Kevin Cody

Sandbox: Residents question North Hermosa Beach undergrounding

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North Hermosa Strand homeowners are objecting to being asked to pay for undergrounding utilities to enhance the views of residents across the street on the east side of Hermosa Avenue. Photo by Kevin Cody

by Marty McSorley

I opened The Beach Reporter a few weeks ago to some very disturbing and very puzzling news. The Hermosa Beach City Council had voted and ballots are on the way. The vote regarding the Greenwich Village North Undergrounding Project, to underground utility lines and remove the poles behind my house, is in progress.

The problem is my wife and I, and quite a few of our neighbors were never informed about this plan. When I say we, I mean at least 10-plus neighbors and the number is growing as we further untangle this sad scenario.

We never received any form of communication from the City of Hermosa Beach or from The Undergrounding Association regarding what was transpiring. The extremely biased and flawed engineer’s report was unchallenged. At the Aug. 11 City Council meeting, where this was discussed, there was one speaker, the secretary of the Undergrounding Committee.

The City Council vote is the only forum for stopping this abusive, unfair, inequitable situation. The argument that “Well you get a vote” comes too late for this to be a fair and transparent process. 

After the City Council voted to approve The Preliminary Engineer’s Report on Aug. 11, only then did we receive a mass email stating that ballots would be sent shortly. A number of us were trying to understand what the terms of this “gun to the head” proposal were. Upon our first reading of the Assessment Engineer’s report, we were finally made aware of the details. 

The leaders of the Undergrounding Association all live on the east side of Hermosa Ave. They do not get any power from the power lines that are to be undergrounded. One power line pole is 73 feet from their property. 

Make no mistake. This entire process is about ocean views and property values for homes on the east side of Hermosa Ave. The east side of Hermosa Ave will all benefit greatly every day they look out to the ocean and if they sell their property. Strand owners get an improved view of our neighbors behind us, on Hermosa Ave.

By the way, eastside Hermosa Avenue residents have poles on Palm Drive, right behind their homes. There’s no push to eliminate those poles. I must add that there are a few Strand homeowners on the southern portion of the district who will benefit because the poles are right next to their homes, but that is very different from the other Strand homes in the district.   

The engineer basically stated that the homes on The Strand must pay an equal amount as the homes on the East Side of Hermosa because we get 100 percent of the “safety value” and 100 percent of the ”reliability value.” 

Really? Most of The Strand homes are approximately 18 feet from the poles with a street running between the poles and our homes. The street always has joggers, baby carriages, bikes, walkers, skate boarders, and delivery trucks. The poles are as close to Hermosa Avenue as they are to our homes. The poles are only five feet from the bike path. What I am saying is that there needs to be a percentage of the “safety value” assigned to the entire Undergrounding District, not just The Strand homes. If a wire were to fall the danger to the general public would be greater than the danger to The Strand homes. 

Strand owners should shoulder 100 percent of the “reliability value?” Really? We have asked for the criteria that was used. We’ve not gotten an answer. Did the engineer actually ask Southern California Edison about how many hours we were inconvenienced in the last 20 years by unreliability? I can’t remember any. What is never even mentioned is the fact that we will have our street dug up for one-and-a-half to two years, with no access to our garages and a trench outside our doors. Three will be no inconvenience during construction on the East side of Hermosa Ave.

What I find comical is that the Undergrounding goes all the way up to North Hermosa except for the last two poles. The explanation we got was that Robert Greenberg was going to pay for these himself because of a home he owns there (the home furthest north on the East Side of Hermosa Ave.). I strongly suspect the boundaries of the Undergrounding District were drawn up based on who would vote yes and who would vote no. This is based on conversations with neighbors who were asked to be supportive, said no and were not included in the district. By the way, why would Robert Greenberg not want to be part of 100-plus homeowners paying to remove all the poles? There are a number of other properties that are not included in the district, but will benefit greatly from the poles being removed? Why are they not included? These issues need to be addressed before the City Council votes.

We as a group are very disappointed. We have not had due process. In the words of one resident who lives on the East side of Hermosa Ave, “You guys are getting screwed”. 

In one uncomfortable conversation with a City Council member following their vote, I stated that if I had knowledge of this before their vote I would have stressed one issue. We are in the middle of a pandemic. People have lost their jobs. No one knows what their financial picture will look like after this pandemic is over. Why, in a time of Stay at Home, a time of mandatory social distancing, of restricted travel was this pushed through? 

There are quite a few homes on The Strand owned by people over 70-years-old. They are unsure as to what this pandemic has in store for them, both medically and financially. They are fearful. 

As one neighbor said to me, “We are being bullied.” We are not going away. My wish is that the City Council and the City Attorney look at this long and hard. This process needs to be pushed back until after this pandemic is over. All the residents must get proper notice and we must conduct public hearings for all the residents in the district. 

If you are a property owner in this Undergrounding District and have questions, input, or concerns contact leeannemcsorley@gmail.com. ER

 

 

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