Concerns that Balboa Park light poles could be prone to falling

Posted at 6:21 PM, Dec 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-14 21:21:44-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - After Team 10 started asking questions, the City of San Diego made changes to potentially dangerous light poles in Balboa Park.

There was concern that some of the advertising banners on the poles could act like wind sails, causing the poles to topple over.

Team 10 spoke to a local man who had a pole crash on his car. He came to us, worried that a pole could fall on a person.

"I couldn't live with myself if I picked up the paper some day and saw that some kid was crushed by a pole down here and I could've done something," said Steve Deal when we interviewed him outside the Fleet Science Center.

Deal knows all too well the damage that a collapsed pole can cause. Last January, a light pole in the Fleet Science Center back lot came crashing onto his parked car during a windy storm. He was not inside the vehicle, but it was left badly damaged.

Now more than ten months later, the pole has not been replaced. He said the city told him the advertising banners on the pole may have acted like wind sails, causing the pole to blow over.

The city confirmed the banners on similar poles in the area could have an effect on “wind loads”. They were supposed to be taken down in June, but two weeks ago, we still saw banners up in the parking lot.

“As a mom, obviously my first concern is safety,” said Charlotte Milan. We met her and her toddler in the Fleet Science Center parking lot. They come to the park a few times a month. “The fact that I can't depend on my city that I live in to at least keep up the main attractions and keep it safe for children [is] pretty scary,” she told us of the banners that were still up, more than a half a year after they were supposed to be removed.

A city spokesperson admitted to us that the remaining banners we saw, "were supposed to be removed already, but were missed, so they're being removed now."

When we told Milani, she replied, “That's unfortunate that it takes a media outlet to get involved. It should be done without any of that. 

Deal’s case eventually settled, but he couldn't shake what else he saw in the parking lot. “I told the city we got a bigger problem,” he explained. Deal pointed Team 10 to a light pole near the school bus loading zone behind the Fleet Science Center. “This could just be aesthetics. I don't know, but it sure looks pretty scary to me,” he told us.

The pole had visible cracks around it. The cracks could also be seen from the inside. Team 10 had three independent structural engineers take a look. “Those are cracks in the pole structure and do look serious,” one engineer wrote. They all agreed that the pole needs further inspection to determine its structural integrity.

We asked the city about the pole and the other poles in the lot. They wrote to us that their experts had previously inspected them and “there were no signs of imminent failure” in their integrity.

“My opinion is that they didn't do an investigation. The only investigation that happened was my investigation,” said Deal.

Team 10 repeatedly asked the city for an on-camera interview to discuss the story, but the city denied our requests. A spokesperson wrote to us that the pole with the cracks would soon be replaced as a precaution, as would close to 20 other poles in the surrounding area.

This week, the city sent us an update about a safety measure being taken in the same parking lot. It reads in part, “The City is also planning on installing some curb stops at some parking lot stalls where the light [poles] are located in an effort to make sure cars aren't inadvertently hitting the base of where the light [poles] are installed as another protective measure. It is possible that cars that accidently hit the base can damage the base and weaken where the poles are fastened to the base.”