City Manager's Blog

The City Manager's Blog is an online educational tool to provide general information to the community in open communication style. Periodically, the City Manager will post articles of general interest covering topics such as the Town's budget, budget process, capital projects, upcoming meetings, community issues, public safety, and general Town operations.

Articles in the blog are not designed as press releases or Town publications, rather, they are written in more of a conversational style. The Blog does not have a comments feature but readers are free to respond to the Blog and its entries view email directly to the City Manager.

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Nov 16

City Council Meeting - Wednesday, November 17 @ 6 pm

Posted on November 16, 2021 at 7:44 AM by grodericks grodericks

City Council Meeting - Wednesday, November 17 @ 6 pm

Tomorrow night at 6 pm (via Zoom), the City Council will meet for their Regular November City Council Meeting. You can find an online version of the Agenda by visiting the City Council Agenda Archive here. The Agenda includes information about how to log on virtually to the meeting.

In addition to the highlighted Presentation on Underground Utility Assessment Districts, notable items on the Agenda include:

  • Public Hearing to add a Chapter to the Town's Municipal Code regarding Edible Food Recovery and Waste Recovery. The new Ordinance is a direct requirement of Senate Bill 1383 signed into State law in 2016. Essentially, in addition to education and enforcement requirements imposed on the Town, the Bill requires local jurisdictions to collect, process and recycle garbage, recyclables and organic materials in a particular way as well as requires food generators to divert edible food to food recovery organizations. Most of the regulations around collection and processing rest with municipal haulers (such as Greenwaste Recovery for the Town); most of the food recovery requirements rest with food generators (such as schools and the Circus Club); and most of the education and enforcement rests with the Town. 
  • Discussion of the resolution of median street tree replacements on Tuscaloosa Avenue and Mt. Vernon Lane. Earlier this year the Town had to remove two very large trees from the center of these two roadways due to the health of the trees. This item is a discussion of the resolution of those replacement trees. The tree on Mt. Vernon Lane will be replaced with a larger tree and will be relocated out of the center of the roadway. The Town committed to replacement at a 60" box sized tree and the residents adjacent to the tree have agreed to fund the difference for a larger tree. The tree on Tuscaloosa Avenue will be replaced with a 60" box sized tree and the Town will build up the median around the tree. 
  • Feedback on the Neighborhood Traffic Management Action Plan will also be on the Agenda. The City Council (and community) has been discussing various traffic safety improvement priorities that can be implemented over the short-term in various areas of Town. These projects include changing of speed and stop sign sizes, installation of speed feedback signage, installation of high-visibility crosswalk markings, installation of striped median islands, installation of speed lumps (temporary pilot projects), and additional traffic enforcement. The Council will discuss these projects at the meeting. Most of these projects would be implemented over the next 12-15 months. Where speed lumps are proposed, the Town will connect with the surrounding neighborhoods to get assistance in determining an exact location for placement of the temporary speed lumps. Once selected, the Town will monitor the effectiveness of the devices before considering permanent placements. The Staff Report also notes several mid- and long-term projects on the horizon. These projects would be worked into the Town's 5-Year Capital Improvement Project plan and budget.  

The highlight of the evening however, will be the presentation on Underground Utility Districts. This is a opportunity for the Council and community to learn more about the formation of these types of Assessment Districts. A consultant will make a presentation on how Districts are formed and the process of implementation. It's an opportunity for Q&A. 


Interested in helping take utility poles underground? 

Utility PoleThere are millions of miles of electrical cables strung overhead across the country. Add to that millions more of telephone and cable/data lines, and it’s no wonder that extreme weather can wreak havoc on everyday systems each year, causing utility outages that can last days, weeks and longer. Power outages over extended periods of time can present health and safety concerns as well as economic losses. In the aftermath of extreme weather that can cause downed lines, there is concern expressed by the public, government and the media that it's time to put overhead utilities underground.

For utility companies, undergrounding provides benefits through reduced operational and maintenance cost, reduced cost related to tree trimming, reduced losses after customers lose power after storms and reduced liability. Underground electrical lines can also prevent fires due to downed overhead lines in high-fire hazard zones and potentially prevent the loss of life and property. When power lines go down, if they cross a roadway, police and fire crews are prohibited from crossing the lines until they can be assured that the lines are not energized. This can cause significant disruption in public safety response times. 

Can it be done? Who pays?

Converting overhead lines to underground is not always simple and rarely is it inexpensive. The cost for paying for undergrounding utilities is typically borne by the residents who will most benefit from these efforts. Absent the recent allocation of funds for high-fire hazard zones, utility companies typically will not pay for undergrounding utilities in a completely residential neighborhood. California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Rule 20B allows for property owners to underground utilities at their expense. Rule 20B projects are not funded by the utility companies. Historically, through rulemaking at the State level, utility companies have been exempt from undergrounding existing utilities. Since they are not mandated to do so, they simply do not. The Town does not have the financial resources to underground the existing overhead utilities. PG&E used to assist local agencies in sponsoring such districts through Rule 20A funds; but these funds have been reallocated by PG&E to high-fire zones and the Town no longer has access to those funds. The cost to underground about 1 linear foot varies but can be expected to cost between $500 to $3,000+ per lineal foot. This amount has been updated from the last release based on some current District contract awards. The amount can vary greatly based on construction costs, complexity of the topography, addition of other lines and utilities, numbers of circuits and types of wires to be underground.

Each undergrounding district varies in cost depending on a number of factors including, but not limited to, size of district, terrain, distance and depth of trench and overall cost of construction. Undergrounding of the private service laterals will also vary in cost depending on similar factors. Finally, the District Engineer will establish the estimate for the entire project and then, at the District Engineer’s sole discretion, determine the benefit spread for each parcel.

On average, a per-parcel assessment can vary between $15,000 to $60,000 depending on the size and complexity of the District formed and the size of the particular parcel. Additionally, each property owner can expect to pay between $5,000 and $15,000 for their own private service lateral connection. 

How does it work?

Typically, the entire utility infrastructure is placed underground eliminating the need for poles. Joint trenches are excavated within the public right-of-way which will typically contain the electrical, telephone and cable/data systems. Electrical transformers are sometimes placed in underground vaults as well. In addition to each property owner's allocation cost for the entire cost of the District, each private property owner is individually responsible for the cost of placing their respective overhead utilities underground through a private service lateral from the property line to their electrical service panel. The process is typically a multi-step, multi-year process. 

Where can I find more information?

The Town has drafted a FAQ for Utility Underground Districts on its website. In addition, at 6 pm at the November 17 Regular City Council meeting, the Town will host a Public Information Presentation from a consultant that will walk through how such Districts are formed and how they operate. The meeting will be hosted via Zoom remotely. For information on how to connect to the presentation, watch for the November 17, 2021 Agenda release on the Town's website.

George Roericks
City Manager
Town of Atherton
80 Fair Oaks Lane
Atherton, CA 94027