What you need to know about half-replaced utility poles in your neighborhood and how to get them removed

The unfinished jobs can take months or years to complete, but residents can speed up the process.|

Keep us posted

I’ll keep tracking progress on pole replacement jobs around Sonoma County. If you call to report delayed work, let me know what kind of response you get from utility companies. If you notice action being taken on long forgotten poles in your areas, send me a message. You can reach me at by email at marisa.endicott@pressdemocrat.com, by phone at 707-521-5470 or on Twitter or Facebook: @InYourCornerTPD.

If you aren’t able to get through or get action from the responsible utility on a lingering pole replacement or removal project, you can complain to the California Public Utility Commission’s Consumer Affairs Branch at 800-649-7570.

Recently, I wrote about incomplete utility pole upgrades after a Santa Rosa resident wrote in about pieces of old poles and equipment left hanging—literally—long after Pacific Gas & Electric Co. came through and installed new replacements in her neighborhood.

It turns out it’s a subject that’s been on a lot of your minds and an issue that extends far beyond a Bennett Valley street corner.

“I had been wondering about the exact same thing. It concerned me as well,” one woman wrote me. "We had fire come into our Skyhawk neighborhood this last go around so we’re all on high alert. We need things done right with safety in mind.”

More than 20 people sent pictures and tips about new utility poles being installed—a good thing—but ugly remnants of the original poles and equipment remaining months or even years later.

“It looks terrible” and “brings neighborhood values down,” another reader said.

Residents wondering when or if the sawed-off chunks of wood postings attached by two-by-fours and looped or dangling cables that mark corners or line blocks around Sonoma County have received little information about how to move the process forward.

While PG&E usually initiates pole replacements and installations, they split the poles with telecommunications companies (mainly phone, internet and cable companies), including AT&T, Comcast and Verizon and their subcontractors.

PG&E spokesperson Megan McFarland explained that before PG&E starts any work, it sends a 45-day notice to companies they share a pole with and another notification once the project is done. This signals to the other utilities, who ultimately have responsibility for moving and removing any remaining material, that they can now finish the job.

“It’s a pretty strict process,” she said.

“Our crews do not leave the site until the work and transfer of equipment is completed safely,” she assured.

But, without action from the telecommunications companies to fulfill their half of the work, what’s left can be at least unsightly and potentially inconvenient or worrisome.

Weeks after PG&E replaced a power pole in front of Stephanie Bodi’s house in Rohnert Park last year, she and her husband had their street temporarily blocked off after a cable came loose and fell to the ground. That required Comcast to come out the next day to restore service.

They are still waiting on some of the original pole materials to be transferred or removed permanently. “We have been informed that this "contraption" would get fixed and we wait,” she said.

James Reed in Proctor Terrace said he’s tried at least three times to report an old pole in front of his house he’s concerned is rotting to no avail.

“I’m not a worrywart. I retired from construction,” he told me, adding “I did tree work, so I think I know wood pretty well.”

At issue, in many case, is that PG&E can’t move other companies’ equipment and is not responsible for any work that still needs to be done, but figuring out who is can be a chore.

In 2021, PG&E came out and replaced a cracked pole near Ralph Wade’s home in Bennett Valley, moving its power lines to a new one and leaving the old pole and its cables for the next utility to take care of.

A few months later, Wade noticed a deepening in the old pole’s crack and a lot more slack in the attached wires.

“When we saw the pole was getting worse and worse, I just started making calls,” he said.

PG&E told him to notify the telecommunications company who shared the pole, but he realized he wasn’t sure who that would be. He started with a call center representative for Xfinity, which is owned by Comcast, and then went to the company’s local store.

That effort eventually led him to AT&T, which, after his call was transferred a few times, dispatched a crew right away given the pole’s urgent state.

“My experience was that there were no villains or bad players in this episode, but it is confusing and hard to pin down responsibilities for action when you need it,” Wade said, noting, too, an unsuccessful attempt to get guidance from Sonoma County staff.

For Comcast’s part, after receiving a notice, the company generally has 90 days to transfer its equipment to a new pole, according to a spokesperson.

Then, typically, AT&T follows behind and removes the old one.

“In the rare case where Comcast is the owner of the pole, we do have the required inspection process in place to test the integrity of the pole and we will replace them when necessary,” the Comcast spokesperson said.

Along with some questions, I sent AT&T a list of locations for some of the unfinished jobs around Santa Rosa that readers identified.

While the company did not answer my specific asks, it provided a statement: “We are working with PG&E and the city to remove any remaining equipment from these jointly owned utility poles as quickly and safely as possible.”

To report utility pole concerns to AT&T, residents can call (800) 288-2020.

While it’s good news that AT&T might now prioritize some of the incomplete work around town, I didn’t get much clarity into what’s behind pole removal delays.

Luckily, I heard from several readers who’d spent years working for AT&T and PG&E on these exact issues.

While affirming that most lingering pole replacement jobs are more eye sore than unsafe, they noted telecommunications companies’ longtime reputation for dragging their feet.

“I think it’s probably the bottom of the list in terms of priorities,” said Bill Ryan, who worked for AT&T for years doing pole transfers and removal among other things. “AT&T and Comcast are in no hurry to do it because it’s a total loser. It comes right off the bottom line.”

About a decade ago, Ryan was contracted do pole replacements throughout Sonoma and Marin counties. “I get around in the county quite a bit, and I haven’t seen any kind of work like that in a long time,” he said.

Wayne Furr, who did similar work for AT&T and its predecessors, expressed a similar sentiment.

“A lot of times, poles are there from a while,” he said. “Somebody’s got to go out and look at them. You can’t do it from the desk, and they probably don’t have enough people doing it anymore.”

The lack of action has been a lingering point of frustration for Jimmy Cliff, a retired lineman who used to inspect poles for various utilities in California, Nevada and Alaska. “The phone companies are the major problem,” he said.

But, he added, “if enough people complain, they’ll come out and do something.”

Ultimately, the California Public Utilities Commission has oversight of joint pole agreements and work. If calls to PG&E and AT&T or other companies that manage the poles in residents’ areas go unanswered, they can complain to the commission’s Consumer Affairs Branch at 800-649-7570.

“In Your Corner” is a new column that puts watchdog reporting to work for the community. If you have a concern, a tip, or a hunch, you can reach “In Your Corner” Columnist Marisa Endicott at 707-521-5470 or marisa.endicott@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @InYourCornerTPD and Facebook @InYourCornerTPD.

Keep us posted

I’ll keep tracking progress on pole replacement jobs around Sonoma County. If you call to report delayed work, let me know what kind of response you get from utility companies. If you notice action being taken on long forgotten poles in your areas, send me a message. You can reach me at by email at marisa.endicott@pressdemocrat.com, by phone at 707-521-5470 or on Twitter or Facebook: @InYourCornerTPD.

If you aren’t able to get through or get action from the responsible utility on a lingering pole replacement or removal project, you can complain to the California Public Utility Commission’s Consumer Affairs Branch at 800-649-7570.

Marisa Endicott

“In Your Corner” Columnist, The Press Democrat

Born and raised in Northern California, I'm dedicated to getting to know all its facets and helping track down the answers to tough questions. I want to use my experience as a journalist and an investigator to shine a light on local systems, policies and practices so residents have the information they need to advocate for the changes they want to see. I’m passionate about centering the many voices in the communities I cover, and I want readers to guide my work.

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