Upside-Down Undergrounding?

Via Alta is a thoroughfare that dissects a central part of the Hillside neighborhood that dominates Del Mar’s landscape. No doubt you and your neighbors experienced the recent rogue storm to hit Del Mar, starting the night of February 21, when the wind began to howl and gusts were as high as 50+ miles per hour. Huge Torrey Pines, eucalyptus, and palms swayed in the high winds, with branches falling and pinecones and needles everywhere. In the middle of the night, an enormous Torrey Pine came crashing down onto Via Alta, taking powerlines with it. Across two days and nights, teams of workers were there, fixing powerlines. After the tree fell, Via Alta was totally closed and a large number of Hillside residents were without power or internet for more than a day.


Everyone in this neighborhood is wondering the same thing: why is most of the tree-filled Hillside low on the City’s Undergrounding Priority list? A small Tewa neighborhood was undergrounded first (albeit at a cost far beyond what was budgeted). What is next in line? Priority #1A, along Stratford Court and west of Camino del Mar, apparently decided because of meter density and a mix of single-family, multi-family, and commercial properties, not so much because of fire danger. The area posing the most severe fire danger is Crest Canyon (#X1A) of course, but it is not yet decided if this work will be done concurrently with #1A (Stratford). Next on the list? Priority #1B, also on Stratford, north of 11th St. Then comes Priority #2: the Beach Colony, between Sandy Pointe and 18th St. The large “south” Hillside area west of Crest Road and south of 15th has been relegated to Priority #3 (plus a small part of Del Mar Terrace), with Priority #4 being the Hillside area north of 15th. Maps of all project areas are available at:


Despite the “density and mix of uses” arguments, we must ask why undergrounding the tree-intensive Hillside neighborhoods is not a higher priority. Terry Gaasterland and Dave Druker, Council Liaisons to the Undergrounding Committee, both live in the Stratford corridor; and the seven Undergrounding Committee members live on 8th St, 10th St., Stratford, San Dieguito, Oribia, Spinnaker, and Tewa. None live in the heart of the Priority #3 or #4 Hillside areas, which are full of huge trees and high-power lines. We are so vulnerable, not just to these devastating wind and weather events but – most critically – to catastrophic fire. All it would take is one downed tree falling onto a line and causing a spark. We’d have a Hillside conflagration on our hands.


On behalf of all of our neighbors, we beseech Mayor Martinez, Ms. Gaasterland, Mr. Druker, and their Undergrounding Committee to re-prioritize Measure Q funding. Huge parts of town that could go up in flames must be a higher priority for Measure Q undergrounding of power lines.

Via Alta tree over wires. Photo by Rosanne Holliday.