3 West Seattle neighborhoods getting taller utility poles next month for City Light’s ‘advanced metering’

As Seattle City Light continues getting ready for “advanced metering” (explained here), it’s installing taller utility poles in some neighborhoods. The work plan for next month has just been announced, including three West Seattle areas:




From the City Light announcement we received:

Seattle City Light is continuing to support Advanced Metering services throughout the utility’s service territory by replacing existing utility poles with taller poles, which will host wireless utility data collection equipment. The new poles will be 70 feet tall, which is about 20 feet taller than the existing poles.

(Maps of the construction work areas)

From the fliers [that will be distributed to neighbors]:

· This project is part of the communications network to support Advanced Metering, which will automate meter reading and enable enhanced services.

· There are no maintenance power outages planned for this work. Some traffic and parking impacts are expected in the immediate work areas. Crews will be careful to maintain access to driveways.

· Daily work hours are from Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. In most instances, the work to transfer existing equipment and install the data collection equipment can be completed in one day.

If you have questions about the pole installation and/or “advanced metering,” City Light says you can contact JoAnna Perley, Advanced Metering Deployment Manager, 206-733-9648 or joanna.perley@seattle.gov.

49 Replies to "3 West Seattle neighborhoods getting taller utility poles next month for City Light's 'advanced metering'"

  • dsa December 28, 2016 (10:31 am)

    Is this so they can lay off the meter readers?

    • WSB December 28, 2016 (10:51 am)

      The only reference I have found so far is a four-year-old article in Seattle Magazine:

      … Other benefits touted by City Light include improvement in outage management response, because the system will instantly know when an outage occurs; more responsible environmental stewardship, because there will be no need for meter readers to burn gas driving around; and reduction of labor costs, due to the fact that meter readers will no longer be needed.

      Job loss in the current economic climate may not sound like a plus. “Like many areas of our business, the meter reading workforce is aging, and a number of folks will retire during this time,” says [SCL’s Kelly] Enright. “For those who remain, Seattle City Light is very committed to beginning the process early to make sure that meter readers can be retrained and redeployed for positions within Seattle City Light.” IBEW Local 77, the union representing electrical meter readers, did not respond to a request for comment.

    • Sue December 28, 2016 (11:44 am)

      I think the reality is that they haven’t had enough meter readers for quite some time. I had a period a while back where for 9 months I had estimated readings. I live in an apartment building, and City Light absolutely has access to the meter. I called several times and on more than one occasion they admitted they didn’t have enough people and just had to skip us. It took contacting a city council person in charge of City Light to get someone out to read my meter and stop estimating. Meanwhile, I’m sure the person reading my meter was now skipping somebody else’s building instead who didn’t complain.

  • dsa December 28, 2016 (11:23 am)

    Thank you,  they call laying off the meter readers a benefit.  I hope the new meters have a visual recorder (meter) on them that we can see to compare with the electronically, magically, transmitted usage.

    • Mel December 28, 2016 (2:18 pm)

      You’re welcome to keep your analog meter and help pay a meter reader to come to your home, if that’s your wish.

      Also…are you a meter reader?

      If so, a lot of angry citizens would like to have a discussion with you.

    • Peter December 28, 2016 (5:23 pm)

      “Magically.” Yes, it must be magic, that’s the only rational explanation. *eyeroll*

  • anonyme December 28, 2016 (11:37 am)

    What will these poles be made of?  A 90-ft. pole is a very large tree.

    • dsa December 28, 2016 (12:12 pm)

      A 90 foot pole made will have a large base.

      • WSB December 28, 2016 (12:37 pm)

        In the interest of facts … as noted in the announcement published above, it’s 70-foot poles, not 90-foot poles.

  • Egigik December 28, 2016 (12:32 pm)


    • Peter December 28, 2016 (6:30 pm)

      How do?

  • JanS December 28, 2016 (1:17 pm)

    first world problems…things change, and we can’t stop it. It’s called updating. In other words, it is what it is. Hope it’s reliable.

    ue, I have always felt that if the take a little of those millions they pay to the head of city light, and hire more readers (I’m sure there are people who would just LOVE that job), maybe there wouldn’t be so many problems like yours ….sigh.  Works with most companies who have outrageously paid heads, I would imagine. Another big sigh…

    • Neighbor December 28, 2016 (5:30 pm)

      In the interest of facts, the Superintendent of City Light makes $340,000 a year. The CEO of Puget Sound Energy makes almost $3,000,000 a year ($900k in salary, 2.5 million in “bonuses”) 

  • AMD December 28, 2016 (2:03 pm)

    If you follow the link WSB provided, there’s an opt-out policy for those who are opposed to the technology (or love their meter reader or whatever).  http://www.seattle.gov/light/ami/opt-out.asp

    • bolo December 28, 2016 (6:26 pm)

      Might as well tell the whole opt-out story:

      Opt-out costs $124.43 (One-time service and
      administration fee) plus $15.87 each billing cycle.

  • DawgtiredWS December 28, 2016 (2:08 pm)

    In the years of 2013 and 2014, and maybe beyond,  my electric meter was read only twice a year.  After many calls I was told by City Light that if I didn’t like what was going on to read the meter myself and call it in.  I still hope that someone or something reads my meter on a regular billing cycle. 

  • anonyme December 28, 2016 (2:56 pm)

    What will the 70′ poles be made of?  That’s still a very large tree…

    • AMD December 28, 2016 (6:47 pm)

      If you travel east on Cambridge from 16th (and I’m sure other areas but I know I’ve seen them there) you’ll see much taller metal poles.  I think it’s safe to guess they’d go that route if wood poles weren’t cutting it.  

  • Ron Swanson December 28, 2016 (2:56 pm)

    People focus on the meter reading aspects, but these sort of communications capabilities add a lot of exciting potential for increasing renewable generation on the grid: the utility can broadcast that it needs demand tapered off (the wind just stopped blowing in the middle of the day) or that supply is in excess (a very windy night) and individuals homes can cycle water/space heating or electric vehicle charging to help the grid deal with the imbalance.  Could prevent a lot of demand for CO2 spouting natural gas ‘peaker’ plants.

    • chemist December 28, 2016 (7:45 pm)

      There was a time that such tech had to come from your local power meter, but nowadays we have refrigerators and thermostats connecting to internet/WiFi and the utility companies would just need to agree on a secure API that manufacturers can utilize and then that could be implemented rather simply. PSE even offers a $75 rebate on WiFi-type thermostats now.


      • Ron Swanson December 29, 2016 (9:27 am)

        True, but after watching the botnets spreading on unpatched security cameras and the like, I’d rather have smart grid functionality done through utility equipment that has had some thought given to security and that can be remotely patched.

  • Trickycoolj December 28, 2016 (3:04 pm)

    When did Delridge become part of High Point? 

    • WSB December 28, 2016 (3:09 pm)

      I noticed that too, but the maps are from City Light, nothing we can do. It’s almost humorous that it’s usually city sources that get the neighborhoods wrong. I think they might be consulting inaccurately named neighborhood maps somewhere in the city archives…

    • Alan December 28, 2016 (3:44 pm)

      They may be going off Google Maps. Google “High Point, Seattle” and it shows the eastern boundary as being Delridge Way. Or they may be going off the same maps that Google used.

      It wasn’t that long ago that Google showed West Seattle boundaries, which they no longer do. I complained to them because their boundaries excluded most of West Seattle that is East of 35th. Not that there aren’t some in West Seattle that believe that to be true.

    • Question Mark December 31, 2016 (4:25 pm)

      High Point is part of the Delridge neighborhood, so both are correct for that map. Perhaps done to distinguish them for project purposes.

  • wetone December 28, 2016 (4:25 pm)

    Wondering minds want to know what else might be in the works to be mounted on these new poles. hummm ;)

    • Neighbor December 28, 2016 (6:10 pm)

      I don’t know how “wondering” a mind would have to be to wonder about something like  that, but that’s the nice thing about a municipal utility: You can always ask! And if they won’t tell you, you can always file a records request. 

  • Sarah wells December 28, 2016 (5:18 pm)

    Hi city light can you take one of the 2 poles I have in front of my house out. We have had 2 poles in front of our house for 4 years now and still waiting for you to take one . We live in 39th and Southern st in West seattle. We are the only one on the block we 2 poles in front of our house. Thanks. 

  • Josh December 28, 2016 (5:52 pm)

    The huge poles are definitely an eyesore. Check out the one on 106th by Shorewood grocery. Too bad they can’t figure out a better way that’s not so obtrusive :( 

    • Jeff December 29, 2016 (7:14 am)

      Josh, i know exactly what you are talking about and the pole you mention is a pretty special case.    These new poles will be tall, but I’d be very surprised if they are not the traditional round poles.   The glued/laminated ones are individually engineered for situations where a traditional pole just isn’t possible to safely use, and much too expensive to install all over the city for this purpose.

  • Mark December 28, 2016 (5:56 pm)

    Electronic meters provide more benefits via allowing for time of day usage rates.  The grid is heavily used during the day early evening, but in the early am 0100 to 0500 it is not, thus allowing for lower rates during low usage times.  With electric vehicles becoming more prevalent owners could set them up to charge during low usage times for example

  • What about the trees December 28, 2016 (8:21 pm)

    How can a community outraged over tree removals this past year be ok with this? 70ft poles made of what? If it’s trees we can’t allow this and must form a rally or parade in protest immediately. Why are they not doing it all neighborhoods of West Seattle?

    • WSB December 28, 2016 (9:15 pm)

      Found via Google, SCL answered this question on its Facebook page earlier this month.”These are 70-foot wood poles. They will have the same power line configurations with the wireless equipment located above the lines.” The “advanced metering” is happening throughout the coverage area, but does not require replacement of every pole.

  • Just curious December 29, 2016 (9:15 am)

    I’m curious why the decision to put the words “advanced metering” in quotes in the original WSB article? SCL capitalizes it in their release. Why not follow their lead? To my eye, putting it in quotes is sort of othering. It makes it seem as if it is something unique or newfangled or something to be scared of. When, in the interest of facts, advanced metering technology is pretty common next generation utility technology.  According to SCL, more than 500 utilities across the country have already rolled out advanced metering infrastructure. Putting it in quotes makes the author seem Luddite or technophobic – which I’m sure you’re not! Is there a style guide that you follow that determines when or when not to put words in quotations? For example, I did it above because it seemed necessary to demonstrate which words I was talking about.

    • sam-c December 29, 2016 (11:38 am)

      I’ve wondered about items that WSB puts in quotes also. But, it’s usually related to development/ construction design items.

      For example, in various articles about Junction development projects, public benefit is in quotes 


      Public benefits:


      there are other examples of reporting on design review, where the designer or developer describes something as a ‘significant public benefit.’  Since significance is more subjective, I could see why that would be quoted, but public benefits in projects is an actual thing that goes through the City process.

      There have been other examples, like:


      I wonder why site plan is quoted.  

      I too have been curious as to the quoting guidelines since I am not a journalist. (I usually just read it and move on, but wanted to comment since you brought it up)

      • WSB December 29, 2016 (12:18 pm)

        In short, a phrase that is not necessarily what the general public would use, but is the phrase being used by an agency/department/company/etc., often winds up in quotes. That’s the way I write. In this particular case, “advanced metering” is what the city and some of the industry calls it, but it’s a subjective term – as was its predecessor “smart metering,” which is what we used, in quotes, the lone previous time I find this system mentioned in our archives. (Also using quotes in some earlier references, other publications such as the New York Times.) I thought about finding an objective term that would describe it – briefly considering “wi-fi metering” or “wireless metering” but that seemed as if it might be suggesting that wireless internet usage was being metered. An absolutely objective term which some seem to use, according to a quick Google check, is “remote metering.” Also, “automated metering.” – TR

        • Just curious December 29, 2016 (1:41 pm)

          Cool, thanks for the reply. I disagree that it’s a subjective term. Advanced metering infrastructure is very much a thing according to FERC, utilities, and utility regulators across the country. I stand by my assertion that putting it in quotes unnecessarily gives the reader the impression that it’s new, untested, or otherwise worthy of extra suspicion, therefore unintentionally biasing the reader against the technology. As you say, it’s how you write, but I think it does the subject matter – and the reader – a disservice. 

          Tom Sam C’s point, I think that quotation marks are appropriate when the term is a legally defined term that is used in regulation or code. A “public benefit” in the development context has a very specific definition and the marks make that clear. In the case of advanced metering infrastructure, I think the analogy could be found in the following sentence:

          “SDOT will be doing work at California and Fauntleroy to install new ‘traffic lights’ on Tuesday.”

          Setting aside ‘traffic lights’ makes the reader immediately assume there is something weird about the traffic lights. Are they a new type of traffic light? Are they not the normal and accustomed traffic lights?

          Anyway, sorry to go on about this – I think West Seattle has a tendency to be rather technophobic so I’m aware of how a minor-seeming thing like this could impact folks’ reactions to the technology.

          • Agrees December 29, 2016 (9:41 pm)

            I believe the “quotes question” has come up before.  Something I read a long time ago in some old magazine was that two journalists were arguing about the use of quotes.  Bob Smith (can’t remember the real name) said that they were appropriate and cast no doubt on the subject. Sam Jones (again, made up name)  said that they DID cast doubt on the phrase in question.  

            Sam won the argument when he typed as if it were a headline:  

            Bob Smith and his “wife” were seen leaving the Starlight Motel yesterday afternoon. 

          • sam-c December 30, 2016 (10:00 am)

            Agrees: I love that example.

            Thanks for the clarification, WSB, though I still don’t understand why site plan is quoted:


    • WSalive December 30, 2016 (12:29 am)

      The technology referred to as “advanced metering” certainly is a thing, and is used by utilities- and the term is subjective, as WSB contends.  “Advanced metering” is advanced, only until it becomes commonplace, or until another technology replaces it.  “Super-duper advanced metering”, perhaps?  Or “Space pole metering 2000”?

  • dsa December 29, 2016 (10:45 am)

    I think advanced metering means they will charge more for peak usage times.   It might be one reason for people wanting to opt out.

    • Chemist December 29, 2016 (12:25 pm)

      That could be something pursued in the future, but is not a part of the current rate structure that has city council approval.

      • dsa December 29, 2016 (1:07 pm)

        They will pursue it:

        “Seattle City Light is the nation’s greenest utility. We are committed to providing our customers
        with industry-leading service and reliability while empowering them to
        make energy-saving choices. ..”

        Peak hour rates will be the reason for making “energy-savings choices”.

        • Neighbor December 29, 2016 (4:43 pm)

          City Light rates are proposed by utility, reviewed by a Citizen Rate Review Panel (which can, and often does, veto rates) and then finally approved (or not approved) by the council. It is a typical Seattle Process sort of affair, with ample opportunity for community input. 

          But beyond that, time-of-use rates are typically used in places like the southwest, where fossil fuel plants are dominant, and there is heavy air-conditioning load, particularly in the afternoon.. The idea is to keep overall rates lower by discouraging customers from using excess electricity during the periods where the utilities would have to buy power on the open market at premium prices. City Light is 96% hydro, and there is very little afternoon peaking, so it’s not really something that they need to do. 

  • John December 29, 2016 (11:24 am)

    70 foot poles in residential neighborhoods where the building height is restricted to far less? SCL is adding hugely to the urban crap cluttering up our homes. It’s not progress. Progress would be burying the lines. 

    • Sparky December 29, 2016 (1:35 pm)

      Burying the lines would be nice, but it would take decades to do, would leave the city in a perpetual construction zone, and would necessitate quadrupling (at the least) electric and telecom rates, or putting a huge property tax assessment in place.  (Remember, everything above has to go below- not just the power lines.) 

      So so if you don’t want “urban crap”, your best bet is to move to a brand new development in someplace like Issaquah, where the utilities are put underground at the time the streets are laid out. 

    • Question Mark December 31, 2016 (4:30 pm)

      The point of these new poles is to add radio transmitter antennas at that height. I’m pretty sure these poles would continue to be necessary even if all the power lines were to be buried.

  • John December 29, 2016 (11:26 am)

    Also, think work has already caused 1.5 days of outages during the dead of winter at our house, so they’re also lying. 

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