Power Outage Response Sparks Questions



Local residents aren’t the only ones looking for answers from the LADWP on their response to last weekend’s power outages.

LA City Councilmembers Katy Yaroslavsky, Nithya Raman and Hugo Soto-Martinez are asking LADWP for answers about power outages that stretched into days for hundreds of area residents and half the businesses on Larchmont Blvd. following last weekend’s storms.

Earlier this week, Yaroslavsky and Raman introduced a motion to the Los Angeles City Council calling on the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to report on its response to last weekend’s winter storms, as well as its plan for increasing resilience in our power grid. The motion was seconded by Soto-Martinez. 

Soto-Martinez, Yaroslavsky and officials from LADWP will also be participating in a virtual town hall on the power outage organized by the Hancock Park Homeowners Association and the Windsor Square Association on Monday, March 6 at 7:00 p.m. Officials from the Mayor’s office have been invited to attend as well. Click here to register for the meeting.

“Our residents would like some answers about what happened,” Cindy Chvatal-Keane, Hancock Park HOA President told the Buzz. “We spent the weekend advocating for repairs in the neighborhood with Councilmember Yaroslavsky and her team.”

Hundreds of residents in the Hancock Park and Windsor Square neighborhoods were without power for days, some as many as three days, following last weekend’s storm. The outages spread to St. Andrews Square and Larchmont Village, and businesses on the east side of Larchmont Blvd. between Beverly and First Street were unable to open for the weekend after power went out Friday evening. For most of those affected, it was a long cold, 72 hours. Several readers told us their house temperatures dropped into the 50s, and they had to toss out all the food in their refrigerators, though others had generators and were tolerant of the inconvenience.

However, universally, people expressed intense frustration at the lack of information provided by LADWP on restoration times and causes of the outages. And despite being told repeatedly to report the outages, the outage map on the utility’s website never showed more than a handful of outages, grossly underreporting what was actually happening and further frustrating residents who told us they either experienced very long hold times waiting to report an outage, or had to report an outage several times.

We weren’t able to gain any information from the LADWP public information team when we asked about inaccuracies in its outage map.

“Unfortunately that’s difficult to answer at this time, regarding what issues customers may have encountered regarding the outage map when all efforts are around the restoration effort,” wrote Ellen Cheng, LADWP media relations staffer in an email to the Buzz.

For most of the weekend, the outage map didn’t show any outages in the Hancock Park or Larchmont neighborhoods.

“Los Angeles just got a preview of what is to come if we don’t increase our efforts to build climate resilience into our power grid,” said Councilwoman Yaroslavsky in a statement released on Tuesday. “The outages last weekend underscore what so many in my district know already, which is that our aging infrastructure is no match for these types of storms, which are only growing in intensity as our climate continues to change. As policy makers, we need a clear picture on what challenges LADWP faced in restoring power last weekend, as well as their plans for hardening our grid against future climate-related outages.”

“As one of the largest metropolitan cities in the United States, we cannot continue leaving thousands of Angelenos without electricity or heat during dangerous storm events,” added Councilmember Raman. “Severe weather like the recent storms we experienced are going to become more common and more intense as a result of climate change, and we need to be able to meet those needs. It is critical that during these events, we are able to ensure that Angelenos are not left in the dark and without information – anything less is unacceptable.”

Raman also introduced a motion instructing the City’s Emergency Management Department to report back within 30 days on the city’s current plans to manage weather-related emergencies. 

CD13 Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez also criticized the response saying,  “this weekend, we saw firsthand how our City’s infrastructure is unprepared to deal with major storms, not to mention the increasing effects of climate change and other threats of disasters like earthquakes.”

“Decades of disinvestment in our critical infrastructure, continuing to today, have led us into a situation where folks are left in the dark both literally and figuratively: enduring extended power outages without any information about when their power would be restored,” said Soto-Martinez in a statement issued Tuesday, explaining why he seconded the motion.

Power was restored for most residents by Monday, though there were still a few unlucky folks who were still waiting further into this week.

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About Patricia Lombard

Patricia Lombard is the co-editor and publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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