SCE Scrutinized at Council Over Handling of Right-Of-Way

Maintenance of this right-of-way by SCE was criticized by residents, saying its a constant issue. Photo by Steve Whitmore

So Pas residents came to the last City Council meeting to put a stop to a plan by Southern California Edison (SCE) to construct a six-foot-high fence around the power poles on the right-of-way that runs the length of Park Avenue between Mission and Oxley streets.

The fence proposal by SCE was put into motion, these residents say, because two other neighbors complained about the homeless using the right-of-way. SCE workers have set out stakes indicating where the block-long chain-link fence would go.

In fact, residents brought to the council meeting a petition signed by 59 neighbors opposing the fence.

“So, all of a sudden, people are talking about the homeless, the homeless, it’s like the walking dead, and they’re coming,” said Jan Marshall, a neighbor on Oxley Street, while she addressed the council during its Oct. 17 meeting. “It just got very weird. What we did find talking to our neighbors was so many people in these divisive political times would like to work together as a community to come up with a really wonderful solution that would bring us all together and beautify our city.”

Jeannette Soriano, SCE government relations manager, told the council at the same meeting that there is now no plan to put up such a fence.

The residents were not entirely appeased, though, saying that SCE has neglected the right-of-way for decades and implored the council to intercede on their behalf.

“I noticed some survey markers in the right-of-way on Park Avenue between Oxley and Mission and I asked a worker who appeared to be an Edison worker what were they there for and he said Edison is putting up a six-foot-tall chain-link fence around the right-of-way,” neighbor Nichole Dunville said before the council meeting started. “A neighbor and I created a petition and we went around and talked to all the other neighbors who were being impacted by this. We called Michael Cacciotti, he’s our local councilman, and he wasn’t aware of it and the other councilmembers were not aware of it. We don’t want the fence.”

Cacciotti encouraged SCE to work with the neighbors before they plan on doing anything with that right-of-way. He also encouraged SCE to start using electric power tools when it maintains the property. Cacciotti said he was amazed that an electric company was still using gas-driven power tools for maintenance that included foliage clearing. But the most important element was to have the community participate before any plan was implemented.

“Do the outreach first before you develop the proposal,” Cacciotti said to the SCE representatives that attended the council meeting. “By working together we can have a great plan to go forward, but do the outreach before the plan.”

SCE officials that attended the meeting besides Soriano included Tom Tran, planning supervisor; Albert Diaz, performance supervisor and David Guzman, SCE manager.

The neighbors also were concerned with the aesthetics of the right-of-way, which can become overgrown with grass, weeds and other foliage. Cacciotti said the neglect causes wildlife, including rats, to seek refuge in the right-of-way. SCE officials said the area is cleared about three times a year.

Neighbors complained that SCE’s maintenance of the property is way below any acceptable standards.

“Their maintenance of this right-of-way has been minimal for decades,” according to the petition presented to the council.

SCE’s Government Relations Manager, Jeannette Soriano, again said there will be no fence at this time and that if anything was to change, the neighbors would be involved. She also told Cacciotti that the use of electric power tools would be examined along with the maintenance schedule.

Outside, SCE officials met with the neighbors to informally discuss the issue further. The congeniality between the two factions indicated that perhaps a new détente of sorts had been reached.