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Santa Barbara Business Owners Lit Up Over Outages

It’s been “lights out” in downtown Santa Barbara too often in the last year for many business owners who are lit up over the power problems and want a solution from Southern California Edison.

The most recent problem was last night with more than 1300 customers knocked out, mainly in the vibrant downtown area. That included the Paseo Nuevo Mall, restaurants, theaters, shops and the very crowded nightclub zone. Some businesses had lights, while others were in the dark from two to four hours. It was enough to send staff home and close the doors.

This was not the only time an outage has wiped out business recently and Opal owner Richard Yates has started an online petition for Edison to respond. He is getting support and plans to bring the issue into the spotlight to find out why underground lines and other connections are failing.

Yates says besides the lost business, it is a safety issue the city has not responded to, especially when signals are out in the darkened intersections. He fears a dangerous collision and worse yet, if a city emergency were to occur at the same time, there would be even more serious concerns.

“I think Santa Barbara deserves better and all of us feel that and we are feeling the strain of these old pieces of equipment that are failing on us. And a company that has a monopoly that’s really not addressing what we as a business need and we as a community need,” said Yates.

He lost business last year when a packed Tony Bennett concert was schedule at the Granada Theater nearby. A power failure darkened his block and the theater crowd had to be escorted out by fire fighters with flash lights. Bennett returned a few weeks later to do his show, but for Yates, the outage cost him money for the night at his very popular restaurant in the theater district, and again every time there’s a lengthy power outage during business hours.

Closer to the shopping mall, at 33 Jewels Matt Wallace said the outages have been costly in other ways. “Especially for business owners, lost income, extra time, security issues. It’s happening too much I would like Southern California Edison to look into the aging equipment they have.”

Wallace said the store had to secure all the jewelry using flashlights to light the business. Once they were done and gone, the power surges triggered alarms and they had to return late at night while crews were still working in the area on the faulty lines.

Many normally crowded bars were closed. Servers expecting tips came up empty handed. Movie fans walked out of theaters.

Edison officials have met with downtown leaders and responded with plans to upgrade systems. They say many projects to improve the reliability of the power grid are in the works for the first part of this year. Last year, company officials say in Santa Barbara 800 projects were completed.

Edison also has an easy to find outage map on its website to help customers understand what’s happened to their lights and when the power will be restored.

The company says last nights problem was linked underground facilities.

About half of the customers were out two hours and others about four hours.

The primary area, with hit and miss impacts, extended from Carrillo St. to Gutierrez and out a block or two. Some businesses were dark and others had light, even with the same block.

There were many close calls and near misses at intersections with no working lights.

Yates says that is an accident waiting to happen and he was surprised more wasn’t done for the public’s safety. “I think it is a very scary thing for this town and it should be a priority,” he said.

“We would like to see a schedule and an action plan, we know we have their (Edison’s) attention. We don’t feel we have their urgency,” said Yates. “Where there’s a will there’s a way. We would love to see them show the will, when there’s a way.”

This comes on the leading edge of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in the same downtown area that will bring thousands of people in for 12 days. Many restaurants, theaters, and night spots are expected to be full, every day, and many owners are nervous about the power supply.

The Downtown Organization has posted the petition calling for more Edison action to the problem on its facebook site :

The Downtown Organization is at :

Opal Restaurant is at:

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