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Sunshine on Undergrounding

Don Smith | Balboa



The Sunshine Neighbors is a group of neighbors, just like you, who enjoy Del Mar because of its uniqueness, charm and beauty. About two years ago we realized we had questions about how much the utility undergrounding conversion would cost and how the final undergrounding results would look.

We had meetings with the City and its consultants, SDG&E and citizens. We also learned from other jurisdictions that had completed undergrounding. We analyzed and tested formulas. The result was that there were improvements that could be made to our undergrounding projects in North Hills and Sunset districts.

Del Mar’s assessment engineer Ernesto Aguilar met with us in early 2008 to explain Del Mar’s assessment method. A comparative study of the Del Mar formula for districts such as Sunset District had not been done, so we compared the Del Mar formula with three other assessment formulas for a representative sample consisting of 49 contiguous lots comprising about a third of Sunset District.

Our analysis provided new evidence that the Del Mar method is not a benefit-based method but rather is a cost-based method (not allowed by State law) for districts such as Sunset. The Del Mar formula fails to reflect fairly the proportional special benefits accruing to the various properties due to improved aesthetic view; see our website:


The Del Mar assessment engineer and City engineer both agreed that the Del Mar method should be revised for a district such as Sunset.

The assessment engineer reworked the methodology, and the revised methodology was presented to the property owners on July 29, 2009.

We were assured that the assessment engineer would deliver a clear statement of the revised formula so we could test the new formula on our basic sample of 49 contiguous properties. Unfortunately the method as presented was unclear and of concern. But we have recently met with Tom Frank, the consulting engineer hired by the City to oversee the undergrounding projects, and we are hopeful the assessment engineer will deliver a clearly defined, written version of a workable formula to the property owners, well in advance of the vote.

On the issue of physical design, many residents agree that typical SDG&E industrial style installations are ugly and should be used only sparingly in our neighborhoods. The head of the steering committee for Sunset District, Greg Fehr, has worked with architect and neighbor Bill Lewis to develop inexpensive designs that visually screen the installations using Lewis’s creative designs, supplemented by landscape screening under the guidance of local horticulturalist Pat Welsh. This is great news on the design element of our undergrounding!


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