Residents Agree to Fund Their Own Improvements

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....includes gravel footpaths between homes rather than streets or sidewalks.
The Sara Thurston Park neighborhood includes gravel footpaths between homes rather than streets or sidewalks.

When all the ballots were counted, property owners in Coast Royal and the historic Sara Thurston Park overwhelmingly voted to tax themselves to finance infrastructure improvements in their respective neighborhoods.

In Coast Royal, the South Laguna hillside district below Aliso Peak includes the streets of Monterey, Brooks, Pedro, Holly, Ceanothus, Alta Loma and Ocean View. More than 73 percent of the 224-parcel owners supported creating an assessment district to rid their ocean-view homes of above ground utility wires and poles. About a third of the $7 million assessment to finance undergrounding electric, cable and telephone utilities is contractor costs, a bid won by Hot Line Construction of Sun City, Calif.

There was no dissent at the Dec. 8 City Council meeting when the vote was announced.

Individual property assessments range from $9,376 to $45,138, which will add from $1,180 to $5,106 annually to property tax bills, based on lot and structure valuation, says a city staff report. Construction is expected to start in May. An assessment notice will be issued to property owners offering a 30-day cash collection period to pay the amount in full. After that time, owners have an option to make payments annually, which track the pay down of the city’s bond offering for the project. This option however, requires a lien be placed on the property by the city.

Even as the city creates a new undergrounding district, former Mayor Bob Whalen earlier this year pressed Edison to underground all of its wiring citywide due to safety concerns. Though talks were held, the recent vote shows the piecemeal effort is still the status quo. The city has created 18 assessment districts, comprising 32 neighborhoods, to bury utilities since 1992, according to City Engineer Steve May.

Milligan Bridge Receives Attention


Thurston Park residents Craig O'Neill and Peri Doshi-O'Neill and their children cross the deteriorating Milligan Drive bridge.
Thurston Park residents Craig O’Neill and Peri Doshi-O’Neill and their children cross the deteriorating Milligan Drive bridge.

An even greater number, 90.2 percent, of 33 property owners, voted in favor of creating an assessment district to improve a dilapidated bridge that is the main entry to a historic enclave off Laguna Canyon Road.

Use of the Milligan Drive bridge, proclaimed in poor shape by city-hired engineers, is already restricted for fire trucks, a concern for residents in the event of an emergency. The bridge provides the only access over Laguna Canyon Channel for residents living on private Milligan Drive. The district known as Fairywood is bordered by Milligan Drive, Laguna Canyon Road and by Woodland Drive on two sides.

The project will cost $425, 193. The city will contribute 37 percent because it owns seven parcels. For residents, assessments will range from $1,600 to $31,000.

The near unanimous support for the assessment district stands in contrast with dissent voiced at an earlier hearing in October. At the time, multiple residents described the financial burden of the proposed assessments.

With the vote in place, the city will begin the process of collecting the assessments, and has asked city staff for options on financing plans. The city is reluctant to issue a bond for a project considered small because of the cost of the bond offering.







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