San Diego city leaders and San Diego Gas & Electric are slowly moving towards a future where overhead power lines are a thing of the past.
The lines are getting buried in a “utility under grounding” project that is scheduled to span at least another 40 years.
There is growing immediate concern however, among some home owners, that engineers are simply replacing one eye sore with another in the form of big green boxes popping up in front of homes.
“I think it would be unsightly, I would not care for it” said Nancy Shields of Kensington.
Kensington is one of the communities on deck for under grounding and the local community association is making the project one of its primary concerns, asking that the transformer boxes be buried.
Recently, 173 Kensington residents took part in a survey which asked if they’d be willing to pay a one-time assessment of $1,500 to $2,000 to make sure the transformers were buried. Of those surveyed, 70% responded favorably to that idea.
“We said yes as a homeowner, we would. We’d pay for it because we don’t want one of the big green boxes or the round cable TV boxes in front of our house or on the side of our house,” said local Andy Nelson.
Aside from visual concerns, some say the boxes are trip hazards and graffiti magnets.
The issue isn’t just about money, according to San Diego Gas & Electric, which says above ground boxes are necessary for the safety of workers and reliability of service.
The placement of boxes is primarily determined by engineers who must factor in a wide variety of issues. The city says community meetings are held with maps of where the boxes go in, but some homeowners claim the notification, time and place haven't been sufficient or practical.
Mission Hills and Talmadge were among the first communities to go through under grounding. Community members who’ve heard stories from those neighborhoods are worried.
“And stuff just appeared…no one really talked to them and there wasn’t a master plan and stuff kind of changed at the last minute,” said Nelson.
In Talmadge the conversion project has been underway for several years, although posted signs have a completion date of “2007” and many powerlines are still overhead.
Mike Reymer has a new green box between the street and sidewalk near his home, but says crews worked with him when he raised concerns about the boxes being directly in front of his dining room window.
“Came out and talked with them, they were very cooperative, and so this kind of got equally divided right on the property line,” explained Reymer.
The Kensington community association is working with its neighbors in North Park to urge city council members to form a “Utility Under grounding Task Force” that would consist of residents, city leaders and utility leaders in an effort to make sure the conversion is effective and neighborhood-friendly.