Letter to the Editor: Stop the Inaccurate Information on Underground Utilities

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It seems irresponsible not to respond to the outlandish claims regarding utility undergrounding made in the most recent letters to the editor (from Portia Weiss and others).

Below is a list of what is facts supported by Official City and County information and what is inaccurate but seems to be perpetuated by those opposed to improving Newport Heights

FICTION: Transformers will be located above ground.

FACT: The PUC has conceded that City of Newport Beach dictates the location of transformers. Under City Municipal Code Chapter 15.32 transformers will are required to be installed below ground. This information is clearly stated in the Official City FAQ at http://newportbeachca.gov/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=20325 and may also be found at www.improvenewportheights.com along with video footage of the facts as presented a City representative.

 

FICTION: Information on the unofficial website and in propaganda of undergrounding costs of $25,000.

FACT: District 118 estimates from the City have always been $20,000 per parcel [Ed. Note—the original estimate was $25,000, but the city recalculated it to $20,000]

 

FICTION: Rule 20C is an option whereas some homeowners who want to underground their utilities and can pay for the entire neighborhood.

FACT: Rule 20C is not an option for Newport Heights. Rule 20C projects are typically used by developers to underground shorter segments of utilities. Please refer to the City’s general FAQ page www.newportbeachca.gov/index.aspx?page=306.

 

FICTION: Signing and returning a petition card obligates homeowners to pay for undergrounding utilities.

FACT: Signing and returning a petition card actually will allow the City to conduct and publish a formal estimate on the costs per parcel so the entire community can vote on the issue. The petition process can be reviewed at www.newportbeachca.gov.

FACT: The City has over $2,000,000 allocated for the improvement of our alleys in District 118 so when incorporated with undergrounding utilities parcel owners save an estimated $3,000 to $5,000 on the process. It will never be less expensive than it is today.

FACT: Long term financing will be made available from the City at historically low interest rates.

FACT: In a few years Edison will be executing their 50 year upgrade in Newport Heights and moving from 4KV system to a 12KV system. Poles are 50 percent larger in diameter, five feet taller, and have larger transformers, all to be installed on your property and in the city right of way.

On the no undergrounding website, fear tactics are used referencing “immediate foreclosure” yet Orange County information (http://ttc.ocgov.com/proptax/pta) states that taxes and assessments need be in arrears for 5 years prior to any foreclosure process. In addition only 35 homes in all of Orange County have been foreclosed on due to tax/ assessment liens in the last 5 years and exactly zero in Newport Beach.

In her letter to the editor, Portia Weiss challenges anyone to go to her site and find anything but factual accurate information. Well, I have taken the challenge and most of the above points are still on the site as of the date of this letter. In addition I spent 15 minutes cross referencing her “supporters list” with parcel owners in the District 118 and in less than half way through the list I found over five names that are not listed as parcel owners in District 118.

I have confidence in our City officials and elected leaders. I believe they are providing community members with accurate and factual information so that we can make an informed decision about improving Newport Heights District 118 and our community. Make sure you are getting the official facts from the City. Let’s stay on par with and join the over 30 other communities in Newport Beach that have gone underground so that Newport Heights can continue to be considered one of the best communities in Newport Beach and on the Orange Coast.

Aaron G. Cook

Newport Heights

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9 COMMENTS

  1. In response to Mr. Cook’s May 31, 2015 post

    The picayune details that Mr. Cook is presenting as ‘outlandish’ once again obscure the main issue: it is about PAYING (an outlandish amount) for aesthetic undergrounding, rather than arguing the minutiae and specific pros and cons of undergrounding in this area. However, in response to some of Mr. Cook’s points.

    1- Regarding the location of transformers. We have formally asked the City Attorney’s office, the Public Works Department, and Edison for clarification on this question. Apparently, there are competing claims that are eventually negotiated or litigated. Edison’s position is that underground transformers are less safe.

    2- Cost of assessments – The estimates are just that, and have been changed in different presentations. It doesn’t matter if the cost is $15,000 or $35,000 – it is simply unfair to charge people this amount of money for aesthetics – especially if they don’t want or need it.

    3- Rule 20C – After a thorough reading of the actual applicable laws, and in discussions with City officials, the Deputy Public Works Director agreed that Rule 20C can absolutely apply in this situation. It is infrequently used because the organizational and knowledge skills are not usually found among a group of neighbors. The only area in District 118 that has more than 3-5 contiguous homes that are NOT noundergounding.com supporters are homes along lower Santa Ana Ave. and La Jolla Drive. If you want to organize your neighbors and use Rule 20C, we have calculated that it would cost you as little as approximately $47,000 per parcel (26 poles, 36 parcels, ~$65,000 per pole). No disruptive neighborhood campaign or waste of City resources needed.

    4- Noundergrounding.com proponents have NEVER claimed that returning a petition postcard will obligate anyone to anything. The correct claim has always been that if pro-undergrounding proponents are successful at gathering postcard signatures for 60% of the District – that’s when the City obligations start. Do you have 60% after nearly 5 months of effort and a City Sponsored mailing?

    5- Foreclosure wording – That’s the City wording included in the formal petition, and meant to be read and understood by all homeowners signing your petition postcard.

    Two other suggestions. Spend some time trying to generate names on your own list. We have confidence in each and every signature that has been submitted to us. As far as accurate and factual information by the City, many legitimate questions have been repeatedly ignored or unanswered by City officials, some as recently as 2 weeks ago by the City Attorney’s office and the Public Works department.

    Portia Weiss

  2. The following video has a City official directly contradicting Mrs. Weiss’s “outlandish claims” above along with real estate professionals and a contractor that have been involved with approximately $1,200 underground connections. Get the real facts.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_cO2MtusIQ&feature=em-upload_owner

    You can also find official City and County information at http://www.savenewportheights.com/ or on the City website.

    Unfortunately for Mrs. Weiss we live in America where community members are usually afforded the right to vote on an issue and the majority can make policy rather than allowing policy to be dictated by the one who makes the most noise. I would ask the opposition to please stop trying to deprive the community of our constitutional right to vote on the issue, our right to improve our properties and our community. We just want to vote!

    If cost is such an issue why would the opposition spend upwards of $10,000 on newspaper ads, Facebook ads, unsightly signs to pit neighbor against neighbor and litter our community when those funds could be donated to those truly less fortunate in our neighborhood.

    If the opposition leaders simply put forth half the current effort into raising money for our less fortunate neighbors instead of Facebook ads, newspaper ads and atrocious yard signs and berating our City officials they could have the best of both worlds and actually help our community and all of its members.

    It’s not about finances it’s about ego. If finances were the main issue one would only need to look at the numbers once: For approximately $116 per month over 20 years undergrounding can add on average $60,000 to property values to as much as $225,000 the year its completed. For $116 per month you can create an additional $60,000-$225,000 asset for your family, your children and your future, however opponents of undergrounding don’t want this for the community and don’t even want you to be able to vote on it. See the real estate estimates and figures on the Save Newport Heights website.

    If you have signed the no undergrounding petition you have signed an unofficial, invalid petition that won’t and can’t even be considered by the City under current ordinance. It accomplishes nothing but to add your name to a divisive public list opposing community improvement.

    To sign an official and valid petition and really make a difference in your community visit the Save Newport Heights website, download the petition package, and sign and return your petition card. The majority of your neighbors will thank you.

  3. You’re right, Mr. Cook. We live in America, where there are laws. And the law here states that you need to have 60% of the parcel owners valid signatures to be entitled to subject the residents to a vote.

    And as far as your cockamamie investment scheme based on wildly speculative assumptions including using my own home as an investment vehicle, I’d prefer to make my own investing decisions, thank you very much. After all, we do live in America.

  4. America, where we are afforded the right to gather signatures on a petition in perpetuity. However the no undergrounding website, propaganda and ads suggest that supporters of Undergrounding should no longer be afforded that right.

    I believe opponents of undergrounding have a right to their opinion and to vote anyway they see fit. Supporters have the right to gather signatures on the official petition for as long as they would like. I would ask the loudest opponents to stop trying to suppress our rights with inaccurate, information and scare tactics! Why not allow all community members to make an informed decision based on the FACTS VS propaganda?

    For those that want to hear the truth straight from the city and surrounding realtors and contractors that have gone through the process, you can view the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_cO2MtusIQ&feature=em-upload_owner

    The supporters of undergrounding will continue to collect signatures in the months and years to come as is our right.

    Visit http://www.savenewportheights.com to see real estate broker estimates on value increases and property value comparisons in undergrounded communities VS above ground communities.

    There is no allusion to any investment scheme. The information on property value increases is based on real estate broker estimates that can be found on our website.

    As far as investments schemes go the no undergrounding recent investments in advertising have paid big dividends as we have collected over a dozen official petition signatures in the days following your recent ad. Thank you!

    If you have signed the no undergrounding petition you have signed an unofficial, invalid petition that won’t and can’t even be considered by the City under current ordinance. It accomplishes nothing but to add your name to a divisive public list opposing community improvement.

    To sign an official and valid petition and really make a difference in your community visit the save Newport Heights website, download the petition package, and sign and return your petition card. The majority of your neighbors will thank you.

  5. False Mr Cook. If you would like a brief primer on Law I’d be delighted to bring you up to speed specific to Under grounding and the Laws that have been violated by the City of Newport Beach and one of our citizens.

    If you have signed the no undergrounding petition you have signed an unofficial, invalid petition that won’t and can’t even be considered by the City under current ordinance. It accomplishes nothing but to add your name to a divisive public list opposing community improvement.

    FALSE

  6. Mr Cook,

    If you are so concerned about the current utilities why did you buy a home in Newport Heights?

    As I had stated earlier, 25 years ago Newport Shores and Newport Heights were at the bottom of neighborhoods where people wanted to buy.

    The constant drum beat then was; no sidewalks and no adequate lighting.

    Now the Heights and district 118 are at the top of the most sought out neighborhoods.

    FACT: For sale homes in district 118 are on the market fewer days than any other neighborhood in Newport Beach.

    If you don’t like the current utilities, Move. Myself, I’m going solar and eliminating Edison from my property.

    NewportHarry

  7. I had hoped opponents of undergrounding utilities would begin providing accurate information but here are some corrections.

    East Bluff Harbor View AVG Days on Market 75
    Newport Heights AVG Days on market 90
    West Bay/ Santa Ana Heights AVG Days on Market 48
    West Newport Lido AVG Days on Market 59
    All Newport AVG Days on Market 78
    All Newport Beach AVG PSF $907
    Newport Heights AVG PSF $697

    I love our community and simply want to improve it for the majority to enjoy. I wouldn’t ask anyone to move despite their opinion.

    I have confidence in our elected and appointed City officials and feel they do a good job as evidenced budget surplus in several recent years running.

    If you feel like the City has violated the law you should take it up with them. Check on the aliens in area 51 and let us all know about the moon landing cover up while you are at it.

    Here is a video with a City official among others discussing the facts https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_cO2MtusIQ

    To sign an official and valid petition and really make a difference in your community visit http://www.savenewportheights.com/ download the petition package and sign and return your petition card. The majority of your neighbors will thank you.

  8. To me this seems a clear case of tyranny of the majority. Those seeking to underground understood that there were above-ground wires when they purchased their property. They are now seeking to bring about a force a costly change on others. I say if they want it so bad, pay for it themselves. America is not about the 51% getting to trample on the rights of the 49%.