Council Addresses Utility Undergrounding; Active Transportation Plan - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado City News

Council Addresses Utility Undergrounding; Active Transportation Plan

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Posted: Monday, September 17, 2018 1:37 pm

By sheer size and cost alone, the concept of undergrounding utility lines in the City of Coronado is daunting. With a windfall of money coming back to Coronado over the next decade via the State of California, to reimburse the city for redevelopment funds that were previously denied, the city staff and city council are looking for a meaningful project that will positively impact Coronado. Details relating to the utility undergrounding concept were presented during the City Council meeting of Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018.

The theory is there are many benefits from undergrounding utilities including these delineated in the staff report for the Sept. 4 meeting. “It is widely accepted that property values increase when utilities are undergrounded. Typically, the higher the value of the property, the greater the financial affect from undergrounding. Undergrounding also improves safety, aesthetics, utility reliability, and public right-of-way accessibility.”

To work on the undergrounding plan, the city retained the services of Harris & Associates to create the Coronado Utility Undergrounding Master Plan, which came up with some startling numbers. There are 28.1 miles of overhead utilities in the city, which in 2018 dollars would cost $175 million to underground. Other fun facts include the total scope of the project would require removal of 1,521 utility poles and approximately 148,570 lineal feet of overhead wiring. As a very rough estimate, the projected financial windfall from the state would cover about one-third of the total undergrounding project cost.

Which is where the problems began during the council meeting. Harris & Associates, in consultation with city staff, developed criteria to determine which of the 12 geographic areas in the city would benefit most from undergrounding. The short answer was there were three areas that ‘won’ the mythical first round of the undergrounding lottery. The first group included Priority Area K consisting of First and Second Streets. Two groups tied for second and were listed as Priority Area A which contains Margarita/Bay Circle and Priority Area G which includes Pomona.

A 100-point scale was established by Harris, with a total of 60 points awarded for the following concepts:

• Public Safety-Conflict between Utility Poles and Vehicular Traffic, 15 points

• Overhead Lines in an area where there are identified conflicts with Street Trees, 15 points

• Concentration of overhead lines along Sidewalks, 10 points

• Overhead Lines and Poles located within 50 feet of Dedicated Historical Resources, 10 points, and

• Approximate Cost of Service Conversion, 10 points

Other criteria worth five points each included: Overhead Lines are located along both sides of the street or are transmission lines; Land Use within Each Area with Direct Economic Impacts; Proximity to Parks and Recreation Areas; Overhead Lines located along Bike Lanes and Safe Routes to School; Proximity of Undergrounding of Overhead Lines that Completes utility undergrounding in an area of the City or completes a Segment between Two undergrounding utility Areas; Overhead lines located along a travel lane planned for reconstruction in the next five years; Previously Identified Undergrounding District and Overhead Lines eligible for Rule 20(a) funding.

It became immediately obvious that there was little or no support for work to continue within the previously existing Silver Strand Utility Undergrounding District in the Harris Master Plan. Cays Resident Elizabeth Butler said, “I am very disappointed in the study. It showed no distinction between the Silver Strand and the city streets and city alleys. We need to finish the Strand utilities undergrounding. The Silver Strand is unique in that we have the Navy Seabees do the trenching and pole removal. There was a big price tag reduction and we did the first two phases with federal grants. We have access to multiple grants and we need an engineering study.” The city staff report included the fact that 73 poles have been removed on the Silver Strand SR-75 to date.

There was other public input along the same general line, and a series of motions and substitute motions emanated from the council. The consensus on the dais seemed to be that the Silver Strand portion of the project needed to be reassessed.

The final motion on the subject was put forward by Councilmember Mike Donovan, who said, “I move that we accept the Harris Study, we reevaluate the Strand with the same Harris criteria, we use that going forward to public workshops and to address concerns of the community, we would recommend prioritization after the community meeting and have the staff come back with a recommendation to proceed.”

The motion passed 4-1 with Councilmember Carrie Downey, who wanted to re-rank the 12 geographic areas with different criteria, voting against the motion.

In other council actions:

• By a unanimous 5-0 vote, the city council adopted the revised draft of the Active Transportation Plan, which is required by the State of California. City Manager Blair King characterized the plan by saying, “This is a pathway. It is not a robust set of capital projects. Some are concerned this plan goes too far. This is a middle-of-the-road plan.” It was noted at one point that all of the projects in the Active Transportation Plan are provisional and must return to the city council for final approval. Essentially, the plan isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

• Via a public hearing, historic alteration permits were granted for 855 Alameda Boulevard. and 535 Ocean Boulevard., with both homes located in the R-1A Single Family Residential Zone.

• The council appointed Karen C. Strouse and Frederick Zarndt to terms on the Library Board of Trustees.

• Mayor Richard Bailey presented Julie (Braden) Main, a city employee for the past 33 years, with a proclamation naming Sept. 4, 2018, as Julie Main Day in Coronado.

• The Sept. 4, 2018, City Council meeting lasted three hours and eight minutes.

The next meeting of the Coronado City Council will be held Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018, at 4 p.m. City Council meetings are held at Coronado City Hall, located at 1825 Strand Way in the city.

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