In mid-November, a PGE utility crew hit the Hillsdale neighborhood in SW Portland and committed a travesty, according to neighborhood activists.
"On the new sidewalk along [SW] Bertha that our community actively worked to secure funding for, new holes were punched without so much as community discussion and recognition of the community commitment to undergrounding [utilities]," Glenn Bridger, president of Southwest Neighborhoods, Inc.'s board, wrote to the city council. "Yes, the holes are for putting in utility poles, the likes of which would never be allowed in areas like the Pearl and South Waterfront."
Utility poles are a hot topic in Hillsdale. In the 1990s, neighbors brought a proposal to city council to bury the utility lines in their up-and-coming town center—the wires, they argued, were a blight on an area they were working hard to grow.
The council, however, formed a citywide committee to study the issue. That committee recommended utility companies should foot the bill for undergrounding utilities, but the proposal stalled.
The city told Hillsdale, however, it would "help secure [undergrounding] in the future," Bridger wrote in his November 22 letter. And the future is here, he argues, given the new utility pole holes: "What steps will council take to get these holes filled in and... support us in our undergrounding quest?"
City Commissioner Sam Adams leapt on Bridger's request, asking for more background information. According to Bridger, Adams has contacted PGE, and "there is dialogue between the city and PGE and the neighborhood working to find some resolution," about these specific poles.
As for the larger issue, "We believe that the city needs to address and fund this [undergrounding] initiative on a citywide basis for their town centers," Bridger told the Mercury. "We need to try and make them a focal point for development. That includes getting utilities undergrounded."