Proposed underground utility assessment district for Laguna Beach’s Woods Cove heads to vote
The fate of a substantial utility undergrounding project in Laguna Beach will be in the hands of associated property owners this fall.
A proposed underground utility assessment district, covering 380 parcels in the Woods Cove neighborhood, received the backing of the City Council on Tuesday evening.
The council unanimously passed resolutions approving the engineer’s report and declaring intent to form the district should a weighted vote of the assessed property owners favor proceeding with the project.
Councilman George Weiss recused himself from the item because his residence falls within the proposed district.
Pierre Sawaya, the city’s senior project manager, said the estimated cost of the project is $14.485 million. The construction bid is good until May.
Ballots, which will be distributed in early October, are scheduled to be counted during a public hearing when the City Council meets Dec. 12.
Mayor Bob Whalen noted the proposed Woods Cove project would be the city’s biggest underground utility district.
“One thing that has come up in the council conversation that we’re thinking about is whether there’s a way we can kind of incentivize [other] neighborhoods to look at the process and see if we can develop some larger districts because there are economies of scale that come with the larger districts.
“I think we’re seeing that with Woods Cove. The good news on this was the construction bid came in several million dollars under original projections, so that allowed the assessments to be lower.”
Assessment values are expected to range between $4,286 and $85,928, according to a staff report. The average assessment across the 380 parcels is $38,132.
Assessment values were assigned factoring in the following benefits from the proposed project: safety, neighborhood aesthetics and removal of view obstructions such as utility poles.
Two city-owned parcels lie within the district, Fire Station No. 2 on Agate Street and Bluebird Park on Santa Cruz Street. The City Council authorized the city manager to return ballots for those two properties in favor of the project.
The city will contribute $1.57 million toward the general benefit should the proposed district gain approval. Council members also agreed to a conditional contribution of $1.18 million in support of the project on Aug. 8.
A boundary map for the proposed project covers a stretch of Glenneyre Street from Agate Street to Arch Street. Aside from the adjacent Coast Highway, Glenneyre is one of the more utilized roadways in Laguna Beach.
“I can’t tell you how important it is to go underground,” said Stephen Jeppson, an impacted resident who added he works for Southern California Edison. “It just makes the world much safer. ... The maintenance underground is just as high as the maintenance above ground, but the safety in a weather condition, earthquake, when you’re dealing with whatever’s happened, after that has finally calmed down, access on the roads is definitely limited.
“With electricity being underground, it is a lot safer. Glenneyre Street is a major street for Fire House No. 2. It’s not always easy to get down on PCH and travel, so they use it all the time.”
The push to underground overhead utility lines in Woods Cove dates back almost a decade. Petitioners approached the City Council with a request to form an assessment district for a portion of the neighborhood on Sept. 16, 2014.
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