Letter: Formation of Underground Assessment Districts in Laguna Beach

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The case for not putting utility wires underground and taking down poles within an Assessment District Boundary (Pending Woods Cove 2014-2 Assessment District).

Forming an Assessment District: When 60% of parcel owners get together and front $500 per parcel (within the district map boundary) an action is started that says to the City Public Works Department “60% of the parcel owners in this mapped district are willing to pay an average of $50,000 and make the other 40% of their neighbors also pay an average of $50,000 per parcel (taxing ourselves on purpose?) to help pay the cost of putting that utility distribution system underground instead of letting it continue to work, as is, at no additional cost.”

Determining the Benefit: Once the city has collected $500 from 60% of the proponent parcel owners, they add additional taxpayer funds from the city coffers to move forward with the process ($1,179,500 allocated, $912,700 spent as of March 17). Part of the funding is used for assessment engineers to evaluate the benefit each parcel would receive as a result of putting the utilities underground. The Woods Cove assessment is based on the following factors: 10% view, 20% safety, and 70% neighborhood aesthetics. Each parcel is evaluated for how it will benefit from each factor. Currently parcels in the Woods Cove Assessment District have benefit factors that range from 0.1 to 1.87. Since the average assessment is $50,000, the “total” benefit value times $50,000 will give a ballpark number of what an assessment will be.

Assessments: After the assessments are distributed to the parcel owners there will be a final vote by the owners to determine if the 2014-2 Assessment District will be formed. For the vote to succeed, parcel owners whose assessments total more than 50% of all assessments have to vote “yes.” If the vote succeeds each owner will be given the choice to payoff their assessment in total. Otherwise the City will arrange to get bond financing where the assessment (plus finance costs) will be attached to the parcel’s property tax and paid off over the term of a 15 or 20 year bond.

Based on the current range of benefit factors and an estimated average assessment of $50,000, parcel owners can expect to see a minimum assessment of $5,000 and maximum of $93,500 (plus the upfront cost of each parcel’s private utility connection; cost between $5,000 and $15,000, if your current connection is still overhead, plus finance costs added to the bond if an owner makes that choice).

Why You Should Vote No: With an average cost of $50,000, I think I would like to use my discretion to install a solar roof and storage batteries at a cost no more and probably less than what my assessment would be. I will be voting “no” on the formation of the 2014-2 AD.

Leave the Utilities up. Install solar. Never pay another electricity bill again. Never suffer another power outage, having a battery backup. Get paid for surplus power sold back to SCE.  Be part of the solution to climate change by using solar power instead of fossil fuels to generate the power you consume.

If you are a parcel owner within the district map boundary, when it comes to a vote, please vote “no” for the final formation of the 2014-2 Woods Cove Assessment District.

JT Price, Laguna Beach

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1 COMMENT

  1. We live in a State with the Highest State Income Tax, Highest Sales Tax, Highest Fuel Cost with the most burdensome regulations and extreme fee’s. Plus, we live in a town which is at the epicenter of this madness.
    Now we planned to up-grade Edison Electric Power Co.’s means of distribution and charge Edison’s “customers/us” an undetermined $amount with Laguna Beach City having the final say over how much each individual recipient should be charged.
    Wow!!! and you wonder how Hotels, Movie Theaters, Restaurants, Businesses, and Homes can stay shuttered indefinitely in our town with this kind of business logic and common sense.

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