Kevin Cody

Undergrounding ‘railroaded,’ Hermosa Beach Strand residents allege

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Hermosa Beach North End Strand homeowners contend they have been assigned an unfair portion of undergrounding costs. Photo by Kevin Cody

by Dan Blackburn

Some North End, Hermosa Beach Strand homeowners are balking at plans to underground utilities behind their homes, saying they were not properly informed of a pending vote on the “Greenwich Village North Undergrounding District.”

They have told city officials that proponents of the project are doing “an end run” around those questioning the development process. 

But an undergrounding proponent, who asked not to be identified, said the process is the result of a “neighborhood initiative.”“

“All properties in the district will enjoy an increased value to their property,” the proponent said. 

The undergrounding would remove utility poles that block the view of residents on the east side of Hermosa Avenue.

Opponent Marty McSorley, whose Strand home, on the west side of Hermosa Avenue, enjoys an unimpeded view of the ocean, said the city “just wants to push this through” and criticized the manner in which preliminary plans are being promoted.

“We never received any form of communication from the city of Hermosa Beach or from the ‘undergrounding association’ regarding what is transpiring,” McSorely, a former National Hockey League standout, wrote in an Easy Reader opinion piece last week.

McSorley and a group of his neighbors have raised issues with the undergrounding signature gathering process.

“They (association members) used petitions that were gathered in 2015,” said Peter Biche, echoing the claim of several others. The 2015 document was general in nature, asking respondents if undergrounding was a good idea.

Two years later, a similar petition was circulated, this time asking for authorization to assign assessments and begin construction. For construction to be approved, 50 percent-plus-one of the residents in the district are required for approval.

The 2017 petition was not circulated to homeowners on The Strand, McSorley contends.

Now, residents in the undergrounding district have been given ballots, with a deadline for submission of Oct. 13. That’s when the city council will hold a public hearing on the matter and consider a vote to authorize the undergrounding.

“Why were we not informed?” asked McSorley.

Pat Murrary added, “They haven’t even vetted the [petition] signatures.”

City Attorney Mike Jenkins told the council, “We have tried to address those concerns about how many people have signed the (authorizing) petition.”

Public Works Director Marnell Gibson responded to questions about the undergrounding by email, sent by city public relations representative Laura Mecoy, of Mecoy Communications.

“This process was initiated and championed by their neighbors, Hermosa Beach property owners who live in the proposed district, and not by the city. The city’s role is to facilitate the process that was set in motion by property owners  who proposed the formation of the assessment district.

“Ultimately, this whole process leads to a vote in which the property owners decide whether to approve the district. Property owners who oppose the district’s creation can indicate their opposition through their ballot,” the email stated. ER

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