Piedmont Pines’ undergrounding project is broken into three phases. Combined, our project is PG&E’s largest-ever undergrounding endeavor. Our project falls under California Public Utilities Rule 20A, which is a huge benefit to residents because utilities pay 100% of their construction out of rate payer’s fees allocated to each jurisdiction (City, Counties etc.) for utility undergrounding.
Status of PPNA Undergrounding
Broke ground October 2011
PG&E, the lead utility, often used four crews at a time, enabling all the trenching and conversion of electrical power to be completed a year ahead of schedule
New street lights have been installed.
All but two poles (Burton, Skyline) have been removed. The final two are tied up in permitting issues related to locating above-ground antennas that serve Verizon cellular customers
Major hurdles getting this phase started were cleared in February 2015
Property-by-property boundary map has been completed. Click here to view.
Next step is an engineering assessment to determine the City's not-to-exceed costs for undergrounding the street lights, a cost that would be passed back to residents
Once the City's administration and street light costs are known, they will ballot Phase 2 property owners asking yes/no to establishing an assessment district to pay for this part of the project
If yes, the project gets put into PG&E's (lead utility) queue and engineering begins
If no, we move to Phase 3. Phase 2 residents will not get a second chance, so it's important voters are fully informed and mindful. We will be having full community discussions prior to balloting
There won’t be a timeline for Phase 3 until Phase 2 is well under way
In 1987, Piedmont Pines filed a petition with the City to have all utility lines within its boundaries undergrounded under the California Public Utilities Commission’s Rule 20A, which basically sets out a pot of money from the tax on utility bills to cover undergrounding of the phone, power and cable lines.
In 1999, Piedmont Pines rose to the top of the City’s waiting list. Just as we finished tabulating votes among residents to establish an assessment district to fund the homeowner’s portion of the project, everything came to a screeching halt, with a host of complex legal and regulatory issues affecting all Rule 20! undergrounding projects in the state.
From 2000 to 2003, The association spent time in front of the CPUC and the state legislature in hearings about what criteria should be considered in forming undergrounding districts. We were joined by the City in our argument that public safety and emergency access should be heavily weighted. We were denied, and a new provision restricting 20A undergrounding to arterial streets meant that over half our streets have been eliminated from the undergrounding project. The legal and regulatory proceedings forced us to step out of line and allow the undergrounding of MacArthur Blvd to proceed.
In 2004, we reluctantly accepted a compromise offered by PG&E, the lead utility in this project, that we break the project into three phases because of its complexity (hillsides, narrow streets) and the size of the project. This is the largest Rule 20A project in the state. The risk we wanted to avoid was having another Oakland area get preference between each of our phases. In the meantime, we’ve been assured this will not happen.
In 2008, Phase 1 residents voted to go forward with the project and establish an assessment district. While utilities pay 85% of the cost from fees on utility bills across the state, property owners in Oakland are charged the remaining 15% to cover the City’s administration expenses and installation of new street lights that are compatible with an undergrounding system. Property owners have the option of paying the assessment in a lump sum or paying with their property taxes over 30 years starting with the 2010-11 tax year.
From 2008 to 2011, the project went through the design phase, with lots of largely unexplained delays along the way. Placement of transformers was one issue, but did not explain the full delay.
In 2011, PPNA deployed a finely tuned strategy to force all parties to resolve all remaining roadblocks and get construction under way. We mediated meetings, and at long last, got all issues resolved.
In October 2011, PPNA hosted a long awaited groundbreaking celebration for Phase 1.
From fall 2011 through winter 2014, construction of the new undergrounding system was completed and nearly all poles were removed in fall 2014. Remaining poles will be removed in 2015.
In 2015 we celebrate completion of Phase 1 and begin assessment engineering for Phase 2.