Online Petition Opposes SDG&E Project; Residents Concerned About Health Risks and Visual Blight

A group of residents led by Las Brisas homeowner Dominic Fergus-Bentall is fighting the proposed expansion of the SDG&E substation in their neighborhood. Fergus-Bentall is asking the community to sign an online petition opposing the project.

The petition will be sent to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which plays a role in the approval or rejection of the project. The online petition can be found by typing: into your website browser bar. A link to the petition may also be found on the CCS website at under "Links" in the right hand column.

Said Fergus-Bentall of the project, “SDG&E plans to [replace and expand] decades-old transmission lines, poles and substations within our San Juan Capistrano neighborhood. They have not done any studies verifying the safety of EMF's [Electro-magnetic Fields] on local residents. There are many families with children that live in the neighborhood.

This project should be moved to a more industrial area and out of the residential and school zones. It is near and bordering the SJC Historic district.”

Referring to the Southern California Regional Chamber of Commerce’s vocal support of the expansion project during several public forums, Fergus-Bentall said, “People speaking in favor of the project do not live in San Juan and they don't want this in their own backyards.”

Fergus-Bentall stated that the Las Brisas neighborhood did not exist when the substation was built. “It was originally agricultural land,” he stated.

"SDG&E is planning to significantly increase the power that will go into these new lines,” said Las Brisas homeowner Eric Delamare, who called the plan to increase the voltage while refusing to bury the lines underground “unsatisfactory".

Neighbor Elizabeth Stocks agrees. Stocks, whose home is in close proximity to the existing substation, has experienced health problems ever since SDG&E installed a Smart Meter on her home in 2011. Smart Meters have been criticized for the high levels of EMF they emit and the unknown health impacts. “One month after a ‘Smart Meter’ was installed on my home, I woke up with an uncomfortable tingling in my feet that gradually progressed to ‘peripheral neuropathy’, a painful and debilitating condition,” said Stocks. She is now forced to use a walker to get around and believes that exposure to high levels of EMF may have contributed to if not caused, her health problems. Stocks spoke in opposition to the SDG&E expansion at a community forum in San Juan, urging attendees to do their homework on the impacts of EMF.     

Information about the impacts of EMF can be found on the EMF Safety Network's website at:  

Fergus-Bentall and other neighbors are also concerned about the destruction of an historic substation building which will be replaced with two 50 foot tall (five-story) substation buildings should the expansion project be approved.

One community leader troubled by the potential destruction of a piece of San Juan history is local historian Ilse Byrnes, who has nominated the historic substation building to the National Register of Historic Places. According to Byrnes, the substation was built when the Southern California Edison Company (SCE) ran an electric power line from San Diego to San Juan during the development of Orange County and later, Los Angeles. SCE later sold the substation to the San Diego Gas & Electric Corporation (SDG&E) which retains ownership of it today.

“The substation building was constructed around 1917, in the Georgian Revival style. It is the only substation with this architecture in South Orange County. This building plays a very important part in San Juan history. Being so close to the historic Mission District, destroying it would have a very bad and negative impact on San Juan,” said Byrnes.

Local Architect Geoff Sumich agrees. "[The substation] is a beautifully classic building and such a nice introduction to our town as you approach from the North. I contacted SDG&E last year about renting part of the building…as I thought it would make a great office space."

SDG&E is proposing to double the size of the existing substation on Camino Capistrano. If approved, it will sprawl over approximately 6 acres, fronted on Camino Capistrano by a ten-foot high wall the length of a football field. The voltage on the transmission lines throughout town will nearly double, with increased EMFs.

CCS invites residents who believe they are experiencing health impacts from exposure to high levels of EMF to post comments under this article - click on "Post a comment" at the bottom of the article on the home page.


Anonymous said...

For over 100 years dedicated men have given there lifetimes as Journeymen linemen to maintain & deliver power to the people. Life as we know it is not possible with out electricity. It's taken for granted that when we come home and flip a switch the lights come on. We're outrage when the power goes out & demand resolution immediately. We can't figure out how to function at all with out it. Our schools, hospitals, sports fields, 911 service . . . All happens because of electricity. Linemen are not dropping out of the skies off poles from mysterious health issues dude to EMF. People don't even understand that we live inside a giant EMF surrounding the earth that protects us from harmful elements in space. If you think alternating current is hazardous to your health then take a few moments of your time to talk to the children whose dads are gone at a moments notice leaving their families to go fix down power lines in the middle of the night. Working 24 hour shifts with only an 8 hour break between round the clock until the light are ALL back on. We need substations and with growth of a community come the need and growth of substations, power lines, and equipment. I am a Journeyman lineman and I serve families, police officers, firemen, and local businesses, (and the list goes on) by maintaining and working inside the electric magnetic fields created by electricity everyday and I will continue to do so. My fellow bothers of electrical workers and I are alive and well. Please try to see for just a moment the other side of the coin and realize that there is no EMF monster to get you. Just your friendly reliable Lineman keeping your lights on so you can read a sweet bedtime story to your child.

Anonymous said...


You're right, of course. Thousands of dedicated people work in the electric power industry around the country to maintain our grid. The grid is essential to our quality of life.

It is possible, nevertheless, that chronic exposure to EMF can cause problems. You go to work each day and experience brief exposures to high EMF -- energized circuits -- as an adult. You go home each night with no apparent ill effect. But children sleeping each night in such fields may be affected differently. Their physiology is at a different developmental stage, a stage when environmental influences may of profound effects.

There is a lot of disinformation and irrelevant hysteria connected to this issue. For example, "smart meters" have no connection with the EMF of high-voltage transmission lines. Fear of change is common and leads people to connect the SDG&E project with microwave ovens. All this is baseless.

What is certain is that increasing the capacity and voltage of the SDG&E transmission line will increase the EMF in the immediate surrounding area. If you happen to live and sleep in that area, you should be concerned about the increase in your chronic exposure.

Beyond that, you should be concerned for your property values, because as Journeyman points out, people don't want to read a "sweet bedtime" story to a child and then leave the child to sleep in the EMF field of an adjacent transmission line. These people buy homes elsewhere, and property values drop as a result.

Anonymous said...


Not to take anything away from the very important and often dangerous job linemen do, but that has nothing to do with this issue.

This issue is about SDG&E's proposal to expand the existing relatively small substation into a gigantic REGIONAL "hub" - right in the middle of a residential neighborhood and close to our historic downtown and schools. It's a terrible idea to build this size project in town.

SDG&E has admitted this power expansion is necessary not for San Juan, but for the region, and they admitted they can build it away from people, but they would rather build it in the middle of San Juan since they own the land.

No offense, but it seems pretty selfish of you to suggest that the hundreds of people who will be most impacted by this project, who are rightfully concerned about potential health impacts and plunging property values, should just suck it up because linemen have a tough job.

Anonymous said...

Well I guess you can't make everyone happy. No one wants to see or be near anything to do with the grid but they all sure want the "can't live without it benefits". Everyone wants to have their cake and eat it to. San Juan is my home and I know how electricity works and I Live by a substation. Transmission line EMFs are not so large that they encompass surrounding homes. Otherwise anything not grounded in the area would be energized. It's very simple if you know how electricity works. Fight it all you want but if we don't want the expansion of the grid then pass a bill the requires the halt of new building/business and commerce in San Juan.

Anonymous said...

"Otherwise anything not grounded in the area would be energized." -

Quite obviously, you don't know how "electricity works", or you would never make such a statement.

However, if SDG&E were to place their new facilities underground, that would more than offset the increased electrical field that would result from doubling the voltage of the lines overhead.

Come to think of it, the solution is simple. Let's go out and measure the EMF field intensity along the existing right-of-way, house by house. The SDG&E can upgrade that transmission line and we'll run the measurement again. Any house with an increased measure -- they can purchase it from the owner 120% of fair market value, to account for the nuisance they created for the owner.

Does this sound like a fair deal? This is, in fact the deal that SDG&E proposes to levy on the community -- in reverse. They want to build it and force owners to take a diminished value in future sales.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm . . . Why don't you explain how it works then. Tell us what happens to ungrounded conductive material within the field of transmission lines. Have you personally experienced the result? I have . . . It's quite "shocking"
When was the last time you were up a tower? Please teach us all how it works : )

Anonymous said...

Hey everyone . . . Just curious. Anyone been inside a substation to see what it would take to put it all underground? Anyone know how a substation works and the function it performs? Who here has seen a completely underground substation? I've never seen one. I think they might have some in manhattan perhaps but it still means a lot of exposed energized conductors in a confined space (Dangerous). But if you know anything about the grid then you know that overhead lines require less maintenance and are more reliable and actually safer for the public, workers, and the environment. All Highvoltage primary switch gear contains either oil or sf6 gas. They all get exposed to water and corrosive elements. Releases of these (which can not be prevented) are all harmful to the environment. Plus they take much much much much much more time to replace which means longer outages planned or emergency. The answer is not put everything underground. The answer is educate yourself. Actually Learn what it takes to get power from point "A" to point "B". It will enlighten you.

Anonymous said...

One of the major difficulties in this matter is the focus on the substation. The project impact is much greater along the route of the transmission lines that run San Juan Hills High School all the way to the substation -- above ground.

The segment of this transmission line next to the high school is already underground. See? It's not impossible. After SDG&E's upgrade, that section will still be underground. So why not put the remaining section that reaches to the substation underground?

Or out of concern for the cost, why not just underground the portion that runs near existing homes, e.g., Arroyo Park, Rancho Madrina, etc.?

Why not?

The city and SDG&E seek to divert attention from the transmission line and focus on the aesthetics of the substation. This will not produce relief for those homes adjacent to the path of the transmission line!

As for placing the substation underground, it is an interesting idea. But the solution at the substation might just be aesthetic -- if the wires entered the station underground.

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