A Message about Underground Utilities in El Cerrito / from: Diane Brenner, DCNA Area Monitor

There has been a very large volume of positive responses to my December 11, 2019 NextDoor post on the subject of asking El Cerrito to participate in the CPUC Rule 20A program for undergrounding utilities in El Cerrito, with the priority being to start with the major evacuation routes from the eastern side of El Cerrito (Arlington, Cutting, Barrett).  We know these streets qualify for using the funds already accumulated by this program.  Not all streets do.

The next thing we need to do is make sure City Council knows the extent of this support.  Per an article in The Chronicle (Dec. 11, 2019), we know that cities have been “underutilizing” this program. As a result, PG&E has been diverting funds from this program to other uses.  Per the City Council meeting on July 16, 2019, we also know PG&E has asked El Cerrito for permission to divert our funds from the program.  El Cerrito has not agreed, but the City still has no plans to ask PG&E to underground any utilities using the $2.6 million in credits/funds that El Cerrito has accumulated in this program for this purpose.

 As you may have heard, the city of El Cerrito is facing some financial difficulties.  However, public safety must remain one of the top priorities for city government.  Undergrounding utilities along major evacuation routes, using credits/funding that already exists to pay for the work, will eliminate the possibility of significant roadblocks to evacuation, and thereby will enhance public safety in neighborhoods that face the dual threats of an earthquake on the Hayward Fault and wildfires coming from the east.

I’ve asked several people for their recommendations on how best to communicate our support to City Council.  The consensus is:  

A). Send email to the Mayor and City Council expressing your support for undergrounding utilities with Rule 20A credits.  Please send your emails before the next City Council next meeting on January 21, 2020 and please cc me at dpbrenner@comcast.net . See below.

B). Show up for the January 21 City Council meeting at 7 p.m.  We need not stay for the whole meeting; just be present for the public comment agenda item at the start of the meeting.  We also need a few people to make 3-minute statements of support for this project; and

C). Then we request a meeting between a small group of us and one or more members of City Council.

Send email to the Mayor and members of City Council. Please send your email soon, so they can review it before the next City Council meeting on January 21, 2020.  Their email addresses are listed below.  Use the subject line,  “Underground Utilities in El Cerrito with CPUC Rule 20A.”  You can send the same message to each council member, but it is important that they hear from you.  Clearly state why you think that undergrounding utilities along major evacuation routes from the eastern edge of town should be a priority and that the 16-year long neglect of this program/opportunity (CPUC Rule 20A) should end.  If you are one of the people who has previously raised this issue with city staff or city council and “got nowhere,” please mention that, too.

Please “cc” me on your emails:  dpbrenner@comcast.net so I know how many messages we are generating.

Mayor Greg Lyman    glyman@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us

Mayor ProTem Paul Fadelli    pfadelli@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us

Council Member Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto    rpardueokimoto@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us

Council Member Janet Abelson    jabelson@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us

Council Member Gabriel Quinto    gquinto@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us

Show up at the City Council meeting January 21, 2020 and perhaps make a 3 minute statement in support.  We need everyone to show up for the beginning of this meeting, but we need only about 5 people to speak during the public comments agenda item at beginning of the meeting.  Once the public comments are over, we don’t need to stay.  For those who wish to speak, the limit is 3 minutes per speaker.  You sign up when you get there.  It is best to prepare your comments in advance. If you are interested in speaking, please let me know in advance so we can coordinate our remarks.  It’s best if we can arrange for each speaker to cover different points.  

Request a meeting.  Once the Mayor and City Council knows how much public support there is for this, we will request a meeting to discuss this issue further.

The only way to move this forward is to let the Mayor and City Council know the great extent of public support for it.  It’s up to all of us now.  Please send those emails and come to the January 21 City Council meeting.  Thanks.