Underground utility project to help beautify Geneva Avenue in Daly City 

click to enlarge Pacific Place
  • Brendan P. Bartholomew/Special to The S.F. Examiner
  • Pacific Place, a 72-unit apartment building on Geneva Avenue.

The Daly City portion of Geneva Avenue will soon receive an aesthetic and functional upgrade when its utility poles and wires are removed and replaced by underground facilities. Although owners of homes and storefronts along the Geneva corridor may welcome the beautification and more reliable service, most will have to make some modifications to connect their properties to the new infrastructure. And customers of Astound might be forced to switch to a different telecommunications service provider.

The improvement project will be partly paid for by funds made available under PG&E's Rule 20A program. According to PG&E, Rule 20A funds come from utility ratepayers, and pay for underground projects on major thoroughfares in civic or scenic areas. The projects are designed to avoid or eliminate unusually heavy concentrations of overhead utility equipment.

PG&E's target date for property owners to have their electrical panels converted for the new underground connections is May 1, and the target date for removing the utility poles is Oct. 1, according to a city staff report.

Staff said it might be possible to exempt properties on street corners because they could potentially continue to receive aboveground service, depending on the wiring setup on their cross streets. This could save some property owners thousands of dollars, staff said.

In cases where homes are set back from the street, staff said, Rule 20A funds could be used to cover the cost of tunneling up to 100 feet into the property line. The funds could also be used to reimburse owners up to $1,500 per parcel for the cost of electric panel conversions.

Staff said the city will help pay for the project because it has to put up new streetlights, which will be connected to the underground utility. PG&E, AT&T and Comcast will bear the rest of the cost.

Astound, which currently provides Internet, cable TV and phone service in the area, chose not to be included in the project. If Astound is unable to service households along Geneva from various aboveground locations, the customers would need to switch to other service providers, staff noted.

However, Astound spokeswoman Jennifer Jeter said the company plans to continue serving Geneva Avenue customers, and hopes to work with the city to find a solution that will allow Astound to keep its fiber-optic system in place.

Daly City Department of Public Works Director John Fuller said underground utilities are more reliable because they're less vulnerable to storms and accidents that typically cause service outages. He added that utility undergrounding also has a beautification aspect and can improve a street's appearance.

In addition to modifying their electrical panels, many area property owners may also need to have holes made in their foundations in order to connect to the underground system, Fuller said. He said other cities with similar projects have sometimes had to delay tearing down their utility poles because some property owners have deferred on the conversion process.

Hermie Guevara, who works for Geneva Avenue restaurant Nick's Kitchen, said she understands how improving the street's appearance might make her restaurant a more attractive destination. "Yes, it could help," she said, "Especially in this neighborhood."

Tara Anderson works as a community manager for Pacific Place, a 72-unit apartment building on Geneva Avenue. She noted the complex, built in 2009, already meets current requirements and won't need to be converted before connecting to the underground utility. Beautifying the corridor is something that can be appreciated by residents and it will help make it easier to find renters for vacant units, she said.

"The existing residents will benefit, and it helps for marketing," Anderson said.

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