Homeowners look for power to the people


Malibu residents living on upper Sea Vista Drive recently woke to find a surprise. Power poles running down Pacific Coast Highway had been raised about 10 ten feet beyond their existing height to accommodate high-voltage power lines. “They’re horrendous looking,” said homeowner Melissa Miller. “Everything got raised up so it looks like we got corralled in. You feel very helpless as a property owner when something like this happens.”

Miller said three of the poles stand on her property and restrict her view of the ocean. “I was very shocked that they didn’t notify us or give us a chance as a neighborhood to put them underground,” Miller said. “It’s startling to know that you don’t have any real rights with them.”

High-voltage lines in the area are not new, said Edison Company Region Manager Mark Olson. Olson said high-voltage lines had been in place on those poles until three years ago, when a landslide required them to downsize. “The high voltage was removed from those power lines for safety reasons because of the landslide.”

Since the downsizing, Olson said, Edison customers in the area have been experiencing low-voltage problems. “When an appliance comes on, the house lights will dip,” he said. Now that the land is stable, the high-voltage lines were needed “for service quality and reliability.”

The reason the lines are so high is a safety issue, said Olson. “They have to be above the telecommunications lines, as well as above the ground, for safety.” Olson said some extra height is frequently added to provide flexibility. “You put it a little bit above that because the line may sag or the pole may shift. We try to build above the safety standards.”

Edison engineers are looking into lowering the lines to accommodate Miller and other property owners, Olson said. “We’ll try to lower them as much as we can. We are willing to bring the lines down as far as possible, still meeting the state requirements,” he said. “Our engineers think they could lower it as much as up to 6 feet in the locations most concerned, but that is just a tentative thing. We still need to get an agreement from the homeowner.”

Olson said Edison will cover the cost of lowering the lines. “There’s only so much we can do under the requirements. If they want more than that, they’re going to have to pay for it by undergrounding.”

Miller said she hopes to organize a movement to “get all the power poles in Malibu put underground,” starting with new development. “I don’t know whether I’m capable of spearheading this, but I do think that Malibu should have a task force about this.”