San Francisco DPW Authorizes Study for Undergrounding Master Plan

In March of 2019 the San Francisco Department of Public Works signed a contract with Telamon Engineering Consultants, Inc. for a study to lay the groundwork for a master plan to underground overhead utility wires in the city. Funds for the study, approximately $125,000, came from an add-on to the City budget successfully advocated by the San Francisco Coalition to Underground Utilities (SFCUU) in 2017.

The goal of this study is to prepare for a master plan to capture the utility undergrounding process, to ensure effective management of the undergrounding resources, and to identify potential steady funding sources for a citywide program to run for the next fifty years.

The initial study marks the “Design Fee Proposal and Design Schedule” phase. Its scope of services is divided into five major tasks:

  • Project management
  • Initial program assessment
  • Public outreach and participation support
  • Prioritization and implementation strategy
  • Preliminary master workplan and funding plan

At a March 28 meeting with the community-based SFCUU, representatives of Telamon Engineering explained that the project should identify what needs attention — especially paths to funding — and explore technologies available, including subsurface mapping and directional boring.

Work within this scope of services has begun and is ongoing. A preliminary meeting with the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is contemplated, to gain their input on the contract completion process. The contract is estimated to be completed by the end of September.

Although this is a positive first step to creating a master plan, it does not commit enough time or resources for a complete study. So the next steps well may be either extending this contract further and/or funding contracts for other parties to continue the investigation forward.SFCUU is continuing our efforts to secure sufficient funding for a complete Master Plan that will set the City on a path to complete undergrounding of San Francisco’s utility wires.

For further information, contact: SF Coalition to Underground Utilities,, Anne Brubaker, Chair

State Legislation Voting to Remove SF City Oversight of Wireless Antenna Installations

Our State Legislature is near passage of SB649:  This bill will remove funds from San Francisco’s annual revenue.  It will take control of our Public Right of Way development review and the development affect on our neighborhoods.
and if you wish to be heard, email your state representatives:
Scott Wiener;

Look What San Diego is Doing!

Look What San Diego Is Doing!

The city of San Diego has in progress a Utilities Undergrounding Program, currently relocating approximately 15 miles of overhead utility lines underground throughout the city each year.

The program is funded primarily through a 2003 California Public Utilities Commission approved undergrounding surcharge of 3.88% on San Diego residents’ electricity bills.

SFCUU members Steven Edwards and Randall Brubaker were recently welcomed to a visit in San Diego with James Nabong, Utility Undergrounding Program Manager, City of San Diego.  Among other subjects discussed, Mr. Nabong reacted positively to our suggestion that a representative of the City of San Francisco might some day wish to also visit San Diego, to benefit from the experience and knowledge on this subject that now exists there.

From our short visit we learned several other points of interest, including:

1. Undergrounding work in San Diego is now being done by private contractors other than San Diego Gas and Electric. They are putting the work out for bid by qualified contractors.
2. The contractors doing the work are using both trenching and directional boring (trench-less technology). They are experts at both techniques, and use the most appropriate method in each project.
3. San Diego is in progress of refining their master plan from what they have learned since this program began about 12 years ago. Mr. Nabong offered that they would be willing to share with us what they have learned. This is a fantastic opportunity for San Francisco to benefit from the experience of another city.  Hopefully our city will take advantage of this!

Directional Boring – FOR BEER!!!

It may not actually be necessary to dig trenches everywhere on streets to be undergrounded.  A technology known as “directional boring” or “trenchless technology” is in use in many places in the world to put pipes, wires, etc. underground with minimum disturbance to the street surface.  Here is an example where a pipeline for BEER is being put underground using such technology.

Belgian Beer Pipeline