Undergrounding Project (UP)

Undergrounding before and after

Project Summary

Undergrounding is the replacement of overhead utility cables providing electrical power and/or telecommunications, with underground cables. Following significant public interest in the process and demands for undergrounding power lines, the City of Del Mar has identified the undergrounding of its citywide electric power and communication facilities as a top priority for the City and included that in its community plans e.g., Council’s Vision 2020 plan.  The City’s goal is to convert all overhead utility lines in Del Mar to underground service as part of the Undergrounding Project (Project) as expeditiously as feasible. 

The Project includes the conversion of approximately 14.6 miles of electric power and communication overhead facilities and directly impacts approximately 2254 customers.

The preliminary estimates indicate the City’s portion of the costs to be approximately $52M. Those costs include planning, engineering design, third-party construction contracts for trenching and placement of conduits in the public right-of-way, work by other utilities (i.e., SDG&E), permitting, and other project management and related additional administrative expenses.

To pay for the Project, in November 2016, the voters of Del Mar approved Measure Q, a ballot measure which increased the City’s sales tax rate by 1%. Measure Q was a general sales tax measure with no ending date.  The project team is currently evaluating alternatives for phasing and financing the project for ultimate City Council consideration..

Project Timeline

  1. June 2016 - A study was completed by Utility Specialists Southwest, Inc. (PDF) identifying the estimated cost to underground all remaining utility poles within the City of Del Mar. 
  2. November 2016 - Del Mar voters approved an additional one-cent general sales tax, referred to as Measure Q. It has been widely discussed that one of the projects that should be funded using revenue from the additional sales tax revenue is community-wide undergrounding of utility poles. 
  3. April 2017 - Collection of the additional sales tax began and is estimated to generate approximately $2 million annually.
  4. December 2017 - The City Council formed the Undergrounding Project Advisory Committee (UPAC) to ensure the UP moves forward in a timely manner and that the goals of the project are achieved. The Committee is one component of the Utility Undergrounding Project Team (Team) that includes City staff, neighborhood representatives, City Council liaisons, utility companies, and utility consultants. Here is a link to the staff report establishing the UPAC (PDF), which includes the committee charter.
  5. In March 2018 - Nine members were appointed to serve on UPAC. Here is a link to the web page for the UPAC, which includes committee member names, links to meeting agendas, and the option to subscribe to automatically receive a notification of the posted meeting agenda via email. The UPAC has divided into three subcommittees working on scheduling, project financing, and communications.  
  6. In October 2018 - The City Council approved the award of an agreement to Lee & Ro, Inc. to provide professional services including planning, design, engineering, and communication for the undergrounding effort.  The City Council also adopted several policy recommendations made by UPAC as noted. Click on the links under Reference Information below for the staff reports.
  7. In January 2019 – The City’s consultant completed their first task order which was to prepare a preliminary project delivery plan. This first assignment included inventorying, assessing, and mapping existing overhead facilities; evaluating the construction readiness of several undergrounding projects (previously initiated by private neighborhoods); and preparing preliminary cost estimates (for planning and budgeting purposes).  After several weeks of data gathering and analysis, the consultant has delivered the first draft of the Project Delivery Plan (PDF) for the City’s review.

    The project team is currently reviewing the draft Project Delivery Plan (PDF) and preparing several recommendations for the City Council to consider in March.  It is anticipated that final version of the report, the UPAC recommendations, and other related policy matters for the City Council’s consideration will be brought forward to the City Council in March 2019.

The City of Del Mar remains very committed to this project.  For more information about the UP: