Another neighborhood in Manhattan Beach, this one on the south end of the city a few blocks from the beach, will soon decide whether to have its utility poles and lines buried underground.
A mail-in ballot will go out to the 167 properties comprising the district in the coming weeks; that ballot will ask property owners whether they favor paying an assessment to fund a project putting utility lines underground. The City Council — which approved sending out the ballots during its Tuesday, Nov. 19, meeting — will hold a public hearing on Jan. 7 to count the ballots and certify the outcome.
At least half of the property owners must agree to the assessment — which will cost them between $14,650 and $128,323 each — for the project to take place. The city has estimated the that placing all utility lines in the district underground will cost close to $7.3 million. The assessment does not include the cost of extending the underground lines to individual homes.
This latest district to weigh undergrounding runs from First Street south to Boundary Place, and from Ardmore Avenue east to Sepulveda Boulevard. A petition circulated among residents already gathered roughly 53% approval.
Richard Whilden, a resident in the district for 35 years, said he looked forward to seeing a 70-foot tall power pole removed from opposite his home.
“One of the lines once broke and fell on a car,” Whilden said. “In terms of safety, there’s no question in my mind this is an unsafe situation for the city.”
The discussion of putting utilities in Whilden’s neighborhood underground also comes amid statewide discussions about power lines sparking wildfires. In late October, Pacific Gas and Electric, in Northern California, told the state Public Utilities Commission its lines may have caused two recent fires up there. And last week, the commission announced an investigation into several electric utilities — including Southern California Edison — turning off power lines on days when fire danger was high in order to prevent those lines from sparking blazes.
But in Manhattan Beach, undergrounding power lines may have benefits beyond safety. Unobstructed ocean views, after all, can be worth big money in a city where properties are typically valued at several million dollars.
“It’s certainly an aesthetic situation as well,” Whilden said about undergrounding.
Five Manhattan Beach districts so far have successfully removed their utility lines. Two others recently got approval as well. This next district would mark the third one approved since a moratorium on the process was lifted in 2017.
A public meeting for residents in the district to discuss further details is set for Dec. 10.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.