Misleading ‘Facts’ About Undergrounding Utilities

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I am concerned about the amount of misinformation being circulated regarding undergrounding utilities in district 118 and 114 of Newport Heights.

There is actually no current vote on whether or not to underground the utility poles and there has been no actual proposal of what costs might be for home owners in the district.

While estimates range from $16,000 to $20,000 per home, to date there hasn’t been a study or estimate performed by the City to provide the homeowners with an accurate assessment of potential costs, financing options, deferral options or savings when coordinated with the budgeted alley project or time frame to complete both the undergrounding and alley project.

The information being circulated by one particular opponent is arguably irresponsible and misleading to the community. You need only visit the opponents of undergrounding’s website to see that much of the “Documents” section was drafted by one person or used to support the opposition agenda.

A perfect example is the “Edison Pad-Mounted Transformer Installations (.pdf)” which alludes that after utilities are underground, transformers will be placed on homeowners’ property above ground. However, Newport Beach City Ordinance 15.32 says “above ground transformer boxes are prohibited.”

There is also an unofficial FAQ, which does not even reference the official FAQ from the City (available on the city’s website), which is responsible for overseeing the process from start to finish and ensuring compliance with all laws and ordinances.

Unfortunately, in the absence of accurate information, many people will believe what they are told. After all, why would a neighbor mislead me? As a result, opponents of undergrounding have cobbled together a list of opponents, some of which are duplicates, not in any district or have actually changed their minds after obtaining accurate information based on facts provided by the City.

Even if opposition numbers are accurate, they make up less than 15 percent of the households that will be affected in the proposed undergrounding districts.

Certain opponents in district 118 and 114 are attempting to quell the democratic process, sabotage homeowner’s rights to obtain a report on costs and timeframe from the City and make an educated decision via a vote of ALL homeowners. Why is that? It would seem that the loudest opponents of underground utilities believe that a 15 percent minority should be able to make enough noise and circulate enough propaganda to undermine the entire community’s right to get the facts directly from the City and vote on the issue.

I encourage everyone to get the real facts from the City of Newport Beach. If you are undecided or in support of undergrounding utilities in districts 114 or 118, there will be an event held in May where City officials, among others, will be available to answer all your questions. Keep an eye out for your invitation or check the events calendar on your community website.

Aaron G. Cook

Newport Heights

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