Mark McDermott

Undergrounding passes in El Porto

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by Mark McDermott 

Property owners in El Porto approved Utility Undergrounding in both districts in which voting occurred over a 45-day period that ended at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. 

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Both districts that comprise El Porto, the area of Manhattan Beach north of Rosecrans and west of Highland, approved undergrounding their utility wires with well over the required majority. In District 12, 73 percent of property owners returned ballots, with 105 voting yes (62 percent) and 62 voting no. In District 14, 70 percent of property owners returned ballots; 114 voted yes (64 percent) and 60 voted no. 

The cost of undergrounding in the two districts will range between $19,754 and $56,185 per parcel, with an average of $29,540 in District 12 and $27,910 in District 14. Residents who pay the cost in the next 30 days will pay 9 percent less than those who pay through financing the city will obtain from a bond. 

Councilperson Steve Napolitano stressed that the formation of undergrounding utility districts was initiated by residents, not the city. 

“Under state law, any group of residents is allowed to assess themselves if they chose,” Napolitano said. “In this case, the city didn’t not say, ‘Hey, El Porto, we want you to underground. A group of residents came forward and said, ‘We think there is support for this.’” 

The leader of that group, resident Bob Sievers, said before the tallies were counted that he understood there were two sides to the issue. 

“I really respect both sides on this matter,” Sievers said. 

Michelle Murphy, a resident who campaigned against undergrounding, said the process struck her as simply unfair. 

“You are forcing other people, some who cannot afford it —  you are forcing them to pay for somebody else’s views,” Murphy said. “That doesn’t seem right.” 

Construction is expected to begin in February 2020 and be completed by the middle of 2022.

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