Phase 2: The Chelton Drive Corridor
The Piedmont Pines Undergrounding Project, which was initiated in 1987, is broken into three phases (Ascot Drive corridor, Chelton Drive corridor and Castle Drive corridor) that, in total, are PG&E’s largest-ever undergrounding endeavor. Our project falls under California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Rule 20A. Rule 20A is an electric tariff (Cable and telephone companies have companion tariffs). Projects performed under Rule 20A are nominated by a city, county or municipal agency and discussed with the electrical provider as well as other utilities. The costs for undergrounding under Rule 20A are recovered through utility rates. This is a huge benefit to residents because utilities fund 100% of their construction from ratepayer’s fees allocated to each jurisdiction (City, Counties etc.) for utility undergrounding. Residents inside the boundary for an Undergrounding District will be asked to vote if they want to establish an Underground Assessment District to fund new street lights and related costs which account for 15 to 20% of the total project cost.
PPNA answers Nextdoor concerns
I can't afford it
Financing will be available; lien passed on to buyers if you decide to sell before it's paid off. Check with your insurance company to see if your homeowners rate can be reduced by the increased fire safety.
Construction chaos, noise and congestion
Traffic, emergency and other hazard mitigation plans are required and were managed flawlessly in Phase 1. Maximum traffic control wait time is 3 minutes, and rarely did anyone in Phase 1 have to wait that long.
Emergency evacuation would be slowed by construction interference and open trenches
Contingency plans to manage emergencies are required. Having traffic managers on site may well prove beneficial in managing an evacuation
Social justice--if wires bad here, what about the rest of Oakland?
We stepped aside our first place position on Oakland's very long waiting list to allow a project on MacArthur to precede our start of Phase 1. Before that, we stepped aside for the Fire area. Other areas of Oakland populate a very long list and will get their turn if their residents are willing to fund an assessment district to pay the City's share of the project
Why don't utilities pay 100%?
They do pay 100% of their own construction costs. What residents pay is reimbursement to the City for a new street lighting system and administration expenses. This keeps the cost from being spread across the entire tax base.
Outages are now limited to one or two a year. Is the expense worth it?
Such a drastic reduction in outages during one of our stormiest winters is testament to how big an impact Phase 1 alone has had. By the time all three phases are done, we will have far fewer outages and much greater fire safety
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the advantages of CPUC Rule 20A Undergrounding?
- Financial Benefits
- Utilities will pay for the work to underground all utilities and remove the existing structure (CPUC Rule 20A)
- Homeowners will only pay for new streetlights and associated administrative expenses
- Homeowners receive the big advantages of undergrounding for a relatively small cost
- Increased Safety
- Removing the existing overhead utilities removes the risk of fire from overhead transformers and downed wires in our tree-filled neighborhood
- New street lights will improve and enhance the distribution of light on our dark streets
- Improved Reliability
- Reduced power outages because of wind, weather, and/or falling trees
- Fiber optic cables will be undergrounded along with power lines and phones lines, so no disruptions from the elements to the Internet and cable TV
- Whether you enjoy views of the trees or of the San Francisco Bay and skyline, elimination of unsightly poles and wires will enhance our beautiful Oakland Hills neighborhood
- Potential home buyers are impressed by neighborhoods that appear neat and tidy with undergrounded utilities, which may result in quicker sales and increased property values
What are the disadvantages of 20A undergrounding?
- Parcel owners pay expenses for undergrounding the street lighting system and city administrative expenses through a special assessment district.
- While less frequent, outages may be longer, because utilities are underground and cannot readily be seen.
When other parts of the city are approved for under-grounding projects, are they also asked to pay for new streetlights as a special assessment on property owners?
- Yes, Oakland requires that all new streetlights associated with Rule 20A projects be paid by property owners that benefit, rather than from Oakland city general funds.
- A list of proposed Oakland underground projects can be reviewed here
How often do under-grounding projects occur within the city?
- Assuming creation of an underground assessment district (see below) utility undergrounding project under PG&E Rule 20A only proceed when the funds collected by PG&E from all ratepayers are adequate to fund the utility undergrounding expense and property owners have agreed to pay th
- Please see a description of Rule 20 at PG&E’s website:
What is the difference between an underground district and an assessment district?
- An Underground District establishes the legal boundary of the streets and properties where the aerial utility lines will be undergrounded. After a show of interest vote shows affected parcel owners want to proceed with the project, Oakland City Council will vote on a resolution to establish the Underground District.
- An Underground Assessment District is a legislative act that obligates every parcel owner within the Underground District to pay the City's cost to convert street lighting to an underground system plus the City's administrative costs associated with the project.
What are the boundaries for Phase 2 and how many properties are affected? How will I know if my property is included in the project?
- Phase 2 is limited to the Chelton Drive “arterial” which includes properties that are serviced directly by lines from Chelton Drive, Carisbrook Drive, Darnby Drive and a stretch of Skyline Boulevard. Precise boundaries are determined by each utility's technical considerations, e.g., “riser” pole constraints, small cul-de-sacs and lighting issues
- Phase 2 includes 223 properties; the current plan indicates there will be 37 new street lights, 36 replaced street lights and 8 removed streetlights
- The Phase 2 map showing included addresses can be found by clicking on the Boundary Map button on this web page.
How long will Phase 2 take?
- Assuming approval, Phase 2 is expected to be complete by 2022, though Piedmont Pines Neighborhood Association is working with utilities and the City to compress this schedule.
Who pays for Undergrounding?
- Undergrounding replaces all overhead lines with an underground system. Street lighting is replaced with an entirely new system.
- Generally, the cost for undergrounding the utilities (PG&E, AT&T, wireless telephone providers and Comcast) is paid with funds collected for undergrounding from ratepayers in the utility’s service area.
- Parcel owners are responsible for all costs associated with service lateral trenches beyond 100 feet, which the Oakland City Council authorized to be paid with PG&E Rule 20A funds. It is our understanding that few if any homes will require trenching greater than 100 feet.
- It is expected that City Council action to proceed with undergrounding will include an authorization for up to $1500 per parcel to be drawn from PG&E Rule 20A funds for the purpose of conversion of each home's electrical panel. In phase 1, this allowance was sufficient to cover nearly all panel conversions. Parcel owners will be required to pay for associated permit and inspection fees that are estimated at $400.
- Parcel owners within the district pay the cost of the new or replacement streetlights via a special assessment district. The Phase 2 cost is estimated to range from $15,000-$20,000 on a parcel-specific basis.
How do Phase 2 parcel owners participate in the project?
- Originally, Piedmont Pines parcel owners voted “yes” to authorize the City Council to establish our Underground District. The resolution was passed in May, 2008.
- The Piedmont Pines project was then divided into three phases.
- Due to the passage of time between initial Council approval and Phase 2, Phase 2 parcel owners will participate in a new “show of interest” vote during July, 2017 in order to create the Underground District for phase 2.The district can be created by Council with a simple majority of the voting property title holders. A majority vote on the “show of interest” vote does not obligate parcel owners to any financial commitment.
- If a parcel owner does not return a ballot, it is counted as a “no” vote, therefore it is important for parcel owners to return ballots if they are interested in learning more about the specific costs associated with the project.
- The Oakland City Council reviews the results of the “show of interest” vote and votes on a resolution to establish the Phase 2 Undergrounding District.
- If the resolution establishing the Utility Undergrounding District passes, parcel owners will then vote to create the Phase 2 Undergrounding Assessment District. If it fails, the project will not proceed and Phase 3, the Castle Corridor, will have the next chance to underground utilities.
- Creation of the Undergrounding Assessment District will be determined by the result of the “assessment-weighted” vote. This vote is technically called a "Majority Protest.” If there is a majority protest namely, the NO votes are greater than –the YES votes, when weighted by the dollar value of the assessment – Council cannot create an assessment district and the project is defeated and will move to Phase 3 (Castle Drive corridor).
- On the other hand, if there is not a majority protest, Council will schedule a public hearing and then vote on a resolution to establish the assessment district. If this resolution passes, the project advances, with all properties in the underground district legally required to participate.
How do parcel owners pay?
- If the Undergrounding Assessment District is approved, there are two options for paying the assessment:
- A lump sum payment paid during a finite time period
- Financing over time, with the annual cost identified on the parcel owner’s property tax bill. Financed assessments increase the owner's total cost to cover the costs of the bond.
- If a parcel owner chooses the financing option and later wants to pay it off in a lump sum, the City's Treasury department will calculate the amount due
What if I don’t feel that I can afford it?
- Besides being able to finance the expense over a long period of time, the lien on the property is passed on to subsequent property owners should you decide to sell your property.
What if I don't want to be part of the 20A undergrounding, but my neighbor does?
- Creation of the undergrounding district will be determined by the result of the “show of interest” vote and, if applicable, the assessment district vote. It's an all-in or all-out project. It's important to note that the first ballot, to create the undergrounding district, does not create any financial obligation for property owners. A majority "yes" to create the assessment district is where the financial obligation kicks in for all.
What should a property owner do if they do not have their ballot for any number of reasons (never received, went to old address, is lost or destroyed, went to previous owner, etc)?
- email Mr. Allen Law, Electrical Services Manager
If my utility services are already underground, do I need to do anything?
- Yes, you still need to vote because the assessment primarily covers the new, undergrounded street lighting system.
If my utility services are already undergrounded, there are no streetlights on my block, and I don't want any, what do I need to do?
- You need to submit a petition to the City, signed by the majority of parcel owners on your street, requesting exclusion from the Underground District.
Will Chelton Drive be completely resurfaced after undergrounding?
- Generally, streets are restored to the condition they were in before the project, but because Chelton Drive is in such bad shape, PPNA is lobbying for shoulder-to-shoulder repaving. The City has not yet ruled on this.
How long does construction take?
- Construction takes about one year for each mile of undergrounding, which, on this project, is expected to be 24 to 36 months. PPNA is working with utilities and the City to compress this schedule.
What about construction noise and congestion? And what happens in an emergency?
- Traffic, emergency and other hazard mitigation plans are required and were managed flawlessly in Phase 1. Maximum traffic control wait time is 3 minutes, and rarely did anyone in Phase 1 have to wait that long.
- Contingency plans to manage emergencies are required. Having traffic managers on site may well prove beneficial in managing an evacuation
How long will the contractor be in front of my property?
- Typically one day for major trenching. Otherwise, work is intermittent and access is provided for walkways and driveways.
What about managing traffic on these narrow roads?
- PG&E is required to have a traffic management plan in place, which during Phase 1 was managed expertly
Will trees be damaged by construction?
- Contractors must comply with the City's Protected Tree Ordinance, and work with arborists to ensure that trees and their roots are not damaged as a result of this project
Do I need a permit for my electrical panel conversion work, and how much does it cost?
- PG&E and the City are expected to work together on Phase 2 to simplify the permitting process. In Phase 1, PG&E’s contractor picked up a check from each homeowner and pulled the required permits
- The permit fee in Phase 1 was $162.The Phase II permitting process is still under development and the estimated electrical permit fee anticipated when Phase II starts construction is $400.00.
What is the 100-foot Rule, and how is it applied?
- Typically, parcel owners are required to install the service laterals (the underground conduits for electric, telephone, and cable TV, including trench excavation and backfill) on their properties at their expense.
- However, PG&E Rule 20A.3 permits the City to authorize that PG&E pay for the installation up to 100 feet of each customer’s underground electric service lateral.
- For service laterals exceeding 100 feet, the excess over 100 feet will be at parcel owner’s expense. This is not expected to be an issue for any Phase 2 properties.
If my service lateral is 40 feet, am I given credit for the remaining 60 feet?
Who will construct the service lateral on my property?
- PG&E's contractor
What is installed in the service lateral trench on my property?
- Each utility--PG&E, AT&T, wireless providers and Comcast--will have a pipe in the trench.
What happens if two existing utility services are already underground, but one utility is overhead (typically cable TV)?
- The project will install the service lateral to underground the remaining utility that still has an overhead line (cable TV in this example). All utility services (electric, telephone, and TV) must be underground.
Can my neighbor and I share the same joint trench for our service laterals?
- Yes, but separate trenches are recommended. If a shared trench is necessary, adjacent parcel owners should exchange easements to accommodate joint trench facility.
- These easements should be recorded. Such easements may be extinguished by foreclosures, but should assist in minimizing future disputes.
Where is the joint (main) trench placed?
- The joint trench is installed in the public right of way, which includes the paved road surface and some property on either side of the road. Typically the trench is installed on one side of the road to minimize traffic disruption and minimize cost.
Where will new poles be placed in relation to existing utility poles that are being removed?
- If the existing power pole with a streetlight is removed, a new streetlight pole would normally be installed adjacent to the existing PG&E wood pole. However, consideration is given to creating optimum lighting and taking into account trees, driveways, bus stops, fire hydrants, etc.
- The exact location will be reviewed and communicated at a future community meeting as the project progresses. Each property owner is afforded the opportunity to discuss streetlight locations affecting their property
- The preliminary streetlight system is shown on the Phase 2 boundary map
Will streetlight poles be installed on private property?
- No. In the unlikely event that this is required, the City will request the property owner to grant an easement for the streetlight. Without the easement, the City cannot install streetlights on private property.
How are disputes regarding lighting levels and/or streetlight locations resolved between neighbors?
- Street lighting levels are set in he Street Light Warrants. All deviations from this regulation must be approved and funded by the city council. When a dispute on streetlight location occurs, the City asks the neighbors to work with their block captains to negotiate a compromise. If necessary, city staff (arborist and electrical engineer) can meet to explore options and assist in selecting the best alternative.
What light source is used in the cobra head light fixtures?
- A light emitting diode (LED) light source is used because it is the most energy efficient and has the characteristic white color. The City has converted all its cobra head street lights to LED and is in the process of converting its ornamental streetlights to LED.
What wattages are the light fixtures?
- Typically 39 or 47 Watts LED in residential streets.
Where and when will construction start?
- The schedule will be determined pending the creation of the undergrounding assessment district.
Link to the City of Oakland Utility Undergrounding Information, including Rule 20A FAQ
Note: this manual is currently being updated to incorporate the addition of LED fixtures.