worn and/or in need of replacement or repair," Steres said. "Based on this due diligence report, the parties entered into further negotiations and we did enter into a second amendment to the agreement to reduce the purchase price."

That reduction was taken out of La Cañada Properties' initial $6.05-million promissory note, Steres said. Although the city has enough in its reserve fund to cover the full cost of the acquisition, officials will actively seek alternative means of paying off the note.

"Although we have the reserves to complete the entire purchase, this has been offered to us and we are taking advantage of that," the city attorney added.

In their comments, council members praised what they characterized as a fair deal.

"It was a very long process, and it's a big step, but I think we all agree it's a right step," Mayor Pro Tem Mike Davitt said.

Sport Chalet Drive is no more

Also on Tuesday, the City Council approved renaming Sport Chalet Drive in the city's Town Center to Civic Center Drive. The street segment runs north from Foothill Boulevard to Town Center Drive, along which the former Sport Chalet retail store sits.

The newly acquired City Hall building will be the only structure to bear the new street name in its address, which will be "One Civic Center Drive."

Other address options, made available to council members but not selected as preferences, included 927 Town Center Drive, 4520 Beulah Drive and 4520 Olberz Park Drive.

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Sara Cardine, sara.cardine@latimes.com

Twitter: @SaraCardine

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