• Laguna to investigate undergrounding utilities citywide


    Laguna Beach wants to look at options for placing utility lines underground throughout the city.

    City Manager John Pietig is tasked with drafting funding recommendations and a request for proposals from consultants and utility-pole maps from local utility companies.

    Staff estimated that undergrounding lines citywide could cost about $125 million.

    "We want to get things done. We want to tackle the big issues and projects," Councilman Steve Dicterow said. "Particularly big issues that we've been talking about for 20 years or more, and certainly undergrounding is one of those things."

    Resident Arnold Hano approached the city manager about getting undergrounding rolling and waited four hours at the City Council's July 16 meeting, after other items were heard, to voice his support for the project.

    "To me, it's a win-win-win-win-win," he said. "Everybody wants to underground and they want to underground as quickly and as cheaply as possible."

    Though the cost estimate is big, Hano said it's probably costing residents more to do it district by district. He said he spoke to someone at Southern California Edison who said the whole city could be done in six years.

    "I think we can beat the $125 million and we can beat the timeframe," Hano said.

    Supporters of undergrounding want to remove what they consider unsightly power poles and eliminate hazards from downed lines.

    "It's the safety of it," Hano said. "We're going to have more than one fire."

    Neighborhoods that have paid for undergrounding out of their own pockets deserve some type of credit if the project comes to fruition, Dicterow said.

    Councilwoman Toni Iseman said she and Assistant City Manager Christa Johnson recently met with the Southern California Association of Governments and the Orange County Transportation Authority to discuss undergrounding utilities on Laguna Canyon Road. SCAG encouraged the city to work with OCTA to get the project included in a local transportation plan so it would have a better chance to get on SCAG's regional transportation plan which will be updated in 2016 making it eligible for state and federal funding.

    Dicterow said the city can start working with consultants on details of the project.

    "It's big, it's going to take a long time," he said. "It's expensive. It isn't easy. But it needs to start."

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