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LCF Council mulls shorter solicitation hours, gets report card on Edison utility upgrades

Solicitors peddling goods and services in La Cañada Flintridge neighborhoods may soon see their access diminished, after City Council members considered Tuesday ending solicitation hours in residential neighborhoods at 6 p.m.

The discussion came as council members considered a recommendation from the city’s Public Safety Commission to limit such operations to a time window of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in residential areas and from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. in nonresidential areas. Current solicitation hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and are citywide.

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Commissioner Wes Seastrom explained the group was looking for a way to balance residents’ right to peace, privacy and safety with solicitors’ rights to engage in expressive conduct, protected by the First Amendment.

Commissioners considered the safety of solicitors operating in darkness on streets with few lights and sidewalks, as well as resident concerns about criminals who use the guise of solicitation to case homes as potential burglary targets.

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They previously considered cutting off sales at 4 p.m., but were told by city staff a too-strict ordinance might unfairly throttle the rights of solicitors by limiting them to hours when most people are not at home but at work.

Staff recommended the council extend residential solicitation hours to 7 p.m. but Seastrom objected.

“There’s only an hour difference between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. but we feel for residents it’s a big deal,” he said.

Council members largely agreed. Councilman Mike Davitt said he thought 6 p.m. was reasonable, especially if solicitors had access to commercial areas and public events like Music in the Park.

“Everybody sets hours on things,” he said. “If [solicitors] are legitimate, they’re going to find out those hours, get a permit and solicit during those hours.”

Councilman Greg Brown asked whether the city could list solicitors with city permits on the city’s website so residents could know on the spot if someone were legitimate or not.

City Manager Mark Alexander recommended continuing a decision to the council’s Dec. 18 meeting to allow for the inclusion of more robust language regarding the city’s rationale for the change.

Edison service in LCF gets a checkup

Council members also received an update on local utility upgrades made by Southern California Edison since a 2017 report by consulting firm PMCM identified several areas for improvement.

The report concluded La Cañada experienced 2,371 power outages between 2006 and 2016 — a failure rate higher than Southern California Edison’s systemwide average.

PMCM partner Reggie Wright said his firm recommended Edison establish priorities, such as replacing transformers at the already overburdened La Cañada Substation, which serves more than 50% of the city, and underground cable-in-conduit (CIC) cables that often malfunction due to concrete collapse and tree root incursion. Wright acknowledged the utility has made strides upgrading old distribution lines with a 4kV capacity to 16kV.

“SCE is executing their projects based on what we saw in 2018,” Wright told the council. “There’s been a lot of collaboration between Edison and the city. But there needs to be a focus on the La Cañada Substation. We want to make sure that work is reviewed, approved and executed as quickly as possible.”

Pole-top substations that offer unreliable 2.7kV power should eventually be eliminated even though they support commercial customers reluctant to stop business to accommodate a changeover.

Edison representative Marissa Castro-Salvati said the utility is investing $13 billion in grid modernization throughout Southern California. La Canada’s 16kV Haskell circuit, located on the western half of town, recently experienced multiple outages in a two-week period and is a priority.

“Haskell will have a major infrastructure project scheduled for 2019,” Castro-Salvati said, indicating overhead and underground work is planned. “The overhead job is one of the longest, 14-plus miles, conductor replacement project that has been identified in our service territory.”

Wright predicted that in a few years, La Cañada would be pleased with SCE’s upgrades.

“There still may be some customers who complain, but in terms of upgrading the La Cañada Substation by 2021-22, you’re going to be pretty happy with that.”

Community Development Block Grant Program approved

Also Tuesday, council members approved continuing two Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) programs designed to help fund residential rehabilitation projects and sewer connections for low- and moderate-income residents.

City staffer Lisa Brancheau said the city will receive $62,710 from the county’s Community Development Commission for Fiscal Year 2019-20 and can roll over another $18,900 in unallocated funds from the current year for a total of $81,610.

Seventy percent will be used to assist eligible applicants with residential rehabilitation, while 30% will go toward sewer connection assistance. Moderate income for a one-person residence as $54,250, while low-income is $33,950. For two-person homes, those amounts are $62,000 and $38,800, respectively.

For information, call (818) 790-8881 or visit www.lcf.ca.gov/permits-and-licenses/community-development-permits.

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