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Utility Efforts

Original post made by Paul Losch, Community Center, on Sep 12, 2016

Nearly 20 years ago, an initiative was passed to move electric utilities in town underground. I had a bad experience in my then Southgate home, which was foul in more ways than one. Infrastructure projects stink, back up, you get the idea of my experience.

I now live in another part of town, lovely neighborhood. I got notified that my electric power would be down for a day. I naively thought it was because some of the electric power was being transferred underground. Wrong!

The guys were out today with their trucks and stuff, very courteous, said their job was to upgrade the overhead electrical wiring. Not move anything underground, which is safer and more stable.

The worker I chatted with commented "they pay us to keep it going over ground and then they pay us to put it under ground."

My response was "sounds like government decision making."

Comments (12)

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2016 at 6:23 pm

One of my biggest gripes about Palo Alto is the fact that some areas have underground utility cables and others don't. This is third world technology that is an embarrassment when foreign visitors look around town. Actually, we have a lot of third world technology that they are amused by. It is definitely embarrassing being the leaders of the high tech world with third world infrastructure.

Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 12, 2016 at 6:36 pm

Resident is right that our infrastructure including streets and utility distribution is deplorable. But on the plus side we have a lot of highly compensated employees with great pensions. That's something.

Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2016 at 5:44 pm

@Paul Losch -- The City started its electric undergrounding program in 1965 (not "nearly 20 years ago").
Web Link

If the City were to continue funding undergrounding at the current level (2 percent of electric revenues), then it might take 70 years to complete undergrounding citywide.
Web Link

The cost might be $280 million. (14,000 homes x $20,000 each.)
Web Link
If the telecom incumbents don't pay anything, and each home pays $5,000, the City might have to pay $210 million.

NOTE: before your house's utilities are undergrounded, the City will contact you to find out how you intend to pay your share.

Undergrounding is a topic of special interest to the Utilities Advisory Commission. There's an undergrounding subcommittee.

Posted by Be Positive
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 13, 2016 at 7:12 pm

Be Positive is a registered user.

Not sure if this is still how it works, but 8-10 years ago (in another house) we wanted to put our electrical underground. The City was happy to do it, but said that if everything was above ground for that street/block, then who ever wanted the utilities underground paid for the upfront cost of putting the big green box in (at that time the estimate was 8-10K). If there was already the underground box, it was less to connect to it. We kept the overhead wires.

As with many things (such as sidewalk replacement if you are renovating, watering street trees) the City tries to get individual homeowners to foot as much of their bill as possible.

Posted by Resident 2
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 14, 2016 at 7:35 am

There is more to it then just putting in a big green box, You have mature landscapes that ypu have to restore, conflicting underground utilities..ect. Which equal more cost and a royal pain in the butt.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2016 at 8:29 am

Personally, I do not think this should be done piecemeal, house by house, but should be done street by street. The number of times a tree or something causes an outage and not always during a storm and a crew has to come often in pouring rain to restore power to the neighborhood must cost the utilities a great deal of money. On top of that, the utilities are in charge of trimming trees around power lines not the homeowners. If the utilities were underground this money would not be spent. I think making homeowners pay for something that will save the utilities money is outrageous.

Once again, third world infrastructure.

Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 14, 2016 at 10:52 am

-- My response was "sounds like government decision making."

Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't this blogger have experience with the private
sector, because I do, and I don't see a lot of difference between the two, certainly
not enough to justify the constant snipes at government that we always here just
to brainwash us all into not questioning blaming and not having faith in government.

Government is "us" at least. The part of government I resent is when it is bought, sold
and run by tyrannical private sector entities that pay no heed to people's need, just
profit. At least when the government makes a mistake you can get rid of the officer
by vote and not have to pay them $30 million dollars to step aside, although that is
another private sector innovation that is starting to seep into government too.

Guess I am tired of stories summarized with mindless vapid cliches.

Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 14, 2016 at 10:54 am

-- we always here

I meant "hear"

Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 14, 2016 at 12:24 pm

Plane Speaker has it wrong, at least when it comes to municipal government in California. The private sector interests to whom our city governments have been sold are the pubic sector unions. By any measure, they are overpaid and underperforming. And contrary to what P. Speaker says, you pretty much can't get rid of them - even for the most egregious actions. Case in point: a few years back, some of our Palo ALto Utility workers were running a private plumbing business out of city facilities using city equipment on city time. They had been doing this for quite some time when a Menlo Park Policeman wondered what a Palo Alto Utilities truck was doing parked in front of a Menlo Park residence. This was out and out theft, and yet no one was prosecuted. The enterprising miscreants were fired amidst the public outcry....but then hired back a few months later when things had quieted down - pensions intact. This kind of thing - not private sector influence - abetted by union control of local politics is the biggest threat we face at the local level to democratic governance.

Posted by CCW
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Sep 14, 2016 at 12:39 pm

I seem to remember that the city did the underground work in north Palo Alto and then decided it was too expensive to do it in south Palo Alto and stopped the project. Anyone else remembers it that way? All these wires do look ugly and are prone to damage in storms and when big tree branches fall on them.

Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 14, 2016 at 2:43 pm

@CCW -- A map of what's been undergrounded so far appears on page 4 of this 01-13-16 report.
Web Link
Some homes in south Palo Alto have undergrounded utilities; most homes in north Palo Alto still have aerial utilities.

The report raises the possibility that the telecom incumbents may be unwilling to pay anything for undergrounding in the future, and the City has to decide whether to keep undergrounding anyhow.

Posted by Greatly Annoyed
a resident of Old Palo Alto

on Sep 14, 2016 at 3:58 pm

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