March 2010 home page

  Undergrounding: Different Views
Art Olson | Avenida Primavera

Public Hearing North Hills Undergrounding
February 2, 2010. Panorama Art Olson


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Olson | Shirts | Eisenberg-Pike

Other Opinions about Undergrounding
Farrell | Whitehead | Instone | DeMarco | Schneider  | Olson 1 | Olson 2

On February 2 the City Council held a public hearing on the North Hills Undergrounding project, and decided to move ahead with a vote among affected property owners on April 26 to decide on the establishment of the Undergrounding Assessment District. An overflow audience of well over 60 residents voiced their opinions on the proposed undergrounding process.

M.C. Escher, Angels and Devils, photo collage Art Olson

The discussion reflected the changing nature of Del Mar demographics, highlighting a financial chasm between long-time residents, many of whom bought modestly priced homes and are now retired, living on fixed incomes, and newer residents who have invested more into their Del Mar home purchases, and appear less concerned about the financial impact of their proposed assessments. Those opposed were twice as many as those in favor.

Those opposed focused mainly on the burden of the individual costs, with an emphasis on the state of the current poor economy and the economic hardships that would be caused. Many questioned the focus on public safety, and felt that the costs for what is perceived as principally aesthetic improvements were not warranted. If public safety was the issue some stated that the city should fund the improvements. It was noted that Manhattan Beach had halted its undergrounding efforts in light of the current economic downturn. Some speakers expressed the opinion that it was “morally indefensible” for even those who can afford the costs to put others in the community in financial peril for the sake of cosmetic change. Rev. Bob Nelson said the high assessment of St. Peter’s Church would force cutbacks in an already spare staff and ministry. Ann Dempsey asked if fire safety was the main rationale, why aren’t the most dangerous lines in Crest Canyon part of the undergrounding. Sharon Fierabend exclaimed that after seeing her assessment costs she has “learned to love my utility pole.”

Many in favor emphasized the safety benefits of undergrounding the power lines. They cited the recent storms causing trees and major branches to fall on utility wires, power outages, live wires on the ground. Toby McFarlane vividly described the power-line initiated fire in his neighborhood which was fortunately extinguished by the rain. Joel Holliday and several others emphasized that utility undergrounding was the top-rated goal of the Del Mar 2020 planning exercise, and that the process has been underway for 4 years, and should move ahead.

Some pointed to the Community Support Fund being set up with donations to help those in need with low interest loans to assist in paying for the additional necessary costs of undergrounding the utility wires from the street to their homes. DMCC President Shirley King said DMCC will help administer this fund but emphasized that the donated money is separate from Community Connections and its programs, and should not be seen as an endorsement of undergrounding.

Assistant Fire Chief Robert Scott testified that fires from downed wires are “not common place” in Del Mar, but could happen. The three councilmembeers present voted to move forward, with Crawford and Filanc stating that the vote tally needed to be well over a majority for them to approve the Assessment district.


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