Utility projects fail
Both districts vote against undergrounding
Months of conjecture and vitriolic debate came to an abrupt end Tuesday as Del Mar residents voted down the proposals that would have levied a 30-year lien on their property to underground utility lines.
In the 321-parcel North Hills district, 57.1 percent opposed the project that would have unevenly divvied up $7.5 million among homeowners to pay for the construction. The Sunset district’s vote was much closer, with 51.3 percent voting against the
$3.2 million proposal.
“Undergrounding is dead in Del Mar, except for individuals to do it,” said North Hills proponent Sharon Hilliard. “It’s the fact that if you want to do one block and you have two neighbors out of 10, those two neighbors can refuse to contribute, so they’re forcing other people to pay their way. That’s why an assessment district is more fair.”
Those in favor of undergrounding long maintained that it would beautify neighborhoods, increase property values and eliminate the safety risks of downed power lines in a fire or earthquake.
However, those against the proposals said the levies were too much of a financial burden to place on residents, many of whom are living on a fixed income that was hit hard by the recession.
“It was coercive,” said project opponent Brooke Eisenberg-Pike, adding that those who want to put their utility poles underground are still able to do so. “We’re just gratified, and I think fairness won.”
Assessments were based on Proposition 218 methodology, a formula that allocated charges based on perceived benefits from the project. Both sides took issue with the way properties were assessed, given the odd shape of Del Mar’s parcels.
A little more than half of the lots in the North Hills would have had to pay between $15,000 and $25,000. Some were assessed as low as $11,000, others as high as into the mid-$40,000s, with one at more than $100,000.
Now that the measure has failed, Del Mar will lose nearly $300,000 that would have been reimbursed if the proposal had been approved.
“I can’t say (I am) disappointed,” Del Mar Mayor Richard Earnest said. “The community said at one point that they wanted undergrounding to be a high priority, and I believed that. And that was a while ago, and times have changed maybe — I don’t know. I don’t know what’s changed.”
In Monday night’s public hearing, Earnest and council members Mark Filanc and Crystal Crawford, the three eligible to vote on the North Hills, decided unanimously to abstain from submitting ballots for the seven city-owned parcels in that proposed district.
However, Councilman Carl Hilliard and Deputy Mayor Donald Mosier, eligible to vote on Sunset, cited city policy of supporting undergrounding. They overruled Crawford, voting yes for the one city-owned parcel.
After Tuesday’s tabulation, Mosier, who submitted that lone ballot on behalf of Del Mar, walked out of the annex and said, “Well, the people have spoken.”
- Estimates for utility project ‘floor’ Del Mar North Hills residents
- Council clears up utility project details
- Council OKs more funding for undergrounding projects
- Utility project to go to ballot
- Utility funding options explored
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