PUE Easements Access Needed for LAHCF network build

LAHCF has always planned to offer  Gigabit fiber internet service to all regions and residents of LAH that wish to have this service.

To quickly and efficiently build out this network and quickly connect neighborhoods,  LAHCF always assumed that we would be signing a master encroachment / access agreement with the Town Of Los Altos Hills that would grant LAHCF rights to both public roadway right of way and also Town managed Public Utility Easements (PUE) or Utility/Service Easements.

LAHCF is currently in our initial set of negotiations with the Town in developing the LAH-LAHCF Master Access Agreement.

The LAH Town attorney and then the LAH City Manager and staff has prepared an initial draft of the access agreement document.  This document is based on the City of South San Francisco similar Master Encroachment agreement created for Sonic, another fiber installer and company offering similar fiber optic networks for South SF, in 2019.

This South SF agreement can be found here:

https://ci-ssf-ca.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=7814550&GUID=1FC0056F-58E9-4680-845C-076AF2E8574A

This agreement was very closely copied and served as the starting document for the LAH-LAHCF master access agreement except on one important point that we can identify, – access to PUE easements.

Both agreements have a carefully worded definition section where they defined the term “Public Right of Way”.

In the Sonic /SSF document, this 1.10 section is defined as:

SSF/Sonic Version of the document:

1.10. “Public Right-of-Way” means the surface, the air space above the surface, and the area below the surface of the public streets, roads, sidewalks, lanes, courts, ways, alleys, boulevards, and places including, without limitation, all public utility easements and public service easements as the same now or may hereafter exist that are under the jurisdiction of the City. This term shall not include any property owned by any person or agency other than the City, except as provided by Laws or pursuant to an agreement between the City and any person.

Clearly, SSF is allowing Sonic to access the PUE and public service easements.  The language is clear and spells out exactly where access is allowed.

In the Los Altos Hills Master Access Agreement Document, this same section has been modified from the SSF version and reads:

Los Altos Hills Version of the document:

1.10 Public Right-of-Way” of “Right of Way” means the surface, the air space above the surface[MA1] , and the area below the surface of the public streets, roads, sidewalks, lanes, courts, ways, alleys, boulevards, and places that is owned and managed by the Town. This term shall not include any property owned by any person or agency other than the Town, except as provided by Laws or pursuant to an agreement between the Town and any person in which the Town has acquired the rights to allow third party access over such property or portion of property.[GA2] 

This definition clearly does NOT allow access to PUE and public service easements under jurisdiction of the town. It also lists some requirement of Town Ownership which typically does not occur on PUE which are easements that exist on private land by managed by the town to enable services to residents.  The LAH Agreement has removed these words from the original version.

and places including, without limitation, all public utility easements and public service easements as the same now or may hereafter exist that are under the jurisdiction of the City.


How does no access to PUE easements impact LAHCF to build out their network town wide?

By not being able to access PUE’s or service easements that exist on multiple sides of each titled property in LAH, and the town only granting public road way access,  many of our planned and efficient builds for our network will be significantly  higher costs in many build scenarios and often could make other builds not feasible at all.

The diagram below shows an example build where LAHCF might want to build a segment of the LAHCF network from Point A to Point B based on neighborhood desires for fiber services.

If LAHCF is allowed access to the service and utility easements that go along property lines, we can connect these two neighborhoods with a single property PUE/service easement of maybe 200-300 feet.  (Green line) This would connect the neighborhoods on the streets of Esperanza Dr and Ascension Drive.  If we are only allowed to access Public roads and no PUE easements that go along fence lines, the distance of the build increases by 10-20+ time more distance on difficult major roads to connect these two neighborhoods.  (Red line).

We need your help to make sure LAHCF is granted access to these PUE and other town managed service easements.  These easements dedicated into each property are there specifically for the town to help manage and let service providers like LAHCF access to bury conduits so residents can get the services they need and want.   LAHCF wants to efficiently install a network to serve LAH resident members cost effectively.  Forcing LAHCF to just use public roadways to install our fiber instead of easements that other communication providers can access will prevent us from serving many residents and entire neighborhoods in the future.

Your support needed!

This decision about whether the Town of Los Altos Hills should allow LAHCF to access these PUE and  utility easements has now been pushed to the council meeting for discussion and decision.  Originally this agreement text was to be discussed and negotiated between town staff and LAHCF representatives.  A meeting was scheduled to discuss this topic on August 18,2021 but it was cancelled at the request of the city manger.

It is critical that the LAH Council members understand that LAHCF needs encroachment access to these PUE easements to efficiently install their fiber optic network to residents.

Please contact all of your council members about this issue and explain how you want PUE access put back into the LAH-LAHCF Master Access Agreement.

Please send an email letter of support to the  your entire council at once at:

citycouncil@losaltoshills.ca.gov

The subject line should be: LAH-LAHCF Access Agreement – Item 6A

Example Text:

Dear LAH Council Members,

High speed, quality fiber internet services provided by LAHCF is a service that I wish to have offered to my home in Los Altos Hills.  Please create an encroachment / access agreement that works for the benefit of Los Altos Hills Residents to efficiently create this community fiber optic broadband option.  This will require that the agreement allows LAHCF encroachment access to the PUE and other town managed service easements.

Signed

You