Utility Undergrounding

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The City of Palos Verdes Estates supports neighborhood groups that wish to underground overhead utilities. The reasons for pursuing these projects have included view enhancement, safety, improved neighborhood aesthetics, and utility modernization.

There generally are two methods to accomplish an undergrounding project: 1) Private Projects: Property owners work together with the utility companies to accomplish the undergrounding privately. 2) Assessment Districts: Property owners petition the City to form an assessment district.

Private Project

A Private Project is one where property owners work together with the utility companies to accomplish the undergrounding privately.  A privately financed undergrounding project is handled exclusively by property owners and the utility companies.This process requires one or more property owners to act as the neighborhood liaison between neighbors and the City or utility company representatives. The property owner informally surveys all affected property owners in the area to determine if there is sufficient support for undergrounding. The City will assist in creating a boundary map for the project based on the information gathered from the survey.

This approach can save financing and administration costs associated with an assessment district. The City generally does not participate in this type of project. However, the project design must be submitted to the Community Development and Public Works Department for Design Review. The underground construction requires a Public Works permit, and conversion of individual meters to underground service requires an electrical permit from the City’s Building Division. The utility companies are paid by property owners to prepare plans for the conversion of the overhead facilities to underground facilities. Property owners then arrange to receive bids from contractors on these plans. Engineering, construction and incidental fees must be paid directly by property owners. This method of undergrounding allows for any number of parcels to be included; however, all affected properties are required to participate at some level. Property owners are also responsible to pay for the cost of connecting to the underground system from the street to the house. A licensed electrical contractor can do this work. Alternatively, property owners may choose to contract with the general contractor doing the work in the street. This aspect of the private project requires that every affected property owner agree to at least pay for their on-site underground service connection, or to allow others to do the private connection work.

Underground Utility Assessment Districts

Forming an assessment district provides a mechanism for financing the improvements. 

To initiate the assessment district process, the following minimum requirements must be satisfied:

  • At least five parcels must be included.
  • 600 linear feet of line must be placed underground.
  • 60% of affected property owners must sign a petition indicating support for the project

The City will form an assessment district by providing project management, administrative and financial coordination, and if necessary, fund a portion of the initial assessment engineering and utility design cost. If sufficient interest exists to proceed with a district based on petition response, then the City will coordinate the design, financing and construction of the project. The primary benefit of this method is that the improvements can be financed over time. The main drawback is that the process is lengthy and can take three to six years to complete a utility undergrounding project depending on the number of projects currently in progress, the availability and cooperation of the utility companies, and the level of cooperation from participating residents.

If property owners are interested in proceeding with the formation of an assessment district, then the following, more detailed, information regarding procedures is provided here.

For further information on assessment districts, please contact the Public Works Department at (310) 378-0383.