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Power poles on Pacific Coast Highway in Hermosa Beach such as those pictured here are proposed to be placed underground. (File photo)

An undergrounding district formed by residents to remove overhead utility lines and poles in a section of Hermosa Beach was approved by the City Council at its Oct. 13 meeting.

The Greenwich Village Underground Association will move forward with undergrounding in the north end of the city spanning from from 27th Street to 34th Street along Hermosa Avenue. But before the council's unanimous approval, ballots, which are weighted based on property size from residents in that district, were tabulated live at the meeting. To move forward, more than 50 percent approval was required to form the district. More than 67 percent of property owners voted yes.

“I am confident that the process of getting to this point was sound, that the substance of the assessment is sound,” said Mayor Pro Tem Justin Massey. “Now we have a super majority of the residents casting a ballot in favor of undergrounding this district, and a process that has been going on six years in favor of bringing this item to closure for the benefit of the residents.”

According to a final engineer's report for the Greenwich Village North Underground Utilities Assessment District, the costs of the undergrounding are estimated to be just over $4 million, mostly due to construction costs related to power, telephone and cable facilities with Southern California Edison, Frontier Communications and Crown Castle

The average assessment of the 99 parcels is nearly $41,000, with assessments ranging from around $4,500 to over $96,000, according to a city staff report. Residents will be given the opportunity to pay the assessment as a lump sum by Nov. 13, 2020, or annually plus interest over an approximately 20-year period, according to a letter from the city.

“The district will also pay an upfront design cost estimate of $185,000 that was provided by Southern California Edison, Frontier and Crown Castle in order to initiate the design phase,” said Public Works Director Marnell Gibson at Tuesday's meeting. “Once the utility companies complete the design, which is estimated to be anywhere between 18 to 24 months, they will provide a construction cost estimate.”

While the undergrounding district was approved, a number of residents said they did not receive proper notice about various meetings concerning the buying utility wires and some felt the decision should be delayed by the City Council due to the pandemic.

“I side with everyone who has said they haven't gotten enough information,” added Melissa Draper. “I think that it really is misleading to have said this is a thorough communication with the entire community who's involved.”

Vicki Patman helped spearhead the initial underground process more than six years ago.

“We walked around, we circulated petitions by mail, by email, by phone calls, and door-to-door canvassing,” Patman said. “It's been an incredible amount of work with over 90 parcels. We had 60 percent of the residents signing the petition of interest.”

Patman added a group of residents also hired an attorney, formed the Greenwich Village Underground Association and collected approximately $250,000 from residents to be used towards the design cost and assessment engineer.

“There have been many starts and stops along the way," Patman said. "However, we continue to keep the neighborhood informed on any progress."

Supporters said undergrounding will improve the quality of life in the community.

Resident Scott Friedman said a transformer had sparked a fire near his residence 10 years ago.

“I think the aesthetics, the safety, it will make living here much more pleasing,” Friedman said.

Contact this reporter at mhixon@tbrnews.com or on Twitter @michaeljhixon.com.

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