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Downtown SM Power Charges Defused for Now:

Southern California Edison, which supplies electricity to downtown Santa Monica (and the rest of the city), was summoned by downtown businesses this past July to discuss then-recent power outages termed simply “not acceptable” by Jeffrey King, Chairman of King’s Seafood Co., the owner of i Cugini and Ocean Ave. Seafood restaurants on Ocean Avenue.

That meeting of Edison representatives and more than a dozen local business and several civic figures concluded with William Bryan, Edison’s Vice President, Business Customer Division, stating that “we need to make a full assessment” and “then to get back and communicate.”

The assessment and communication came earlier this month at a closed (to the public and press) meeting at the Bayside District Corporation offices among Edison, Bayside, the Chamber of Commerce, and City officials.  Edison outlined what the Chamber calls “an aggressive maintenance schedule which includes eight upgrades to the Suntower Circuit in 2007-08, including one before the end of the year.”

Edison’s Suntower Circuit is one of 13 circuits that serve downtown, according to Mark Olson, Edison Region Manager for Local Public Affairs.  It is the circuit, serving 792 downtown customers, which went down (as manhole covers reportedly went up) in July 2006 in a particularly severe power outage.

The planned “aggressive maintenance schedule” consists of “things that would have been done over a longer period of time,” according to Olson, although he says that none of the planned upgrades “are anything that’s threatening the systems.”  If any threatening condition is found in the course of the work, he adds, it will be dealt with immediately.

Olson said that 60 percent of the main line cable and 80 percent of the switches on the Suntower Circuit had been replaced since 2005.  He would not estimate the cost of the planned upgrades, but called them “significant.”

Samantha O’Neil, the Chamber’s government affairs officer, said that she expects quarterly meetings among Edison, Bayside, the Chamber, and the City to monitor the situation, and increased communication so that businesses have more advanced notice of planned outages that may be necessitated by the Edison upgrades.

City Director of Environmental and Public Works Management Craig Perkins was reported to have ensured, at the Bayside meeting, that the City would work closely with Edison on the required permitting needed for the accelerated maintenance schedule.  He confirmed to the Mirror on Monday, September 24, that that was the fact, and he said that he planned to meet with Edison to discuss broader scope permits that would give Edison windows for the scope and timing of the required work.

Edison’s Olson said that he expected a meeting in early October among all of the agencies – Bayside, the Chamber, the City, and Edison – to check on the progress of the planned upgrades, and another meeting in early November with the City to discuss permitting for the work to be done in 2008.

Jeffrey King, an outspoken critic of Edison at the July breakfast meeting at his i Cugini restaurant, said that he found Edison to be “very responsive” so far, and noted that during the last couple of weeks of hot weather when there have been many blackouts in Southern California, there have been none in Santa Monica – “something is working,” he said.

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