With all the excitement over the last few weeks, I never had a chance to mention this remarkable account of the long-run vision of San Diego’s City Council.
The San Diego Union Tribune recently related these details on the city’s plan to move utility lines underground:
In 2001, the City Council approved the ambitious plan to bury utility lines along San Diego’s older residential streets, largely for aesthetic reasons….
San Diegans began paying the SDG&E [San Diego Gas and Electric] fees in 2003, and the AT&T [phone] surcharge started this month. They probably will pay them for at least 50 more years, though officials estimate it will take in excess of 60 years to finish burying more than 1,000 miles of utility lines….
Power poles and sagging wires near Ingraham Street and Pacific Beach Drive are scheduled for removal in 2067. Lloyd and Jerry Harrison, who live in the area on Sequoia Street, aren’t making plans to enjoy the unobstructed views.
“I won’t be here,” said Lloyd Harrison, 88, who has lived on the street for 18 years.
His son, Jerry, said: “I’m almost 65. I won’t be here, either.”
They expect to pay about $3.50 a month in line-burying surcharges to San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and AT&T until they draw their last breaths.
And for those who are alive in 2067, I somehow doubt they’ll be communicating with each other using phones connected by copper wires.
There is an economic theorem that if an outcome is efficient, it would be possible to implement the allocation as the outcome of a competitive equilibrium with a certain definition of property rights and allocation of initial wealth. Can you imagine any rearrangement of wealth or ownership rights in which you’d pay $3.50 a month today in order to have your telephone wires underground in 2067? I can’t.
But I can imagine a city council that might want to take from one group to benefit another.