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SDG&E's Upgrade Plan Has New Ally

Former elected officials, business representatives and residents form a group to support the major overhaul in power distribution in South Orange County. Meanwhile, San Juan Capistrano officials step up their opposition to the project.

A group of residents, businessmen and a former San Clemente City Council member have formed a group to support and substation in San Juan Capistrano.

The group held a press conference Thursday to introduce itself.

“We want to put faces to the names,” said group member Mark Bodenhamer, CEO of the . “We’re real people with real concerns.”

Meanwhile, San Juan Capistrano officials may consult with an expert in electric utilities to help city officials respond to aspects of the overhaul that bother them, chiefly safety and aesthetic issues, the city’s principal planner, Bill Ramsey, told the Heritage and Cultural Commission on Tuesday.

Calling itself Citizens for Safe and Reliable Power, the pro-upgrade group lists 17 members on its letterhead. Eight met the press at restaurant at the train depot. Two are San Juan residents, five are from San Clemente and one lives in Irvine.

“By uniting this way, we think we are the voice of safe and reliable power,” San Juan Capistrano resident Reed Royalty said.

Among the members are former San Clemente City Councilman Joe Anderson, retired state Sen. Dick Ackerman (a Republican who held that office from 2000-2008), and San Juan Capistrano resident Stephanie Frisch, who serves as co-chair with Anderson.

Royalty said SDG&E encouraged the formation of the group, although many of the members were already speaking publicly in favor the project.

“None of us are being paid to do this. They bought our breakfast. There’s no exchange of money,” he said.

Several panel members addressed the growing list – – of objections to the plan, but said the benefits of having a reliable power supply far outweigh any short-term inconveniences of the construction.

“Was anybody in this room surprised there was opposition to this project? No. That’s how we make decisions,” Royalty said.

San Juan Capistrano resident and Executive Director of Arts Orange County Rick Stein said that although he understood some San Juan Capistrano residents’ concerns about tearing down the existing building, circa 1918, at the substation on Camino Capistrano at Calle Bonita, it isn’t on par with some of the other historical structures in town.

“The was built in the late 1700s and there are a couple of adobes from that time frame. A[n 80]-year-old utility building, I don’t think it’s in the same category,” he said.

Members of the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission disagree. They met Tuesday, and one of the topics was the SDG&E project.

“We’re very concerned about the loss of a historic structure. We’re very concerned about two modern buildings and walls that are out of character with the historic nature of our city,” said Grant Taylor, San Juan’s community services director.

Although a major portion of the upgrade, the substation, is in San Juan Capistrano, neither city officials here nor San Clemente get to approve the project. As a utility, SDG&E is regulated by the state Public Utilities Commission, which will have the ultimate say on the project, Taylor said.

However, the utility will have to conduct an environmental report to detail side effects and come up with plans to reduce them, and it is in that process the city may be able to exert influence, Taylor said.

Cultural Heritage Commission Chairwoman Lorie Porter said she found it very “troubling” SDG&E wants to tear down the vine-covered building that fronts the substation. She described the current mock-up as “really ugly.”

SDG&E officials have said there is no way to blend the existing building into its future plans. It has offered to sell the building to anyone who wants it for $1.

Ramsey, who attended a recent SDG&E outreach to the community at , said he found company officials “conciliatory.”

“But there’s no doubt this is what they’re going after. … They have an objective, and I think what’s easiest, quickest and cheapest is to tear that building down to meet that objective,” Ramsey said.

He added that city officials may hire their own electric utility expert to help them respond to the plan.

Royalty responded to recent rumblings among  San Juan Capistrano residents that their city must bear the brunt of a project that serves a large swath of South Orange County.

Royalty responded: “I’ve never considered having reliable electric power the brunt of anything.”

Bodenhamer added that residents in San Juan probably wouldn’t want to trade places with those who live near the , which also serves a much larger population than just San Clemente.

SDG&E’s system is “antiquated and needs to be upgraded. It just needs desperately to be updated to 21st century technology,” he said.

scott bowie March 02, 2012 at 03:10 PM
to say that one old building isn't on par with the mission or adobes does not take into account the fact that it is a great example from a unique period in history, art noueveau, a very brief period before the more popular art deco (of which san juan is fortunate enough to have a lovely example of in the middle of town). using this same this reasoning, any building made after the adobes/mission has no cultural importance and should be torn down to make way for a huge ugly wall ? of course not. i just can't understand why the city's motto of preserving the past is not being applied to a building approaching one hundred years old that could serve a variety of purposed. the loss of the cook barn was bad enough, now del obispo is like a smile with a front tooth missing, i would truly hate to see another old gem lost to development. the fact that most of the people in the new pro-power station group don't live anywhere near it just adds insult to injury. we live in a part of the world where there isn't that much in the way of old buildings. to be tearing them down to replace them with ugly....just nonsense. i heard the city was offtered it for a dollar and still refused due to moving costs, etc. this is the heritage of san juan capistrano, this is why this town is such a special spot in orange county. if we keep tearing out the heritage what makes us any different ?
Donna Gilmore March 02, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Mark Bodenhamer's comment that "residents in San Juan probably wouldn’t want to trade places with those who live near the San Onofre nuclear power plant", shows me the San Juan Capistrano Chamber of Commerce may need an education on the dangers to San Juan Capistrano from San Onofre. In the on-going Fukushima nuclear meltdown in Japan, the U.S. government warned it's citizens to evacuate at least 50 miles from the American-made nuclear plant. SJC is in the 10 mile evacuation zone of San Onofre. This plant has been off-line for over a month due to serious safety problems. Defective (yet critical) steam generators were install in the last two years that should have lasted 40 years, but failed within 2 years (Unit 2) and in less than 1 year (Unit 3). Does this new SDG&E plan make us more reliant on the nuclear plant for energy? The plant is down yet we still have plenty of power. Why are we living with this danger? We're risking much more than one historical building with this mismanaged nuclear plant. For more information on the problems at San Onofre go to http://sanonofresafety.org For information on the steam generator problems, go to http://sanonofresafety.org/category/steam-generator/ Please sign the petition to shutdown these dangerous and unnecessary nuclear reactors http://californianuclearinitiative.com/
Kim March 02, 2012 at 05:16 PM
SDG@E will do as they wish given their easement rights, so it's time now for all the residents of San Juan to unite and start a grass roots movement to persuade SDG@E to go elsewhere with their proposed huge ugly electric towers and blighted electric site in SJC. What's so amazing about this is it benefits all of OC, not just San Juan. Ladera Ranch said no, not in our community, and that is exactly what SJC has to do...SJC, unite!
Matt Gaffney March 02, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Kim, I'm with you on this one. I'm not too happy that the CEO & the President of our Chamber are taking such a contrary position to the Council. I'd be very surprised if Mark Bodenhamer is still in Capo 5yrs. from now. I'm not in favor of tearing down a building that I've seen all my life in Capo.
Donna Gilmore March 02, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Mark Bodenhamer's comment that "residents in San Juan probably wouldn’t want to trade places with those who live near the San Onofre nuclear power plant", shows me the San Juan Capistrano Chamber of Commerce may need an education on the dangers to San Juan Capistrano from San Onofre. In the on-going Fukushima nuclear meltdown in Japan, the U.S. government warned it's citizens to evacuate at least 50 miles from the American-made nuclear plant. SJC is in the 10 mile evacuation zone of San Onofre. This plant has been off-line for over a month due to serious safety problems. Defective (yet critical) steam generators were install in the last two years that should have lasted 40 years, but failed within 2 years (Unit 2) and in less than 1 year (Unit 3). Does this new SDG&E plan make us more reliant on the nuclear plant for energy? The plant is down yet we still have plenty of power. Why are we living with this danger? We're risking much more than one historical building with this mismanaged nuclear plant. For more information on the problems at San Onofre go to http://sanonofresafety.org For information on the steam generator problems, go to http://sanonofresafety.org/category/steam-generator/ Please sign the petition to shutdown these dangerous and unnecessary nuclear reactors http://californianuclearinitiative.com/
Kim March 02, 2012 at 07:13 PM
I agree Matt, I'm not in favor of any of it, no one really understands the safty issues related to this either, the new higher proposed electric poles being so close to San Juan Hills High School, it's just not right. The City Council is opposed, as they should be, but they know very well this is out of their hands. Every resident in SJC should attend the next City Council meeting regarding this topic, and voice their opinion as SDG@E will be listening and so will the media.
Mark @ SJC Chamber March 02, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Matt -- Just to be clear, I (on behalf of the Chamber) was advocating for the completion of and need for the overall project -- not tearing down a building. Though it wasn't in this article, I have also mentioned that we support the City holding SDG&E to the highest standards and ensuring that all of the community's questions about the project are answered. I think efforts to save that building are great. The Chamber, which promotes SJC tourism, has a vested interest in preserving those historic sites/buildings. I'd be happy to collaborate with you and others in the City on a letter to the PUC asking for their support in preserving the building, either on-site or at another location if necessary. -Mark @ SJC Chamber
Kim March 02, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Mark, seems to me the Cultural Heritage Commission should be writting the letter. The CHC should be jumping all over this...the proposed demo of a historical building. Lori Porter says she finds that "troubling", not the word I would use. The CHC needs to step up to the plate and take some real action for a change, so should the Historical Society. Also of concern are the other problems associated with this, safety and blight...it's a no win for SJC, plain and simple.
sjcnative1 March 02, 2012 at 08:19 PM
So, Mark Bodenheimer is the one from Irvine if I am not mistaken. Our CEO of the Chamber of Commerce does not even live in our City! I agree with you, he has taken up a position contrary to the City Council. No wonder, he does not have his heart, wallet (investment in real property) in San Juan. Nice.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) March 02, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Mark definitely said that at the meeting. I'm sorry it didn't make the article. It already is longer than the average Patch article, so not everything can get in.
sjcnative1 March 02, 2012 at 08:21 PM
If the Chamber supports SJC tourism, then they should also support the City Council. If I am correct, the Chamber received $25,000 from the City last year. The City Council might want to rethink that one this year. Way to go Mark.
sjcnative1 March 02, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Kim, you are right on the money. Why do we have to be the doormat for everyone else? I am tired of being the doormat. They want electricity, either run it underground or through their town, not ours.
sjcnative1 March 02, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Mark, please explain in detail the highest standards that you are holding SDGE to? What are those standards and who came up with them. Are you requiring those standards in writing from SDGE? You have put this forward, now let's here in detail what those standards are and how it will improve the quality of life in our town. Keep in mind, that if you live under the power lines and your child attends S J Hills High School, your child is being exposed to EMF almost 24 hours a day. So please, tell me what those standards are?
Ian Smith March 02, 2012 at 08:48 PM
There was an identifiable majority of SJC resdients who were totally oppoosed to SDG&E's project at the last council meeting. The minority opposed were "wheeled" in by the Chamber and or this Public Utilitiy and were represented by persons who do not even live in this Historic City. I am appalled that the SJC Chamber would want to asscoiate themselves with outsiders who do not have the best interests of our city and our residents. There were two clear topics in the stated opposition to this presentation by SDG&E. Firstly was the issue of the potential harm caused by EMF to the residents which the untilities so called expert could not offer any conclusive explanations as to safety concerns to those of us present. Then and most importantly is the cavalier use of power by SDG&E to use their "right of way" to destroy a key component of this city's history. I see Mark B is now showing concern after the criticism indicated above. Does he really speak for San Juan's Chamber or is he another tool of SDG&E? As for the EMF I strongly beleive that this matter be given serious consideration by all the residents whose lives may be affected by habitating so close to the overheads. That should also be thought about by the parents of the kids attending and about to attend our San Juan Hills High who will come close enough to this EMF. They already have to consider the perils presented by a 16" petroleum pipe line buried all too close to the property of the school. I urge all to say NO.
Kim March 02, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Ian, SJCNative1, Matt...you are all right...Just say NO! See you all at the next City Council hearing on the SDG@E matter amd I can only hope many other concerned citizens that know this is wrong, in fact, stinks! And Mark, it seems you are not really being clear about anything, perhaps you have Irvine in your heart, not San Juan Capistrano like we do!
SJCNative March 02, 2012 at 11:42 PM
I maybe incorrect, I was under the impression that Stephanie Frisch lived in Irvine also. Unless she recently moved to San Juan. Capistrano .
Penny Arévalo (Editor) March 03, 2012 at 01:07 AM
Stephanie Frisch DOES live in SJC and has for for 9 years.
Donna Gilmore January 08, 2013 at 06:32 PM
The above post was made a year ago and for some reason has been reposted. Here's an update: San Onofre is still off line -- it will be one year 1/31/2013. Now Edison wants to restart Unit 2 without fixing it first, risking a nuclear disaster in Southern California. See details at http://sanonofresafety.org. http://sanonofresafety.org

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