Utility Under-grounding

Taken from The April 2016 Outlook

Kensington Learns about Undergrounding Utilities

On April 20, the Kensington Property Owners Association (KPOA) and the Kensington Improvement Club (KIC) sponsored an educational forum on undergrounding utility wires, featuring Rocco Colicchia of Harris and Associates, Mary Halle from the Contra Costa County Public Works Department, and Supervisor John Gioia. The speakers made these key points:

Communities underground telecommunications and electrical wires for safety and aesthetic benefits, minimizing hazards from downed poles and wires reducing risks of outages, fires and electrocution. The cost per household in Kensington depends on frontage, access, terrain, and other factors, but in comparable neighborhoods has recently spanned $45-60,000 per parcel, according to the County Public Works Department. (Roughly, figure $1000-1200 per linear foot of frontage).

An undergrounding project be can initiated and formed for one street, multiple streets (with a cost benefit minimum of about 100 properties) or the entire community by forming an “assessment district” with the county, if agreed upon by 60% of parcel owners. Once an assessment district is created, all parcel owners in that district pay the costs of undergrounding, levied by tax assessments over 15-25 years. All costs of undergrounding have to be paid in advance through the issuance of a bond by the County. Projects that move forward take up to 5 years and to do all of Kensington would take over 10 years. During construction there would be no vehicular access to affected areas.

There are no funds from the State, County, or FEMA to support undergrounding. Only major arterial routes along Arlington, Colusa Avenues, Rincon Road and Franciscan Way may be eligible for funds through PG&E, however the County has determined that Kensington streets are not a high priority for these limited funds. The speakers emphasized the importance of polling property owners regarding undergrounding costs, to determine their interest in proceeding with undergrounding utilities prior to initiating an assessment district. KPOA & KIC will make a recording of the forum available online. For more information about undergrounding, contact Mary Halle at the Public Works Department of Contra Costa County ([email protected]), or Rocco Colicchia at Harris and Associates ([email protected])