On Monday morning, January 11, I passed a project in progress on the corner of Genter and Draper in La Jolla. I approached Cody Whitters (a journeyman lineman with Henkels & McCoy, working as a contractor for SDGE), who said the project was part of the City of San Diego’s utilities undergrounding program.
When I asked Whitters why the lines were being torn down, he joked, “People in La Jolla have too much money to spend,” then added, “they don’t like it…it’s an eyesore.”
“When did the project begin?” I asked.
“Oh, about 30 years ago,” said Whitters.
“Ah…so you’re making progress quickly, then,” I said. Whitters and the four other workers laughed.
“We’re waiting on communications…cable TV and phone,” said John Hildebrand, who works for AM Ortega. “In general, they’re way behind. They have to do their underground stuff before we can take the poles out. They’re holding us up big time.”
When I asked how far along the project was, Whitters said, “I believe we’re about 75 percent through…but I could be making this all up, you know.”
I telephoned Jose Flores, operations manager for AM Ortega in San Diego, and learned that his company has been working on the project off and on for over a year. According to Flores, they are within two months of completing their work in this neighborhood.
“From then on, it will be up to AT&T and Time Warner to convert their lines to underground…which may take another year…I’m guessing,” said Flores.
The program’s goal is to underground overhead lines throughout the city within 25 years, at the rate of 30 to 35 miles annually. Each year, approximately $55 million is being spent on the project. For more information go to sandiego.gov/undergrounding