Del Mar to resume utility undergrounding project

Del Mar City Hall
(Jon Clark)

Utility undergrounding will proceed in Del Mar after the long-awaited project was sidelined last year because of COVID-related budget cutbacks and staff reductions.

During their March 15 meeting, council members voted 4-1 to initiate and prioritize a Tewa Court/10th Street section of the utility undergrounding project, in addition to moving forward with two sections that had been selected before the pandemic, known as areas 1A and X1A.

In the coming months, the City Council will vote on resolutions to formally launch work on each of those three undergrounding sections.

Residents in the Tewa Court area funded underground design work by San Diego Gas & Electric, according to a city staff report. SDG&E completed an electrical infrastructure design concept last December. Residents also started additional design work.

“This is a unique opportunity, the way I see it, to have a small encapsulated project that will actually work,” Del Mar Mayor Terry Gaasterland said.

Council members also said proceeding with the Tewa project, which involves undergrounding about 1,000 feet of utility lines, will help give the city more information about the estimated costs to complete the project citywide. The estimated cost to complete the Tewa undergrounding is $760,000.

“I think it’s really important that we do this as a standalone project right now,” Del Mar City Councilman Dave Druker. “It will provide us with some data.”

The utility undergrounding will be funded by the city’s Measure Q sales tax to be used on infrastructure projects, which was approved by voters in 2016 .

“It will be nice to have confirmation about what it’s going to take and what the effect will be on Measure Q,” Druker said.

Deputy Mayor Dwight Worden was the only vote against elevating the Tewa section.

“I would ask rhetorically, what is the city benefit from doing this? I understand the private benefit,” he said, adding that the city’s Utility Undergrounding Project Advisory Committee should be involved in a decision to give the Tewa Court section a higher priority.

Area 1A, located along Stratford Court between Fourth and 12th streets, includes more than 7,000 feet of utility lines to be undergrounded. Area X1A, located in Crest Canyon, will underground more than 11,000 feet of utility lines.

The council also voted to hire a principal civil engineer, at a salary and benefits of up to about $189,000, to oversee the utility undergrounding program. Staff cutbacks at the beginning of the pandemic, including the elimination of the deputy public works director, were part of the reason why the city halted utility undergrounding last year.