Power line explosion on Agate Street near Mozambique ignites new debate on undergrounding

On Wednesday, Jan 3, around 8:30 p.m., numerous Laguna residents noticed a blue flash emanating from Coast Highway near Mozambique Restaurant, followed by an explosion. 

The explosion – caused by a failed cable, according to Edison representative Mary Ann Milbourn – sent a live wire onto the ground. 

“When the power went down at 8:30 p.m., a live wire dropped to the Mozambique parking lot, creating its own sparky dance for more than an hour,” a restaurant spokesperson said. 

“There was no loss of life or injury, which we’re grateful for,” says Ivan Spiers, Mozambique Restaurateur. “We didn’t charge anyone in the building, of course, because we had bigger issues at hand - their safety - and we didn’t have power anyway.” 

Police and fire personnel immediately responded, blocking off the area around Coast Hwy, Agate and Glenneyre Streets. 

Mozambique guests were evacuated. Power was not restored until around 7 p.m. on Thursday evening, the restaurant spokesperson said. 

The incident once again raised concerns about the fire danger posed by above-ground power poles. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Heavy traffic along Laguna Cyn Rd, a key evacuation route

Councilmember Toni Iseman was quick to react. “Southern California Edison needs to tell us what their maintenance schedule is for all the vaults in Laguna. This Agate explosion could have caused a disastrous fire on a windy day,” Iseman said. “Previous fires can be traced back to Edison’s neglect. We need to hear from them soon. Edison must not ignore one of their oldest communities.” 

The City is paying consultants to develop a survey to gauge residents’ willingness to support two different bonds intended for the 2018 ballot. Each deals with financing the undergrounding of the poles, with a primary focus on evacuation routes. Feedback from the survey, it is hoped, will help determine financial strategies going forward.

Agate Street resident Maggi Henrikson says her block of Agate would be a hard sell. “Most houses are owned by landlords and they don’t want to pay,” Henrikson said. “As I understand it, the big expense is connecting from the street to the house, which homeowners would have to pay for.”

Whalen explains the two proposed ballot measures

In a recent guest column for Stu News, Bob Whalen explained the two proposed ballot measures as follows: “My goal is to place two ballot measures on the November 2018 ballot so voters will have a chance to vote on a citywide financing plan. One ballot measure, to be voted on by all voters in the City, would be to approve financing to underground Laguna Canyon Road and the other evacuation routes [identified in last week’s agenda]. These are safety improvements that benefit all of us citywide. 

 “In the event of a major fire or other disaster requiring evacuation, we all need these routes to get out of town as quickly as possible and to ensure that emergency personnel have access to the fire zone. 

“The second ballot measure would apply only to the areas in the city that are not yet undergrounded. Residents in these areas will be asked to approve and pay for the cost of undergrounding their own neighborhoods. This approach makes sense in that it avoids having neighborhoods that have already paid to underground from paying a second time, which would not be fair.

“Power lines, transformers and poles looming overhead are the single biggest threat to public safety in our city. Every day they pose an imminent risk of starting a devastating fire that could take lives and destroy homes. 

“This is a watershed moment for our City and we need to be bold in our proposals to address the number one threat to our public safety.”