Power Poles

Power poles are unsightly, dangerous and unreliable compared to undergrounded facilities. But they are cheaper to install, which is why utilities continue to use them.

Fortunately, some poles are beginning to be undergrounded. https://www.ranchosantafereview.com/news/story/2020-02-19/five-sdg-e-poles-to-go-underground-in-rancho-santa-fe

When building new subdivisions, builders pay the extra money to underground all their utilities, and the cost for this is built into the new house price.

Below are several different ways to underground your electrical poles.

Option 1: Just Do It

Get together with your neighbors and decide to pay for the undergrounding. Similar to the process of canvessing neighbors for a sewer or natural gas main extension, you need to find out who along a proposed route would be willing to pay for the undergrounding. Not all neighbors may agree to pay, in which case the payers will be paying for those not willing to pay. In terms of cost, I heard of one house on 5 acres in RSF that is undergrounding their power lines – at a cost of between $250,000 and $500,000.

Option 2: Form an Assessment District

In 2010, the RSF Association and the RSF Community Services District put together a procedure that allows homeowners to band together to form an assessment district for the purposes of undergrounding utilities. A district captain (that would be you) canvasses his neighbors along a particular route. If he can convince at least half of the homeowners to pay for the undergrounding through a formal vote, then an assessment district can be formed that would force all homeowners along the route to pay for the undergrounding. These mandatory assessments could be paid in a lump sum or over a period of time.

Click here to download a PDF describing the CSD assessment districts and the process to create one.

Option 3: Wait for Governmental Action

While there are public pots of money to pay for underground conversions, only certain projects qualify. Click here to read some historical information about the last time the RSF Association explored undergrounding options. The pdf describes options for public money as well as what happened when an attempt was made to underground utilities in some areas. The PDF includes the results of an undergrounding survey.

So, No More Poles?

Be aware that undergrounding electrical service will eliminate power conductors from the tops of the poles. But the poles could and probably do also carry telecom cables (phone, cable, and fiber optic for the cellular distributed antenna system). Undergrounding those utilities is a separate process. Hopefully the Association’s RSF Connect fiber network will eventually obsolete the copper cables used for phone and cable TV.