Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass called on the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Thursday to address the conditions of hundreds of utility poles in need of urgent repairs and to act swiftly to inform the public about remaining poles in need of fixing.
The mayor's letter comes in the heels of a $38 million settlement between the LADWP and a Panorama City family, who lost a father and daughter in a fatal electrocution caused by a downed power line in 2021. Bass said in her letter that the tragedy was not a "mere failure" of a power pole, but a "failure of management and leadership."
The Board of Water and Power Commissioners received a report Tuesday, which revealed that an outsourced contractor identified more than 1,600 poles as "priority one" poles requiring immediate repairs in 2021, but it was not until 2023 that those poles were addressed.
More than 700 utility poles are still in need of immediate repairs to mitigate the risk of other pole failures. The report also showed that many thousands of utility poles also require attention and non-emergency maintenance as "priority two" poles.
"Tuesday's presentation highlighted a lack of attention to the state of potentially dangerous electrical equipment throughout the city of Los Angeles, putting the public and LADWP workers at risk," Bass wrote in her letter.
She urged Board of Water and Power commissioners and the LADWP to prioritize the safety of the public and of LADWP workers while addressing "priority one" poles. In her letter, she called for the following:
-- LADWP to complete repairs to "priority one" poles by May 16;
-- Bring additional resources to complete "priority one" repairs by the deadline asked of, including necessary overtime and use of contractors;
-- Notify residents in the locations of "priority one" poles by more than one method and again when repairs are completed;
-- Commit to and make public a schedule to complete "priority two" pole repairs per the California Public Utilities Commission regulations and orders;
-- Institute regular reporting of pole inspections and repairs; and last,
-- Report weekly to the mayor's office on progress
The mayor called upon the department and leadership to improve accountability and risk management practices by retaining outside experts to advice on necessary reforms, create a position for an inspection general, and report back to the mayor's office on these plans no later than June 1 with the goal of implementing these initiatives by Dec. 1.
Ferdinand Tejada, 53, and his 20-year-old daughter, Janine Reyn Tejada, died outside their Panorama City home on Jan. 25, 2021, due to a downed power line.
According to reports at the time, Ferdinand Tejada went outside when he heard a "loud pop" at the family's home in the 14700 block of Tupper Street and was electrocuted. His daughter went to his aid and also was killed. The elder Tejada's wife, a nurse, called 911 and was told to stay inside until emergency crews arrived.
Both Ferdinand and Janine Tejada died at the scene.
According to the LADWP, the pole and crossarm inspection program that failed to properly inspect and identify needed repairs to the equipment behind the Tejadas' home has been fully overhauled.
On Tuesday, Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky and Council President Paul Krekorian introduced a motion requesting a report on the status of pole repairs and other efforts to prevent a repeat of the tragedy.
"This tragedy led to an uncovering of a faulty inspection process which incorrectly categorized thousands of power poles as passing safety inspections when in fact those power poles were in violation of such safety standards," according to the motion.
LADWP notified residents and businesses impacted by priority one pole repairs via door hangers and letters, but the location of those poles has not been shared with the council or the public at large, according to the motion.
The inspection process also identified an additional 80,000 power poles that are in need of less immediate repair, but the council members expressed concern that if those repairs are left unaddressed those poles could pose imminent danger.