Letters from readers about undergrounding utilities – and other issues – are getting quite lively

Utility poles or eucalyptus trees, which are the greatest fire dangers? Our readers have strong opinions – see our Letters page. 

(“Let’s underground [all] the trees and all currently above ground utility wiring,” reader John Walker offers, with more than a touch of sarcasm.)

But seriously, and appropriately, most of the controversy swirls around cost, exactly who will pay and how costs will be calculated, as well as the relative risks of maintaining the status quo.

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Is the tree or the utility pole the greater danger?

Robert Elster, vice chair of the Emergency Disaster Preparedness Council, makes the point that, fire issues aside, “downing of poles and electrical lines due to traffic accidents can block streets and impede first responder access to accidents, as well as disrupting commercial and residential traffic; this can happen, and has, on both major arteries/evacuation routes and on feeder streets in Laguna Beach neighborhoods.”

Tom Gibbs agrees. On the cost issue, he notes: “The whole community will only pay for undergrounding Laguna Canyon Road and the other critical ingress and egress routes which benefit us all.”

But J T Price has a question: “Who pays the cost of any such bond, the voters or property owners? It is not right for voters who may not be property owners to force a cost onto property owners who may not even vote in Laguna.”

Focus on local access routes

However important undergrounding might seem to some, low-income residents including Sandi Werthe are understandably concerned about increased property taxes.

“I live on Top of the World and our utilities have always been underground so I feel, as a low income resident, that I shouldn’t have to pay to underground another neighborhood’s utilities.  

“As to undergrounding local access routes, that would be a different story,” she says.

Keep those letters coming to editor Lynette at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We want to know what you think about the pros and cons of the City Council’s approach to undergrounding; the Historic Preservation Ordinance; Park Plaza; and other issues of interest to Lagunans.

 (The City Council last Tuesday voted to pay consultants almost $250,000 to determine community support for undergrounding overhead utility lines and prepare ballot measures to support funding.

Council members unanimously approved the expenditure to test public acceptance of either of two measures proposed for the 2018 ballot: one to fund undergrounding along evacuation routes by a general obligation bond, and the second to form a special district to pay for undergrounding all neighborhoods still served by overhead utilities.)

--Lynette Brasfield