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Department of Public Works

  • Street Lighting and Electric System Undergrounding

    Historically, since the inception of the Underground Utility Program in 1968, the basic criterion to develop the multi-year Capital Improvement Program was Beautification. This program involved undergrounding of city and other local utilities overhead lines, allowing the removal of utility poles, which generally improves the character of the area.

    Financing of the undergrounding program is paid for by an underground surtax, which is collected as part of the City’s Municipal Services bill. The tax is 2% of the first $1,000 on the monthly bill, 1.5% on the next $4,000, 1% on the next $20,000 and .5% on all charges above $25,000. The underground surtax for an average utility customer is $4.97 on a bimonthly basis or $29.82 annually.

    The current surtax revenue allows the city to underground approximately 1.2 miles of overhead electric systems per year. Some districts however, may be less than this amount and therefore will allow the city to work in more than one district per year. One hundred percent of the collected surtax is distributed to the undergrounding priorities, which is submitted as part of the city’s Capital Improvement Program.

    When the program began, the City’s streets were divided into 3 primary categories: CATEGORY I - Arterial and Collector Streets; CATEGORY II - Residential Streets; and CATEGORY III - Alleys and Rear Properties. The initial priority selected for the use of surtax revenue was CATEGORY I - Arterial and Collector Streets.

    In 1968 it was estimated that approximately 220 miles of overhead wires and pole lines were constructed throughout the City of Pasadena. As of January 2007, the City has completed the undergrounding of approximately 65 miles of CATEGORY I streets. Upon completion, the City will begin the undergrounding of all Category II streets, which includes residential streets followed by alleys and rear properties.  

     

    Miles of overhead wires and pole lines constructed throughout the City of Pasadena as of January 2007
    Category Total Miles Miles Completed Miles Remaining Projected Timeline;
    I 102 65 37 31 Years
     II 118 0 118 98 Years
    Total  220 63 157 131 Years


     

    Street Classification

    CATEGORY I – Arterial and Collector 

    According to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Tariff Rule No. 20, Category 1 Streets are classified as Principal and Minor Arterial, which are defined as follows:  

    • Street, road, or right-of-way extensively used by the general public and carries a heavy volume of pedestrian or vehicular traffic; and 
    • Street, road, or right-of-way that adjoins or passes through a civic area, public recreation area or an area of unusual scenic interest to the general public; and 
    • Streets with unusual heavy concentration of overhead electric facilities. 


    CATEGORY II – Residential or Local  

    Consists of all streets and roads not defined as arterials or collectors; primarily provides access to land with little or no through movement, lower mobility, and high degree of access.

     

    Underground Criteria

    The underground priority is selected based on street evaluations conducted by the Power Department. All streets are evaluated based on the underground criteria listed below, which was adopted by the City Council in April 2003.  

    • Streets where overhead lines are deteriorated and need replacement. 
    • Streets where power lines are in conflict with tree and structural clearance. 
    • Streets where there is a higher risk of fire hazards. 
    • Streets where major street construction is planned. 
    • Streets where new or expanded power facilities are needed. 

    Underground Priority


    Frequently Asked Questions


    Q: How are underground priorities selected?
    A: The underground priority is selected based on street evaluations conducted by the Power Department. All streets are evaluated based on the underground criteria listed below, which was adopted by the City Council in April 2003.  

     

    • Streets where overhead lines are deteriorated and need replacement. 
    • Streets where power lines are in conflict with tree and structural clearance. 
    • Streets where there is a higher risk of fire hazards. 
    • Streets where major street construction is planned. 
    • Streets where new or expanded power facilities are needed. 


    Q: What is the financial impact to an affected property? 


    A: All affected property owners are required to underground conduit for existing power, telephone, and/or cable utilities from the property line to the designated service point. The cost of this work ranges from $2,000 to $5,000. Property owners may submit a utility rebate form, in which the City will reimburse a maximum of $2,000 or the lesser actual cost of the work. The City’s rebate is for the underground conversion for POWER ONLY!  

     NOTE: Property owners must submit itemized invoices with all rebate forms to identify all cost associated with power conversion.  


    Q: Will I receive a utility rebate from the other private utilities?  


    A: In special cases where the property owner cannot afford the installation of conduit on his private property, the City will offer financial assistance. However, the property owner will be responsible for repayment to the City based on an agreed monthly installment.

    Q: Will the City provide a recommended list of Electrical Contractors?  


    A: No. The City does not recommend or provide a listing of Electrical Contractors. Property owners are solely responsible for solicitation and hiring of all contractors to complete the underground conversion on private property.

    Q: When will the overhead wires and poles be removed?  


    A: Overhead wires and poles will not be removed until all affected property owners complete the underground conversion and connected to the underground system.

    Q: Although my property is not affected by the district boundaries; when will my street be undergrounded?  


    A: The initial underground priority selected for the use of surtax funds were CATEGORY I Arterial and Collector streets. As of January 2007, the City of Pasadena has completed the undergrounding of approximately 65 miles of Category I streets. The remaining 37 miles of Category I streets is estimated at approximately 31 years. The City will then redirect the program to Category II streets.

    Q: How can I accelerate the undergrounding of the streets in my neighborhood?  


    A: As an alternative, property owners may submit a petition of interest signed by all potentially affected residents to participate in the City’s Cost Sharing Program through the establishment of a Benefit Assessment District. Property owners would incur 100% of all administrative costs, underground construction costs includes 50% power and 100% telephone. The City would incur the remaining 50% of underground construction cost for POWER ONLY. City staff will conduct a preliminary utility study to determine feasibility and projected construction costs. The study will require a sundry deposit, in which the deposit amount is based on the required staff time to complete the study.

    Q: If my neighborhood is found feasible to establish a Benefit Assessment District, how long will it take to complete the undergrounding?  


    A: A Public Hearing is required to officially establish the utility district. The City Council will approve the recommended underground priority based on available surtax revenue. If there are no available surtax funds, the underground priority will be recommended based on the availability of future funding. The allocation of funds could take approximately 3-5 years based on the limited amount of surtax collected annually.