SDG&E Project Will Have Severe Impacts; Residents Concerned About Visual Blight, EMF

By Kim Lefner

What started as a murmur is becoming a roar of protest over SDG&E’s deceptively named “Reliability Project” which will nearly double the size of the electrical substation at the entrance to downtown and substantially increase the voltage and height of transmission poles throughout San Juan.

Critics say the project is less about reliability and more about increasing power to other cities. According to SDG&E documentation, this hugely expensive project is also a result of government mandates to satisfy “Global Warming” legislation which forces cities to install taxpayer-subsidized plug-in stations for electric vehicles. This is odd considering that even SDG&E admits that less than 3% of their 13,000 customers surveyed had purchased electric vehicles. Despite the lack of demand for electric vehicles however, SDG&E claims this project is “customer driven” (click on this link to see “SDG&E Smart Grid Deployment Plan”: Adding insult to injury, our rates are being increased to shove this concept down our collective throats.

Besides the enlarged substation and increased pole and tower heights as high as 130 feet on hill tops and hillsides, residents are greatly concerned about the effects of Electro Magnetic Fields (EMF) from the increased voltage. While SDG&E attempts to convince us that health impacts from EMF are minimal, a recent  state-sponsored study concluded that prolonged exposure to high levels of EMF may contribute to problems such as childhood leukemia and brain tumors. This has many residents asking, “Why risk it?”

Visual impacts include a massive new substation with two 45 to 50-foot tall buildings and a 10-foot high wall the length of a football field at the Northern entrance to historic downtown. The increased EMF from the new substation is unknown, but families living near smaller electrical substations have experienced health problems ranging from hair loss to cancer (click on this link to see CBS news story “South Redondo Beach Residents Believe Stray Voltage Causing Unexplained Illnesses“: )

Other impacted areas include; San Juan Hills High School, Juliana Farms, Hidden Mountain, Tar Farms, Sun Hollow, Belford Terrace, Rancho Madrina, Marbella and the neighborhoods surrounding the existing substation on Camino Capistrano between the Mission and JSerra High School.

SDG&E employees admit that this project is to increase power to the region, not just to our town. The Rancho Mission Viejo Co’s new city being built on our eastern border will have a substantial need for power, leading residents to question why our historic town is being made a center hub for electricity. Why, they ask, are we absorbing all the risks and the visual blight with no direct benefit?

SDG&E may have the right-of-way for the transmission lines but they don’t have the right to force on us unnecessary risks to health and safety nor blight on our historic town. SDG&E admitted they can relocate the substation away from residents but said they prefer to save money by building this project in our town since they “already own the land”. When the substation was built in 1918, there were no residential areas or schools around it. Now it’s surrounded by residential neighborhoods and schools making it an inappropriate location for such an unsightly and potentially unsafe facility.

SDG&E plans to submit their application to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) at the end of April. Despite SDG&E’s claim that “there is nothing you can do” about their plans, utility expansion has been stopped by community opposition in the past. You can email or write to express your opinion about this project to the CPUC after April 30 at: or via mail to: CPUC Public Advisor, 320 West 4th Street Suite 500, Los Angeles, CA 90013


Anonymous said...

Chemistry AND Biology ARE subsets of Electro-Magnetisim.
Every thing we ARE , every thing we SEE, TOUCH, FEEL, SMELL, THINK and Experience is Fundamentally completely Electromagnetic throughout....Gravity and the 2 nuclear forces are THE ONLY OTHER FORCES THAT AFFECT US at all. Get it? All of Life IS by far mostly ELECTROMAGNETNETISIM....We are made of the stuff, entirely. Electromagnetism doesn't destroy Electromagnetism.
Heating stuff is the only realistic side effect to ever worry about.
Power lines can only cause very small amounts of heating. At 60 cycles per second (60 Hertz) the power level of SDG&E wires would need to be about 1 billion trillion trillion times more powerful (one times ten to the 33 power) to cause damaging effects to plants or animals. Probably, nothing exists in the Universe that could reach that Voltage level. Certainly, SDG&E likely won't reach that level. The Big Bang could have been that nasty. Not to Worry. It's OK.. The Big Bang was a Really long time ago.
Really. All, not most, of the serious studies tend to reach this conclusion.

Editorial Board said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Editorial Board said...

Dear Anonymous-

As none of us pretend to be experts in the field of EMF, we spoke with SDG&E's EMF expert who contradicts your suggestion that EMF is not a problem. In fact, she stated that the CPUC is requesting a reduction in EMF of 15% if possible, due to health and safety concerns.

The reason given for SDG&E's need to raise the height of the transmission poles is to keep the increased EMF resulting from the increased voltage (more than doubled) at a reasonable distance from residences.

In addition, the fact that the Department of Education has guidelines for the proximity of transmission lines to schools also seems to contradict your claim that EMF is not a problem.

The discussion about EMF safety is reminiscent of the debate about global warming; there are scientists on both sides of the issue who argue that they are right. But given the potential for health risks from exposure to high levels of EMF, we stand with the residents who are asking "why risk it?", especially when the more than doubling of the voltage in the midst of residential neighborhoods and schools does not directly benefit our small town.

Bottom line is this project can be moved elsewhere or moved underground to address the health and safety concerns and the visual blight.

Anonymous said...

For the Health, safety and overall well being of all SJC residents and workers, please move this project out of our neighborhood!

Anonymous said...

Please remove this project from our town. This does not benefit us in any way. Putting it in a residential area, not burying the cables, enlarging the sub-station....what are they thinking.

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