San Juan Capistrano

                                         Residents Express Concern about
                  Proposed SDG&E Expansion at CPUC Hearing

                                                                                      By Kim Lefner

On March 25, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) held a hearing in San Juan Capistrano about SDG&E's proposed “Reliability Project” which will nearly double the size of the electrical substation bordering residential neighborhoods, and at the entrance to historic downtown. It will also double the voltage throughout San Juan, and increase the height of transmission poles in town.
Supporters of the proposed expansion at the hearing, comprised mostly of a coalition of business owners, maintain that we need the increased power and “reliability”. But residents who will be impacted by the project say that SDG&E wants to turn the San Juan substation into a “hub” for all of South County, at their expense. San Juan is built out, they say; we don’t need the increased power. Many believe the expansion is more about providing power to new and expanding communities, such as the Rancho Mission Viejo developments east of town.
When the substation was originally built in 1918, there were no homes or schools in close proximity to it. Now however, it is surrounded by residential neighborhoods and schools making it an inappropriate location for a power “hub” for all of South County, residents say.

Visual impacts include a massive new substation/hub with two 45 to 50-foot tall (5-story) buildings and a 10-foot high wall the length of a football field, literally in the middle of a residential neighborhood and at the Northern entrance to historic downtown.

 Perhaps more important is the fact that in addition to the enlarged substation and increased pole and tower heights (as high as 130 feet on hill tops and hillsides) is the concern about the effects of Electro Magnetic Fields (EMF) from the increased voltage. While SDG&E claims that health risks 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. In addition, at a workshop several years ago when the project was first proposed, an SDG&E engineer admitted to me that one of the reasons that some of the transmission tower heights were being raised is to get the EMF further away from residential neighborhoods (EMF decreases with distance). In fact, residents in the neighborhoods bordering the existing substation testified about health problems they believe are associated with exposure to EMF.

The increased EMF from the proposed substation/hub is unknown, but families living near smaller electrical substations have experienced health problems ranging from hair loss to cancer (type this link into your computer address bar to see CBS news story “South Redondo Beach Residents Believe Stray Voltage Causing Unexplained Illnesses”: ) . Surprisingly, one of the supporters of the expansion is Mission Hospital which leads us to question whether they are aware of the proximity of the substation “hub” – and therefore higher levels of EMF and its associated health risks - to people and schools. The issue of EMF-related health impacts has many asking, “Why risk it?”

Other affected areas include; San Juan Hills High School, Juliana Farms, Hidden Mountain, Tar Farms, Sun Hollow, Belford Terrace, Rancho Madrina and Marbella.

Interested parties can email or write to express their opinion about this project to the CPUC at: or via mail to: CPUC Public Advisor, 320 West 4th Street Suite 500, Los Angeles, CA 90013

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