Survey shows majority of RSF respondents not interested in undergrounding district


By Karen Billing

Staff Writer

Going underground didn’t go over too well in Rancho Santa Fe, according to the results of a recent RSF Association survey. The Utility Undergrounding Interest survey, which went out in June, found that just 25 percent of the respondents were willing to participate in an undergrounding district. Of the people who do have a line on or near their property, 41 percent would be willing to participate.

“The majority [of respondents] were not interested in participating, but some certainly were,” Covenant Administrator Ivan Holler said.

Property owners within the district have to come together to submit a petition to the Community Services District (CSD), which then jumpstarts an assessment engineers’ report and boundary map analysis.

District residents then vote on the project, knowing how much they will be assessed. The assessment amounts are weighed by how much individual property owners will benefit and assessments can be paid up front or over time on a property tax bill.

A total of 778 surveys were returned from the June survey, a “phenomenal” response, Holler said, which statistically makes the margin of error very low. Sixty percent of respondents reported having a utility line on or adjacent to their property.

When asked if they would pay a fair share portion of an engineering assessment study, about $2,000, 478 people answered no.

In another question on the survey, only 198 said they were interested in participating in an assessment district. The rest, 400 respondents, said they would not be interested, understanding that the costs may be substantial and that the approval of any assessment district would be subject to a vote of the property owners.

Very few people had an interest in serving as a district captain, leading the charge for their neighborhood: 12 said they would be interested, 631 said they would not be.

The next step for the Association will be taking the people who have an interest (the survey was not anonymous) and plugging their address into a geographic information system to see if there are clusters of interest within a neighborhood. Holler said the process would take some time, but he would report back to the board on their findings.

“We may find out, as Del Mar did, that it’s just too expensive to do,” board president Jack Queen said.

In 2010, two utility districts went to a vote in Del Mar. One cost $7.5 million to establish a district, split unevenly between 321 parcels, and the other cost $3.2 million among 132 parcels. Both efforts failed to get a majority vote.

There are a proposed 39 districts in Rancho Santa Fe, with about 48 parcels each.

This undergrounding survey was slightly different from the long-range planning survey that went out earlier this year—the long-range panning survey asked people if they thought the Association should help finance an undergrounding effort, with 36 percent agreeing and 39 percent somewhat agreeing.