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Undergrounding the North Hills
September 2008 | By Garry Shirts

Since March 2006, I and a group of volunteers have been working to get the utility poles undergrounded in the Hills area. We've tried hard to keep everyone informed of the progress of the project through newsletters, public meetings and a website. But since it's a long and complicated process, residents still have questions. Below are answers to the most frequently asked questions.

1. What are the benefits of this project and why should I support it?
There are several important benefits to Del Mar homeowners and the community at large. In addition to the obvious aesthetic benefits of undergrounding utilities, this project will result in increased reliability and fewer power outages of our utilities. In addition, a high percentage of fires -- including the catastrophic wildfires of last October that scorched more than 368,000 acres and destroyed the homes of more than 1,500 San Diego County residents -- are caused by sparking utility lines. Undergrounding our utilities will increase our levels of fire safety and reduce the likelihood of downed utility lines causing such disastrous fires.

2. How much will it cost me and when will I know?
Naturally, everyone is interested in knowing how much it will cost them. If the project is completed on schedule, homeowners will know the amount of their assessment by the end of January 2009. The vote will be scheduled for two months after the proposed assessments are mailed. If the project passes, a property-tax district will be formed. The property-tax assessment may be paid in a lump sum or spread over 20 years. The interest rate will be set by the city council on the advice of bond attorneys.

If the project is passed, each of the homeowners who have an overhead connection to the power line in the assessment district will be required to dig a trench from their electric panel box to the connection in the street. The cost of this effort is expected to average $2000. It may be more or less depending on the length and difficulty of digging the trench, whether the electrical connection will need to be updated to make a safe connection and how much of the work the homeowners do themselves.

3. Who determines how much my assessment will be?
State law requires that the assessment be based on the benefit to the homeowner and be developed and conducted by licensed assessment engineers. The Del Mar City council approved the formula developed by the PBS&J engineering firm as part of the Ocean Pines undergrounding project and modified it slightly for the Del Mar North Hills Undergrounding Project.

4. Who will vote?
Every homeowner in the proposed district will be eligible to vote. The vote will be conducted by the City of Del Mar. Each homeowner will have a vote in proportion to the size of his or her assessment. A committee of volunteers is working to establish alternative financing for elderly persons on fixed incomes. 

5. What are the area boundaries?
For a map of the areas within the project and more in depth answers to questions about financing, construction, and voting, please visit our website at http:www//dmnhup.com  or call me (755-3817), Sharon Hilliard, (481-7200) the coordinator of the volunteers for area 1 and assistant coordinator of the entire project,  Ken Paulovich (755-0503) the coordinator of the volunteers for area 2 or Karen Powell (755-8803) the coordinator for Area 1.



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