Tuesday: Meeting to Consider Undergrounding Electric Lines in Bernal Heights


Some Bernal neighbors are spearheading an effort to get rid of all the utility poles in Bernal Heights and relocate our electric and telecommunications wires underground. There’s a meeting to discuss the idea happening tomorrow, Tuesday, Feb 22 at 7 pm at the Bernal Heights Library.

Neighbor Demece from Precita Valley Neighbors brings some backstory:

Please attend this Tuesday!

Neighborhoods are organizing together to propose a city wide utility undergrounding. Utility lines pose a serious danger for short and long term neighborhood safety. When exterior painting is done and scaffolds are necessary; utility power has to be reduced. Utility lines are easily damaged in an earthquake and are causes of rampant fire. So far, those neighborhoods who have utility undergrounding are safer, and we can make all neighborhoods safer by constructing a timely, cost efficient plan for all under grounding.

Nimble-spirited neighbor Melissa has called for a community meeting on Undergrounding Utilites this Tuesday, 2/23 from 7pm – 8:30pm at the Bernal Library at 500 Cortland.

San Francisco Coalition to Underground Utilities will present a brief informational presentation on the city-wide momentum to push for timely and efficient undergrounding. Precita Valley Neighbors’ dashing duo veteran undergrounding activists Steve and Dennis will facilitate the discussion.

On Saturday, March 12th, Neighbor Steve will lead the Precita Valley Neighbors Meeting from 9:30-10:30am at Charlie’s Café at 3202 Folsom to consider PVN affiliation to join SFCUU.

So what? No issue is more dastardly than an earthquake damaged neighborhood on fire. We can move on this issue now and bury the wires for good.

So attend.

Wires Flyer for PVN

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics

17 thoughts on “Tuesday: Meeting to Consider Undergrounding Electric Lines in Bernal Heights

  1. This idea makes total sense if you live in Fargo, where snow & ice brings down power lines. In SF this seems like a waste of money. When we have so many issues in SF…crumbling infrastructure, homelessness, sub-par public transportation, etc…why spend money to fix a problem that doesn’t exist?

    • Well the argument there would be that earthquakes can bring down tall wooden poles. To leave the lines themselves aside for a moment, consider the poles. They’re large and heavy. They can and will crash into houses and cars in the event of a medium to large earthquake. It’s inevitable SF will experience a medium to large earthquake at some points in the future.

      • While, yes, an earthquake could bring down poles…an earthquake could bring down anything! Trees, homes, land(slides), skyscrapers, etc. We’re not looking to remove trees from SF. Honestly, people aren’t even trying building homes in stable areas…look at the Marina. That argument seems to fall flat if you consider that any standing object could possibly fall down in a quake.

      • I see what you’re saying. The thing is though, the city is currently actively seeking to control / improve buildings. It’s the mandatory soft story retrofit program. As to tall newer buildings, they are all engineered to withstand earthquakes. Trees, OK. Nothing to be done about that, and it’s true. Utility poles though? Why not control what is possible to control? And I didn’t even get into the concept of wires underground in tubes being less of a fire hazard than naked, suspended wires, severed.

    • Something else to consider is not just around when an earthquake happens but the post-earthquake repairs to get service restored. Above ground power lines are quicker to repair and reactivate than underground wires. When there is an earthquake severe enough to take out telephone poles, it will also cause havoc with the underground utilities as well. Just something to consider, what is the full, long-term implications of the decision.

  2. I can’t make it to tomorrow’s meeting, but I’m very interested in making this happen. Someone please let us know if there’s an action to take!

  3. Terrific idea to increase the safety and beauty of our streets. It will be a long process but I really hope we can do this!

  4. A few years back, a neighbor who worked for the city and lived here in St. Mary’s Park showed me a document generated by the city that already had a schedule in place (from what agency or impetus, I don’t know) for undergrounding all power lines in the city, listed by neighborhood.
    But I was flabbergasted to see that our neighborhood, St. Mary’s Park specifically, which is the only one I paid attention to, naturally, was scheduled to have our power lines undergrounded in….wait for it… ….2150! I reread it several times, and it really did say 2150.
    I kid you not.

  5. I lived on Dolores St when all the lines were put underground there about ten years ago. It was very disruptive and costly, the City doesn’t do all of the work for you, property owners had to pay a few thousand each to change their wiring. If you’re worried about pricing folks out of their homes you need to consider that.

  6. its worth it. This was done in front of an investment property and the street is so much better. This cant happen soon enough

  7. There are plenty of safety/fire arguments either way.

    –Power lines and their support cables are extremely strong. They support severed poles easily.
    –Downed power lines didn’t destroy the city in 1989. There are safeties in place.
    –Underground electrical vaults catch fire fairly often.

    So… safety arguments aren’t winnable by evidence, reason or logic. Only by stamina and loudness. Let’s skip that ritual this time, and stick to reasonably objective factors.

    1) Aesthetics: This is not trivial. There’s nothing wrong with admitting its importance. It is a dirty rotten shame that a city as beautiful as San Francisco is buried under an ugly cobweb of power lines, MUNI lines and other visual garbage.

    2) Disruption: mother of all painful, endless projects.

    3) Cost: I’ve been told $3,000-6,000 per household.

    I am 100% in favor of undergrounding every kind of overhead line everywhere in the city. And I’d be willing to live with the disruption, since getting around SF sucks hard anyway.

    So that leaves cost… is there a solution for people like me who can’t afford it?

  8. I’m with the first commenter – even if power disruptions and other inconveniences last weeks after this supposed earthquake that turns utility poles into toothpicks (dramatic and doubtful) the city is ignoring bigger problems. Undergrounding does not guarantee blanket safety and immunity from this theoretical megaquake anyway. Let’s not hear about your investment property. Please let that comment be glib humor?

  9. NO EVIDENCE: There is no evidence that the 1989 7.1 quake brought down any power lines or snapped any power poles. And, if you folks remember back a few months (September!), an underground power vault in Bernal exploded, injuring 2 people. The reason was water that had collected due to a bad seal in the vault, something that wouldn’t have happened if the transformer were above ground. Here’s link to an article about it: http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Cause-of-Bernal-Heights-Tranformer-Explosion-That-Injured-Two-People-Under-Investigation-329876121.html

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