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Undergrounding in La Jolla Shores: Homeowners hear city’s timeline for street repair, transformer boxes

Overhead electrical lines in La Jolla Shores will be undergrounded in cycles, with some as far off as 2032. To determine when a neighborhood will be undergrounded, call (619) 533-3841 or visit sandiego.gov/undergrounding
Overhead electrical lines in La Jolla Shores will be undergrounded in cycles, with some as far off as 2032. To determine when a neighborhood will be undergrounded, call (619) 533-3841 or visit sandiego.gov/undergrounding

The good news: Streets in La Jolla Shores that were damaged by construction as part of Group Job 809 (to replace sewer and water lines) and others in sub- standard condition, will be repaved after the 809 project is complete.

The bad news: It could take two to three years to complete.

A March 18 meeting on the Scripps Institute of Oceanography campus provided residents with information about the undergrounding project in which overhead electrical lines and poles would be taken down and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), cable and phone lines would be moved underground.

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All utility providers involved will install their conduits in one trench.

Known as Project 1J and 1J phase II, undergrounding work will begin in La Jolla Shores in early April 2016, after Group Job 809 is complete (by the end of this year), from Avenida de la Playa north up to Scripps Institute. It will require trenching to move cables underground. Construction typically takes 18-24 months.

Streets in areas that need to be trenched for undergrounding will be resurfaced with temporary slurry as soon as Group Job 809 is complete, and during the summer construction moratorium, said senior engineer Steve Lindsay. The 809 project will replace the sewer and water lines along Avenida de la Playa and interconnecting streets, primarily in residential areas, throughout the Shores. The deadline for Avenida de la Playa work is Memorial Day, the start of the summer construction moratorium, which crews expect to meet. However, work in residential areas would likely resume in the fall.

During times of no construction, “The trench will be covered and the street will be completely smooth and drive-able,” Lindsay said. “We won’t add the final inch-and-a-half overlay that seals the street, but we will do everything else — resurface it, stripe it, everything except that final seal.”

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In addition to the streets damaged by construction, other streets throughout the Shores will be resurfaced as an interim solution before planned repaving. Those streets include: Calle de la Plata, Paseo Dorado, Calle Clara, Paseo del Ocaso and Camino del Rapaso.

Areas of La Jolla Shores not involved in the undergrounding project will be repaved as soon as Group Job 809 is complete, said Justin Garver, field representative for City Council President Sherri Lightner.

If city crews were to completely repave the street, a five-year moratorium would be initiated during which no cutting of the street or trenching is allowed, per San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulcolner’s new directives.

Mario Reyes, manager of the utilities undergrounding program
Mario Reyes, manager of the utilities undergrounding program

However, undergrounding was already scheduled for that area. “We have an agreement with Public Works that we are going to trench through that slurry,” said Mario Reyes, manager of the utilities undergrounding program. “This undergrounding is way overdue, so we want to get started.” Once the undergrounding is complete, he said the city would repave the street, finishing it off with an overlay (seal).

The city has been undergrounding overhead lines since 1970, but Reyes said 1,056 miles of overhead utility lines remain. The city estimates that nearly all residential areas will be undergrounded within the next 54 years.

Funding for the undergrounding project comes from SDG&E, statewide funds and a 2003 California Public Utilities Commission-approved undergrounding surcharge on San Diego residents’ electricity bills, and is divided among the council districts. When it came time for each council representative to decide which area would be undergrounded at which time, Reyes said Council District One was divided by drawing areas from a hat.

Council President Lightner then quipped from the audience, “That was during Scott Peters’ time on council, not mine!”

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For the upcoming Shores undergrounding, transformers and cable boxes will be installed at locations to be announced at a meeting planned for the end of the year.

But the nearly 100 attendees at the March 18 meeting were given the opportunity to share their preference as to how the boxes were arranged.

Options included grouping a transformer, small cable box and small phone box together in one place “burdening one property owner with all three boxes,” Reyes said. The second option is to space them out, placing a transformer on one side of the street and the two smaller boxes on the other side. The attendees preferred the latter.

Another set of options covered where to align the boxes. The city’s default is to place the boxes on city property that abuts private property, such as a sidewalk that lines up against a front yard. Other options included placing them on private property, pending an easement from the property owner, and placing them on the sidewalk immediately adjacent to the street.

Those present were not able to decide on a preference, given the variety of property situations found in the Shores.

SDG&E project manager Debora Ritch said some proposed locations would be put forward at the year-end follow-up meeting and that “great care” is taken in their selection.

She said SDG&E must comply with company standards, including: having transformers above ground so that power can be restored more quickly after an outage; staying away from home windows to limit sound and noise; being ADA- compliant to keep sidewalks open; maintaining a clear, consistent line of sight for pedestrians; minimizing retaining walls; and not blocking access to driveways.

Ritch added that each transformer box serves 13-17 customers, and boxes would need to be installed to fill in for gaps in coverage and where service is reliant on poles and wires. It was not stated at the meeting exactly how many transformer boxes would be installed.

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Affected Shores residents will receive a list of the proposed locations once one is compiled, along with the time, date and location of the next meeting. Those who might have a box installed near their property will be able to give feedback.

In the meantime, e-mails will be sent to those who attended the March 18 meeting and those who sign up by e-mailing undergrounding@sandiego.gov Details about the community forum, in

which formal plans will be presented and residents will have a chance to speak with designers, will be announced as they become available.

Overhead lines in other areas of the Shores will be undergrounded in cycles, with some as far off as 2032. To determine when a neighborhood will be undergrounded, call (619) 533-3841 or visit sandiego.gov/undergrounding