New Utility Poles in Montecito Proposed

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   January 9, 2020

At the Montecito Association Land Use Committee meeting on Tuesday, January 7, representatives from Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) outlined draft amendments to the Montecito Land Use & Development Code related to a proposal to install advanced gas meters throughout the Montecito community.

Southern California Gas Company is proposing a project to add nine Data Collection Units throughout Montecito, which may be located on new utility poles

Advanced gas meters, which are often referred to as smart meters, transmit gas usage directly to SoCalGas, eliminating the need for meter readers on foot to manually monitor usage. In order for the meters to transmit the information, SoCalGas must also install Data Collection Units (DCUs) throughout the community, which transmit the readings back to the gas company.

Currently SoCalGas is proposing to install nine of these units in Montecito; six in the inland zone and three in the Coastal Zone. The DCUs are pole mounted; either co-located on existing light poles or on a pole installed specifically for the DCU. If an existing light pole is not available, units would be installed on a new concrete, wood, or steel pole, with a computer box, antenna, and solar panel for power. “If we are not using an existing pole, then we need to provide power to the unit, so we would install a small solar panel,” said SoCalGas local district manager Timothy Mahoney. The solar panel would be 30 inches by 24 inches, and the newly installed poles could be as high as 30 feet.

“The Montecito community is extremely sensitive to aesthetics and power poles. It’s imperative that you minimize the impact to aesthetics by minimizing the number of poles that you install,” said committee member Peter van Duinwyk. Reps from SoCalGas said they are willing to work with the community to find commercial locations, if possible, in which to install the poles, and use types of poles that best fit into the existing environment.

Other areas in the county have already moved to the advanced gas meters, including the City of Santa Barbara and Goleta. SoCalGas has installed 4,500 of the DCUs throughout their territory, from Fresno to the Inland Empire.

SoCalGas reports that moving from analog meters to advanced gas meters will help the company and customers detect abnormal gas usage and improve air quality. Customers will be able to access usage information via an app or website. The new meter uses the existing equipment on private property, with the addition of a new faceplate that is battery operated. The meter records a reading each day for a very brief moment, utilizing two AA batteries for less than two minutes per year, according to Mahoney. The unit does not communicate with other meters or appliances in the home, and Mahoney said it will still be imperative for customers to be on the lookout for the smell or sound of leaking gas. Mahoney said that studies show that Radio Frequency (RF) emissions from the updated units are far less than everyday items including laptops, cell phones, wireless routers, baby monitors, and microwaves.

The project has been seen by Montecito Board of Architectural Review, and will be seen by the Montecito Planning Commission and Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors in the coming months.


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