West Seattle Blog... » Utilities http://westseattleblog.com West Seattle news, 24/7 Fri, 25 Jul 2014 05:14:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Update: Comcast West Seattle outage blamed on ‘fiber cut’ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/07/no-comcast-company-says-west-seattle-outage-fixed-soon/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/07/no-comcast-company-says-west-seattle-outage-fixed-soon/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:13:19 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=280297 9:13 AM: Thanks to Steve for the tip about a Comcast outage in Admiral. According to a tweet from @ComcastWA, it’s because of a “fiber cut” and should be fixed within an hour or so … let us know if that window passes and you’re still out.

9:43 AM UPDATE: Steve says the service is back up.

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Scam alert: Another variation of the utility-bill phone calls http://westseattleblog.com/2014/07/scam-alert-another-variation-of-the-utility-bill-phone-calls/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/07/scam-alert-another-variation-of-the-utility-bill-phone-calls/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 03:15:05 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=279427 At least for this area, it’s a new spin on the recurring telephone scam in which someone calls a business and claims its electricity is about to be cut off unless it makes a payment right now. Over the weekend, Donna Burns from Giannoni’s Pizzeria in Westwood Village – which had received the power-bill-scam call at least twice – reported a caller, claiming to be with Puget Sound Energy, making demands: “After I received the ‘we’re turning off your gas in 30 minutes if you don’t pay $500′ call, I immediately called PSE myself (their emergency number) and confirmed that it was in fact, a fraudulent call.” She was due to follow up with the Seattle Police fraud unit today. Bottom line is that if anyone calls you – business or personal line – claiming you need to make a payment now or face disconnection, DON’T DO IT – even if you are worried you might have bonafide bill trouble, hang up and contact the utility directly yourself to find out your status. (Searching the Web before publishing this, we see reports of this in some other parts of PSE’s service territory, but it doesn’t seem to have been as widely reported in Seattle as the electric-bill scam.)

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Extra work Saturday at sewer-overflow project by Lowman Beach http://westseattleblog.com/2014/07/extra-work-saturday-at-sewer-overflow-project-by-lowman-beach/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/07/extra-work-saturday-at-sewer-overflow-project-by-lowman-beach/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 18:18:14 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=278649

(Project site aerial photo by Long B. Nguyen)
Work is scheduled this Saturday (July 12th) at the sewer-overflow-control project across from Lowman Beach, where King County is building a million-gallon underground storage tank to reduce overflows from the nearby Murray Pump Station. The county sent special notice of this today since it’s outside the bounds of the usual work; the notice says the work will be done between 9 am and 5 pm Saturday, and: “Nearly all the work will be completed with hand tools. No drilling, pumping or other construction activities will occur. Some materials may be moved around the site with a forklift.”

The notice described the work as “repairs” so we followed up to ask what was broken; project spokesperson Doug Marsano replied that it is “general maintenance work on the drill equipment used to install the outer ring of the tank. Some of the project’s support equipment may also be maintained in order to prevent breakdowns. Doing the maintenance on Saturday when the equipment isn’t being used helps keep the project on schedule.” And so far, he said, it is “going well and is on schedule.” That schedule calls for completion in 2016.

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Reader report: Another bird-caused West Seattle power outage http://westseattleblog.com/2014/07/reader-report-another-bird-caused-west-seattle-power-outage/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/07/reader-report-another-bird-caused-west-seattle-power-outage/#comments Sun, 06 Jul 2014 04:32:36 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=278490 From Jon:

Power was out in the Seaview Addition from roughly 6 pm – 7:30 pm, on July 5th. A crow hit a transformer, and was killed. Immediately, a couple dozen crows set up in the heavily wooded lot across the alley, and made a raucus cawing dirge. There were several crows still cawing when City Light showed up an hour later. They indicated they were familiar with this crow behavior. They soon had the power restored, with a bird shield over the transformer. Only a few homes were affected by the outage.

This is the third outage of this type in the past week or so.

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Update: 2nd small power outage this week west of The Junction http://westseattleblog.com/2014/07/second-small-power-outage-this-week-west-of-the-junction/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/07/second-small-power-outage-this-week-west-of-the-junction/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 17:17:08 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=278164 Charissa e-mailed with word of a power outage in the 48th/Edmunds area that she says started when a “transformer blew” around 9:30 am. The City Light site says 11 households are affected and they’re hoping to have the power back within a few hours. It’s notable because this is at least the second time this week that area’s had a small (double-digit or fewer customers) outage. The cause is listed, however, as still officially being “investigated.”

10:44 AM: Charissa says the power’s back on: “It was a crow pecking at a live wire attached to the transformer. Seattle City Light guy said happens all the time. they electrocute themselves. very sad. City Light puts a piece of plastic down to help prevent it from happening again.” So often, that’s what the small outages turn out to be.

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West Seattle power outage: Parts of Arbor Heights, Brace Point http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/west-seattle-power-outage-north-arbor-heights-brace-point/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/west-seattle-power-outage-north-arbor-heights-brace-point/#comments Tue, 24 Jun 2014 07:29:15 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=277338

(Outage zone, screengrabbed from City Light map)
12:29 AM: Thanks to Kevin and Jason for initial tips (editor@westseattleblog.com) – the City Light outage map now confirms an outage in Arbor Heights and Brace Point. They both reported an explosion-type sound preceding the power problem (for Jason, it’s out; for Kevin, it flickered). City Light says 134 households are affected and estimates restoration by 3 am (remember, it’s always more of a “guesstimate” at this point).

1:29 AM: The map now blames the outage on “tree” and estimates power back by 9 am.

9 AM NOTE: Jason says in comments that the power returned around 4:45.

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Why 4-year-old West Seattle Reservoir needs a multimillion-dollar retrofit – and Myrtle Reservoir is expected to, too http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/why-4-year-old-west-seattle-reservoir-needs-a-multimillion-dollar-retrofit-and-myrtle-reservoir-is-expected-to-too/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/why-4-year-old-west-seattle-reservoir-needs-a-multimillion-dollar-retrofit-and-myrtle-reservoir-is-expected-to-too/#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2014 06:18:40 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=276857

(SPU photo inside West Seattle Reservoir in May 2010, not long before it was filled)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Only four years after it went into service, the underground West Seattle Reservoir in Highland Park needs a $7.6 million earthquake-resistance retrofit.

Work will start this summer, while the city and its consultants determine the scope of retrofitting that is also expected for our area’s other underground water facility, Myrtle Reservoir in Gatewood, as well as for two others in the city, Beacon and Maple Leaf.

We talked today with Seattle Public Utilities and its consultants about the problem, the solution, and the work ahead.

This was foreshadowed a year and a half ago; we made note of it here in November 2012, following up after The Seattle Times (WSB partner) broke the news that the reservoirs’ designer, MWH, had told the city about what SPU calls “possible seismic deficiencies in their work.” SPU subsequently announced that testing would be done to find out about those potential deficiencies and what would be needed to remedy them.

They didn’t expect the testing would take as long as it did. West Seattle Reservoir is the first one for which a seismic review has been finished and a retrofit plan laid out.

We found out about it when a public notice seeking bids on the West Seattle Reservoir work appeared online last week. Our subsequent inquiries with SPU led up to today, when we and a Times journalist met at the Municipal Tower downtown with SPU’s supervising civil engineer Aziz Alfi and media liaison Andy Ryan as well as two managers from the consulting firm CH2M Hill, which has led the seismic review, Wally Bennett and John Spencer.

First thing you should know is: SPU says the reservoirs “are in no danger of catastrophic failure,” even without the retrofits. But the testing showed that a massive quake – one that would make the 2001 Nisqually quake look like a gentle shake – would likely render them unusable, and that is not acceptable to the utility.

It was stressed that none of the reservoirs will have to be dug back open for these retrofits – the work will be done inside, with crews and equipment accessing through existing maintenance hatches. The work will take the reservoirs out of service for months – not concurrently (the timeline is explained later) – but that won’t lead to any water restrictions or shortages; SPU says it will simply route water service other ways.

Spencer explained the backstory: Once the designer (MHW) disclosed the reservoirs were not likely able to meet seismic expectations, the discussion, as well as a review by outside experts, led to a plan for 3-D modeling.

This led to what was in essence the invention of a type of computer analysis that so far has been completed only on West Seattle Reservoir, with the other three to follow. The central square below correspond with the square outlined in red in the aerial photo above.

The computer modeling looked at the reservoir structure piece by piece (see the squares in the renderings above and below) and analyzed how each of those pieces would react in an earthquake of the type that might happen only every 2,500 years.

We’re told there is no magnitude that can be assigned to that hypothetical quake – just, much stronger than Nisqually, and of a different type. Each reservoir was analyzed in the prism of the type of quake most likely to be the strongest potential quake in its geographic area; for the West Seattle Reservoir, that’s a Seattle Fault quake.

Other firms were brought in for the computer analysis, including SC Solutions of Sunnyvale, California, which has experience in “high-end finite-element computer models, and specific experience with buried structures.” The analysis was so complicated, using “supercomputer”-type functionality, that just “one run” resulted in a terabyte of data.

What they had to test, explained Spencer, was whether a catastrophic earthquake would still leave the 30-million-gallon West Seattle Reservoir functional – would it hold water so that drinking and fire-fighting water would still come from it? The initial test runs revealed: No, it wouldn’t. The consultants say it would not burst “like a dam” – but it wouldn’t hold its water, so to speak. It would drain out, mostly into the earth, within hours/days.

Once they got the problem sorted out, they started testing possible solutions. A conclusion: This catastrophic quake would lead to the West Seattle Reservoir’s floor slipping – almost an inch, seconds into the quake, Bennett said – and its north wall cracking. So a “joint” in the reservoir’s floor has to be covered in an additional 8-inch-thick slab of concrete to make sure it doesn’t slip much if this kind of quake happens, since the testing determined that retrofit would help the structure “gain a lot more resistance to movement,” resulting in fewer stresses to other parts of the reservoir. Two other areas of the floor will get an added slab, too. And the north wall will be covered in a polyurea liner that will keep water from getting out even in the event of major cracking of the wall.

So this work is what has gone out to bid, with bids due to be opened on July 2nd, and work to begin by fall, lasting about five months. It’s not affecting the park-building project on the West Seattle Reservoir lid, SPU says.

Meantime, the Maple Leaf reservoir is being analyzed now, and whatever retrofit work it needs is expected to be done next year. Myrtle Reservoir in Gatewood – by far the smallest undergrounded reservoir, at 5 million gallons – is also expected to have a 2015 start for whatever retrofitting is needed, possibly by the end of next year. Beacon Hill Reservoir would follow in 2016.

The full price tag could be up to $30 million for all four reservoirs, according to SPU, which says it has been “working collaboratively with the reservoirs’ designer to recover the costs of the repairs.”

You might recall another reservoir problem first reported here back in 2009 – waterproofing leaks at Myrtle (where the undergrounding was completed in 2008) and Beacon Reservoirs. That wasn’t related to this, but Ryan reiterated today that the costs were covered by the contractor, and that cost recovery is being pursued just as intensely in this case. Alfi says MHW already has made “some payments.” SPU says that “to date, the overall cost of building and repairing the four reservoirs is about $133.5 million – $15.5 million under the original budget.”

The retrofitting would not prevent all reservoir damage in case of a catastrophic quake, but it would leave the reservoir in “repairable” condition, not losing a lot of water, because, as Bennett said, “our expectation is that the structure and the soil (would) move together.”

We asked how much of the technology and methodology would be reusable for the studies of Myrtle, Beacon, and Maple Leaf reservoirs. Each is unique, the consultants explained; each will behave differently, and each faces a different kind of potential quake threat. But, Spencer said, “We have learned a lot in the course of doing this work, so we’ll be able to (move) more quickly on each one of (the remaining three).”

The order chosen for studies and repairs is in part because of “water supply considerations,” Alfi said. While the retrofitting work is under way, the reservoir will have to be drained and kept out of the system. That requires planning and rerouting comparable to “traffic controllers,” he added. “Instead of detouring cars, we’re detouring water.” They’re also coordinating the water “detours” with other SPU projects.

But all the work will be done inside the reservoir, said Bennett. “No new holes in the surface – no excavation. It will go inside through three existing hatches. The contractor will mobilize the site so you’ll see trailers and typical construction (crews/equipment).”

The mobilization for West Seattle Reservoir is expected to start in August; it would be completely empty from September through January. The draining, said Alfi, will mostly happen through regular usage, with the water level allowed to continue falling as people use the water, and whatever finally remains at the end would be routed to some other system. (If the reservoir ever had to have its contents drained to the storm-drain system, it feeds into the Duwamish River, we were told.)

At that same time, the contractor for Seattle Parks is expected to be doing landscaping atop the reservoir.

So why did the safety analysis take so much longer than first anticipated? The piece-by-piece review was something that had never been done before, for one, but a breakthrough finally happened when a new staff member at SC Solutions applied a model used in analyzing car crashes. And it might not have been so complex if not for the fact the city had four reservoirs with potential seismic deficiencies; if it had only been one, the project team said, they might have taken a different approach.

Will the lessons learned here be applicable to any future SPU projects? Ryan noted that Volunteer and Roosevelt reservoirs remain offline as SPU continues to evaluate whether the system is OK without them ever going back into service, and that evaluation has another year or so remaining, so currently there is no anticipation of additional undergrounding.

Ryan says the City Council has been updated on all this, particularly the Public Utilities and Neighborhoods Committee. A Council decision in 2004 led to the undergrounding of six reservoirs including the four involved in this review, with health and security concerns in mind.

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West Seattle power outage: 54 households in Gatewood http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/west-seattle-power-outage-54-households-in-gatewood/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/06/west-seattle-power-outage-54-households-in-gatewood/#comments Wed, 11 Jun 2014 02:41:17 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=276146

7:41 PM: 54 customers (households, since it’s in a residential area) in Gatewood are out of power right now, according to the Seattle City Light outage map (screengrab above). It’s currently estimating restoration around 10:30 tonight, but take note, that’s usually more guesstimate than estimate. The map lists “bird/animal” as the cause.

1:23 AM: City Light’s map shows the outage is over.

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SCAM ALERT: Fake ‘City Light’ disconnection-threat calls, again http://westseattleblog.com/2014/05/scam-alert-fake-city-light-disconnection-threat-calls-again/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/05/scam-alert-fake-city-light-disconnection-threat-calls-again/#comments Sun, 25 May 2014 03:01:35 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=274345 Don’t be fooled if you get a call from someone claiming to be from Seattle City Light and that you need to pay money NOW to avoid power-service disconnection. Last November, we wrote about this scam hitting local businesses. And tonight, West Seattle’s Feedback Lounge (WSB sponsor) says somebody just tried it on them today – they weren’t fooled.

A guy calling himself James from Seattle City Light called the Feedback and got our manager. “James” said we were due to be disconnected for non-payment. He said there was a technician in the area and would arrive within about 30 minutes so we needed to act quickly. He wanted her to go to Rite Aid and get a Money Pack for $260 then call back (to a different number than he was calling on) to process the payment. Fortunately (the manager) was sharp enough to call me and we determined it was a scam. Here were the clues:

*We had just paid our bill and had reference numbers to prove it. James said the payments didn’t show on our account. When I asked what account number he was looking at, he wouldn’t tell me.

*James called from a number that didn’t have a city-type prefix (usually 684).

*The number at Feedback is not the contact number we have on file at City Light. When (the manager) tried the number James gave her to make the payment, James answered. When he recognized her voice he hung up.

*The amount ($260) bore no relation to any of our bills. Anyone who has dealt with disconnection knows that balances have to be paid in full to stop the disconnect.

*Anyone from City Light that calls about a disconnection has the ability to take a payment. There is no need to call another number.

*Most telling, there is no way City Light is paying anyone on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend to go out and do power disconnects.

*I called police and reported this and they told me it is a currently running scam around town.

Also of note – when this scam went around exactly a year ago, City Light explained on its website that it does NOT cut off power for one late payment – you would get at least two written notifications. This kind of scam is a crime, so if someone tries it on you, call police, as the Feedback crew did.

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What you’re missing if you don’t read the newsletter with your Seattle City Light bill http://westseattleblog.com/2014/05/what-youre-missing-if-you-dont-read-the-newsletter-with-your-seattle-city-light-bill/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/05/what-youre-missing-if-you-dont-read-the-newsletter-with-your-seattle-city-light-bill/#comments Thu, 22 May 2014 16:26:50 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=274136 We usually take it directly to recycling (and really should sign up for e-billing, since we always e-pay) but for some reason, when ours arrived this week, we looked at the newsletter – and discovered something we hadn’t heard. It’s small, but if you have routines around bill payment, you might want to know: Seattle City Light is changing meter-reading routes, mostly south of downtown, and that’s changing the billing dates. Go here to read about it and see how/whether yours is changing, either by clicking on a map or entering part of your account number.

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In case you wondered too: Road crew at Delridge/Andover http://westseattleblog.com/2014/04/in-case-you-wondered-too-road-crew-at-delridgeandover/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/04/in-case-you-wondered-too-road-crew-at-delridgeandover/#comments Wed, 30 Apr 2014 22:40:58 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=271992

Several questions this morning about the crew cutting up pavement and blocking a northbound lane on Delridge Way at Andover. Though there is a project on the drawing boards for that area, this is NOT related – SDOT‘s Marybeth Turner checked around and found out that Seattle Public Utilities was doing emergency sewer-repair work. (We haven’t been able to get back there in recent hours so not sure if the crew’s still there.)

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Water out? You’re not alone http://westseattleblog.com/2014/04/water-out-youre-not-alone/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/04/water-out-youre-not-alone/#comments Sat, 26 Apr 2014 23:49:33 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=271556

4:49 PM: We’ve received multiple reports – including this photo courtesy of Kerry – about a water outage in the Hansen View area, southeast of The Triangle (35th/Hudson, 35th/Edmunds so far). Anyone else?

6:27 PM UPDATE: Thanks to Kerry for noting in a comment that the water’s back on – and thanks to everyone else who helped flesh out the details; very helpful since SPU does not have an outage map along the lines of what City Light has.

6:29 PM UPDATE: … maybe not for everyone, per Tracey‘s comment.

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Building roadside raingardens in West Seattle: Barton CSO project progress http://westseattleblog.com/2014/04/building-roadside-raingardens-barton-project-progress/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/04/building-roadside-raingardens-barton-project-progress/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 18:37:35 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=270701

If you live in or travel through Sunrise Heights or Westwood, you probably know the “roadside raingarden” construction for the first phase of the Barton Basin Combined Sewer Overflow Control project continues to intensify. The King County Wastewater Treatment Division is building “green stormwater infrastructure” in eight blocks this year, seven blocks next year – 91 roadside raingardens in all. En route to a meeting last night, we noticed the activity on one block, 34th SW north of Holden (map), so went back today for a closer look (above). The county is now publishing weekly updates on its website – including what’s happening in which blocks:

For any residents who didn’t get block-by-block informational flyers, those also are available online. This project is part of state-mandated work to reduce combined-sewer overflows into Puget Sound; in this area, it’s called Barton because the wastewater ends up at the Barton Pump Station north of the Fauntleroy ferry dock.

P.S. The county is scheduled to present an update on its other in-progress Combined Sewer Overflow Control project, the Murray-basin-serving storage tank across from Lowman Beach, at tonight’s Morgan Community Association meeting (7 pm, The Kenney [WSB sponsor], lower-level meeting rooms, 7125 Fauntleroy Way SW).

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West Seattle power outage: 77 185 homes in The Arroyos http://westseattleblog.com/2014/04/west-seattle-power-outage-77-homes-in-the-arroyos/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/04/west-seattle-power-outage-77-homes-in-the-arroyos/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 16:18:06 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=270494

9:18 AM: Seattle City Light estimates the power outage affecting a section of southwestern West Seattle might not be fixed until after 1 pm. SCL says “equipment failure” is to blame for the outage at 77 homes in The Arroyos. (Thanks to Susan for the tip.)

3:55 PM UPDATE: The estimates of power-restoration time have moved back, and we checked with Scott Thomsen of SCL about the status:

There is a crew working on this outage. We know that it involves underground equipment. We do not yet know what piece of equipment failed or where that failure took place. The crew is troubleshooting the system to locate the problem and identify it so they can make repairs. The … estimate for restoration of service is only an estimate and could change once the crew finds the damage and determines what is needed to fix it.

11:50 PM UPDATE: Looks like it’s finally over as of late tonight, after, as is pointed out in a comment, growing at one point to almost 200 homes. We’ll ask SCL again tomorrow what the cause turned out to be.

TUESDAY MORNING UPDATE: Turns out it was not entirely resolved – see comment below – so we checked with SCL’s Thomsen again this morning:

Yesterday crews found that an underground cable failed, which caused the outage. They switched around the damage to restore power. A permanent repair involving the replacement of the cable is being scheduled.

Today, crews are investigating an outage on that same circuit. This is limited to equipment in a single underground vault. They are working to determine what piece of equipment failed. It is possible that the two events are connected. If the vault equipment failed first, it could have caused a surge that the cable could not withstand.

When the crew identified the failed cable, they believed they had discovered the problem and restored service to all customers. In some cases like this, a customer’s call to tell us they are still out is how we learn that there is other damage that needs to be fixed.

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Happening now: ‘Vactoring’ cleanup at Fauntleroy ex-substation http://westseattleblog.com/2014/03/happening-now-vactoring-cleanup-at-fauntleroy-ex-substation/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/03/happening-now-vactoring-cleanup-at-fauntleroy-ex-substation/#comments Wed, 26 Mar 2014 19:51:21 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=268808

After cutting trees as part of a soil cleanup at two of West Seattle’s six “surplus” ex-substations, over the objections of community advocates including the WS Green Space Coalition, City Light said it would try a different technique at the Fauntleroy and Genesee Hill sites – “vactoring” contaminated soil in a way that WSGSC was told should make cleanup possible without destroying the trees. Thanks to a reader tip, we learned this work is happening at the Fauntleroy site (just around the corner from the Endolyne business district-let) right now. Meantime, as noted in our most recent report, the Green Space Coalition is continuing to advocate for a larger community role in determining the sites’ future – rather than what has been the usual past path of seeing them sold for housing development. City Light has said it could send disposition-plan legislation to the City Council – which has the final say – as soon as the third quarter of this year.

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