Nope, I’m not moonlighting as a copywriter for cosmetics advertising…I’m talking about getting rid of above-ground power, phone and other communication lines. You know, the ugly ones that are prime targets for falling branches in windstorms and that are known for falling down in earthquakes.
I’m lucky enough to live in a neighborhood that banded together about 15 years ago, got itself in the undergrounding queue, and saw all of its overhead lines placed underground. We now have quaint old-timey looking streetlights and a streetscape that is blissfully free of a spaghetti bowl of lines. You know, the way things are built these days in the ‘burbs.
But we’re not the ‘burbs, and even though the city of San Francisco knows it would be immensely better off with all overhead lines placed underground (think: after the Big One comes — how will emergency crews cross thousands of downed lines to perform rescue operations?), there’s one big problem.
There’s no money.
In fact, back in 2007, the city’s Utility Undergrounding Task Force reported that, “Utility wire undergrounding in San Francisco is coming to a halt. When the current 45.8- mile plan ends in 2008, undergrounding will cease for the next twelve years unless we create new ways to fund and implement the program.”
But…there is a way. Property owners can form a “property-owner funded undergrounding utility district” to get their area all spiffed up and utility-pole free. In 2008 the approximate cost for trenching and replacing streetlights was $562 per linear foot, resulting in a cost of about $14,000 per home with a 25-foot frontage.
The SF Department of Public WorksÂ estimates that the process for these districts would take between 2 1/2 years and 5 years.
Step 1: Determine district boundaries (1-2 months)
Step 2: Circulate petition (2-4 months; 60% of owners on each and every block must sign the petition)
Step 3: Legislate underground district (2-4 months)
Step 4: Form assessment district (1-2 years)
Step 5: Construction (1-2 years)
So, if you’re jonesing to bury the power lines in your neighborhood, grab your nearest agreeable neighbor, your clipboard, and your community organizing skills, and get started!