Guest Letter – Why Underground Powerlines?

Why do City Councilmembers think it’s the resident taxpayers’ responsibility to pay for these misguided “Key Evacuation Routes” (“KER”) on state-owned LCR, Glenneyre/Monterey St and Virginia Way at double expense bonds and forever one percent sales tax to finance [the] Proposed Underground Tax and Bond agenda that “our Council” voted 5-0 to pursue?

There’s no fire danger on our City owned streets mentioned above. It’s a dinosaur concept…and for these additional reasons:
Edison/SDG&E have funded Undergrounding Programs of $125k annually. Caltrans is already planning/responsible to widen and underground Laguna Canyon Road (LCR); controls that State Owned Right of Way; and will pay with power companies like Big Bend area in 2016. I observed when there’s a serious fire like 1993, smart residents and guests did head for the Beach as a quick fourth real escape route, where you’re safe/can see what’s happening, as government officials, and resting firefighters did and they parked on Coast Hwy. You’re not going to head for any “KER” mentioned above…who “thought” those up?

I estimate the actual undergrounded portion of Laguna is closer to 80 percent (not the 40 percent Whalen purports), when you exclude CalTrans/State-owned LCR Right of Way, and no fire issue streets/North Laguna alleys. The City shouldn’t ask residents to pay for state-owned LCR undergrounding! Existing annual Edison/SDG&E Funding, credits purchased can take care of the few real powerline/traffic conflict locations left in the City for safety without bonds and one percent added sales tax that hurts local business and taxpayers. (Link to Bob Whalen’s Guest Column: http://stunewslaguna.com/archives/front-page-archive/26953-guest-column-bob-whalen-103117)

Councilmember Whalen no longer mentions the topic of residents: 1-who paid for undergrounding in previously completed private districts, 2-are currently paying these Underground Tax Assessments (CFD’s), and 3-who [will] soon pay the $40 to $80k cost (Coast Royale, SoLag). Where’s this “Second Ballot measure” to exempt them now Bob, vs your current proposal for previously paid residents to pay a second time, to favor 20 percent plus of residents who haven’t paid, including four of five Councilmembers, ready CFD residents put on hold? I can comment both sides of the argument of the City’s Bond/Tax Measure – have one residence with, one without underground/views. I chose to pay off, instead of double cost/30 year bond.

The City has managed 40 plus years of these Undergrounding Assessment Districts since the 1970s, and it now proposes to dupe past participating owners to pay it twice? Those seven active City’s Districts that were almost finalized are now on hold (to chase this obsolete idea of undergrounding taxation) with another bond measure against our properties, and a one percent forever sales tax that isn’t directed at specified items! Could this big $$$ actually go to pay unfunded Pension Plans or free undergrounding for those who haven’t paid for it – which might be the real reason, not fire safety and ”KER”? Informed residents say yes, absolutely – look at other City slush funds misdirected from other purposes (i.e. Parking Fund for decades, $4 million from Measure LL – Bed Tax allocated on 10/24/17).

The City Proposal to underground with 24,000 residents voting on a ballot is deceptive. Actually, 14,400 resident owners/taxpayers would bear this expense. It’s manipulative to propose a measure for a vote when 40 percent of residents are renters; and additionally 17 percent are absentee owners who can’t vote on what financially affects them. It’s also a disservice and betrayal of trust to owners who paid to underground for uncluttered ocean views. Forcing owners to pay twice constitutes fraud in my view, and could start a class action lawsuit for past payment damages by 40 plus years of previously paid owners as plaintiffs. Ask the Coast Royale owners after they pay their assessment to pay it twice, not!

I think all Laguna Locals should view this YouTube Video: “Tony Seba: Clean Disruption – Energy & Transportation” www.youtube.com/watch?v=2b3ttqYDwF0, to see the future of Energy/Transportation, that will shock you to see changes, future and overhead utilities are ancient technology, obsolete in 10-20 years. This Illustrates questionable leadership and lost $$$ spent to date by City to underground, and if understood, no need for undergrounding ballot vote.

To share a joint idea with another like-minded Lagunan – we suggest inviting Elon Musk to town as our guest. He’s a forward thinker, would be a great neighbor, and ask him to partner up to make Laguna Beach the first Solar City with his roof tiles, battery back up/Peaker Units, and his Tesla cars and trucks. If we added farming upper Laguna and Aliso Canyon valley floors after planner Sir Ebenezer Howard’s 1898 model for a Garden City, linking our work/jobs, farmlands, residential neighborhoods and recreational parks with pedestrian/bikeways it would be the live/work Utopian City of sustainability, surrounded by Greenbelts & Pacific Ocean. After all, Elon just works up the road in Hawthorne @ SpaceX, and he might need a second getaway beach home he can rocket to.

Bryan T.S. Menne – 54 year Laguna Resident, Former OCFD Paid Call Firefighter South Laguna-Station 6, Land Planner & CA Registered Landscape Architect.

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