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Focus Group Slams SDG&E's New Designs for Substation

Focus group that met Wednesday night is largely underwhelmed. The public can see the architectural renderings next week.

"Looks like prison."

"Looks like a fortress."

"I don't hate it."

"Looks like an old warehouse."

"Reminds me of a mausoleum."

"Fairly tolerable."

This was the feedback of three focus groups Wednesday night who looked at three different architectural styles proposed as a replacement for that fronts the San Diego Gas & Electric substation on Camino Capistrano in San Juan Capistrano.

The utility company is scheduled to submit  to the California Public Utilities Commission its plans to between San Clemente and San Juan later this month. 

Previously, city staff in San Juan had communicated reservations about replacing the historic structure with something out of character with the rest of the downtown area. .

However, SDG&E, as a state-governed utility, does not need local permision to move forward with its plans, which could begin construction next year and see completion by June 2017.

In response to concerns, SDG&E came up with designs, or "charrettes," to take the new substation in three possible architectural themes.

The first SDG&E officials called "neoclassic," which is designed to be a take-off of the existing building.

The second was "California mission," which is supposed to mimic the older, mission-style buildings in town, not the least of which is .

The third design was a variation on the California mission theme, called modern mission.

The focus groups and other invited guests were mostly underwhelmed. They asked for more landscaping, mission tile and the possibility of murals.

The public will have a chance to view the renderings for themselves at an open house SDG&E will host from 3-7 p.m. April 25 at the , 32120 San Juan Creek Road.

EDITOR’S NOTE – Before becoming editor of San Juan Capistrano Patch, Penny Arévalo served on a focus group for San Diego Gas & Electric and saw early plans to upgrade the local substation and power poles in the area. For her service, she received $75.

Kim April 20, 2012 at 12:01 AM
SJC Native, don't try and figure out what Steve is saying.... "pitchforks, torches, volunteering", none of it is on topic...or lucid. I appreciate all those who made comments and stayed on topic as this is a major issue concerning all of who live here and love San Juan. I don't want our new city motto be "Welcome to Alcatraz", have harmful EMF's around our children or residential areas or ugly taller blighted electric poles ruining thru our lovely city. It's wrong, plain and simple.
socalfam April 20, 2012 at 12:16 AM
I don't know Kim; maybe Steve works for SDG&E? Or for Faubel Public Relations like the former Dispatch editor Jonathan Volzke, who wrote an article in support of the SDG&E project right before he left to work for Faubel, who is SDG&E's PR firm?
SJCNative April 20, 2012 at 12:18 AM
sjchomeowner5772, thank you for speaking up. Well said. We need more people like you.
Rhen Kohan April 20, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Thank you Steve ...but against anyone even if to Kim?
Rhen Kohan April 20, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Agree with you, Kim and SJCNative...City should NOT have accepted the monies from SDG&E.
Kim April 20, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Yes Socalfam, Steve must be employed by one of the comapanies you mentioned above as he has a motive. The rest of us who attended the meeting seem to see eye to eye on the bluffing and smoke and mirrors generated by the SDG@E employees. Let's just see what the PUC findings are. It too will be interesting to see how certain City Council members respond to this in an attempt survive the next election. The voting citizens of San Juan are watching!
Steve Behmerwohld April 20, 2012 at 02:53 AM
Yes, "Kim", because I disagree with you, I must work for SDG&E or Faubel. Why does everything have to be a conspiracy? Why do you continually blame the City and mention the "Voting Citizens of San Juan"? Might you have a political agenda?
Kim April 20, 2012 at 03:15 AM
Actually, if you read the above, it was Socalfam that diagnosed your issues. And no ploitical agenda on my part unless you classify a love for my town and country as political...I would identify it as a calling, one that makes the political spin of last nights meeting so transparent and bothersome. Please do not attack and stay on topic, as we all have done. Open your horizons Steve, it may make sense to you one day. I can only hope so.
SJCNative April 20, 2012 at 04:53 AM
I did not read conspiracy in anything that she said. Why not lay blame where if falls. If the City is at fault, then they deserve the blame. I would guess she might have a tough time with a political agenda with just "Kim". But, on the other hand Madonna and Cher don't do to bad with just one name. Now again, can we please stick to the topic.
Kim April 20, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Conspiracy is not the word for what is currently transpiring with SDG@E...Mis-leading, covering up the truth, and trying to put their spin on what they want is. You know very well that they must have community meetings to satify the PUC, and so do they. At the risk of repeating myself, they bribed the City with the $16,000 fire works issue as sort of mitigation with the Chamber and City Council, then arranged meetings using Jon Volkze's PR firm (curious at best) to satisfy the PUC requirement. Then Duane from SDG@E tried to control the meeting by not allowing the real issues of concern to be discussed, EMF health concerns, blight etc., rather trying to focus our attention on the color of the flowers they wished to plant at Alcatraz! Just plain silly and insulting to most who attended with an open mind such as myself. BTW, by all accounts, the manipulation ploy failed. So I call it a loose, loose for both SDG@E and Faubel. The truth will be exposed, it always is, and I'll be happy to pass the towel around so you all can wipe the egg off of your faces.
Wayne Gurtsky April 20, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Well if you remember what the plans were and HEARD - with open ears, there will be less poles, less structures and blight, not to mention a community wall that will of course be much more integrated for community style and appeal with the caveat that YOU may even influence what it may be - it could have freakin bunny ears if you wished, however,whatever the solution may be - you were apart of an opportunity that all you did was refuse to hear them out on the 1 issue at hand - how can we make this work for you and the neighborhood. The next steps and meetings were to allow any comments regarding all the next points about EMF, engineering etc. I am just a concerned citizen as well but have a reasonable decision making process before I start swinging axes and public hangings. And yes - The PUC is the decision maker. Any utility company answers to the PUC, so what SDGE is doing is at least trying to walk thru the process coordially and open versus what you may typically think happens.
Rhen Kohan April 20, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Reply to WAYNE his post 4/20/12 - I was there Wednesday night and heard no one speak in a way resembling "swinging axes and public hangings". I did hear people speaking up to their concerns and yet giving positive input, and people speaking up wanting the project to move forward without objections. Why people supporting the project are objecting to people speaking up with concerns is of interest to me. AND NOW, with a project of this magnitude we see politics thrown into the mix with the recent $16000 donation by SDGE to the City for this year's fireworks (which the City shouldn't have accepted) exposing how vital it is to give input ALL ALONG THE WAY and of course, to the CPUC when that level kicks in.
Kim April 20, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Wayne...you say you are a concerned citizen, but seem to be dictating like a PR person for SDG@E.....you act naive, but swing back hammering facts that sound like Faubel at work! Give it up, as your tactics DID NOT WORK!!!! Please give us older citizens some credit for smarts, as we have been around and seen it all.
Kim April 20, 2012 at 08:11 PM
sjc5772..you hit it on the head. Why people supporting the project like Wayne are objecting to people speaking up with concerns has haunted me from the beginning, and has now peaked my and many others interest. If the candy they are selling tastes so good, why are they promoting it so and hiring a PR firm?. It has now made us all curious, suspicious and wanting more questions answered...It made me feel strange, like they are hiding something other than their presentation, a feeling I would not have had if they had just answered all questions presented. Now I want the answers, doubtful it will be at the open house.
Kim April 20, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Yes,southcountrynative... give back the money we should all insist on that, it just looks wrong. Let's write our City Council members and Chamber of Commerce people. Unless SDG@E is willing to give $16,000 to all the communities it services in So. Calif., it would appear as though SJC was targeted for that money with a specific intent. Let your council members know what you think.
Rhen Kohan April 20, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Reply to KIM, and SJCNATIVE - The CITY should give the $16000 back not blaming ANYONE but the CITY that it has been announced and if given back, monies will need to be from another source, and not by tacking it onto our water bills, good grief! Hammering on the heads of those speaking out using verbiage like "SWINGING AXES...PUBLIC HANGING" (WAYNE) inaccurately inflames the situation. Anyone innocent to all of this seeing such descriptive words who are not at the events can easily think that input questioning the project is being done with that flavor which then can easily cast aspersions on anyone raising concerns and that is where a strategy seems to indeed bare itself.
Rhen Kohan April 20, 2012 at 08:31 PM
REPLY TO MY OWN INPUT AT 1:27 PM TO CLARIFY.....I MEANT....."Hammering on the heads of those speaking out DESCRIBING THEIR INPUT with words like "SWINGING AXES,....PUBLIC HANGING" is inaccurate and in that, suspect. Those speaking out objecting in any manner to this project are not using those tactics at all but are being inaccurately described that way.
Rhen Kohan April 20, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Yes, KIM, BUT the monies would have to have been designated and being given WAY BEFORE this project came out such as a precedent. Do other utiliies give to cities? It just doesn't seem wise for either party. Further, their giving that money...does that mean our rates will increase? SDGE keeps saying they can't consider other options e.g. a substation elsewhere, or going underground with this proposed project, yet they can give $16000 easily for our fireworks. That in itself makes no sense when they keep saying they don't have the money for the wild fires or a substation elsewhere yet they do for a donation???
Kim April 20, 2012 at 08:47 PM
5772...Gollie, WAYNE and SYEVE are really trying to inflame the issues with words like "swinging axes", "public hangings", "naysayers", "torches", "pitchforks". This is simply a public process. I wonder why they feel so threatened? I noticed others contributors have not used such poisonous comments but stuck discussing the issue at hand. Again, it peaks my curiousity.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) April 20, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Guys, stop talking about each other. Talk about the issue. People will have different opinions on this and many other issues in town. Accept that. Then discuss the issue's merits and concerns, without bring personality into it. Thank you.
Orrie Brown April 20, 2012 at 09:43 PM
I have heard and read that this project is really about providing charging stations for electric cars, under a program designed by Obama. Anyone know anything about that? That would explain the "increased" need, as it certainly isn't an SJC need.
Orrie Brown April 20, 2012 at 09:44 PM
And Penny, if there were "plants" at the meeting, shouldn't that come to light?
Kim April 21, 2012 at 03:27 AM
Ms. Brown, The "plant" in the room was obvious to all, and she was just plain rude...We all heard her outburst.....again, a loose, loose all the way around for SDG@E and FAUBEL PR......The pathetic Jon Volzke and his Faubel group tried .......but, again, the truth will come out...Gezze, when Jon V. gets fired for his inept attempt to sway his employer that he has some power in SJC...does that mean he will be back at he Dispatch???....In that event, let's all just say he did a great job Faubel...never come back Jon...ever Faubel, stick with your looser please!
Penny Arévalo (Editor) April 21, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Not without proof. It IS possible for people to have different opinions without a conspiracy. So if you have proof, please email me privately, and i'll investigate. But don't make unfounded accusations. Discuss the ISSUE not EACH OTHER. Thank you.
Stephanie Frisch April 22, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Kim, I believe the rude outbursts in the room were from you. We all "loose" (it's spelled "lose") when people such as yourself hinder any process that is created to improve a situation, not lower it to a level that causes everyone in to room to feel uncomfortable. I spoke up as a resident that was tired of you trying to turn a charette process into another one of your city council meeting hijackings. There were plenty of people mumbling to have you be quiet, I simply stood up and said it louder than anyone else. By the way, if you really think I was "planted" there, then your assumptions are wrong. As someone that has lived and worked in this town for 9 years and has gone to more meetings than you have about this project, I'm just speaking up for what I feel is best. I'm trying to help make sure the project fits the look of our town, because like it or not, we can't stop it from happening, it's in the hands of the PUC.
Kim April 22, 2012 at 10:27 PM
@Stephanie..your comments are out of order, and apparently you are mis-lead as to who I am. I made no outbursts at the meeting, actually said nothing but listened to the presentation with an open mind. My understanding is you are the President of the Chamber of Commerce, and recognize you as making a pointed comment at the meeting from your hair style. I never referred to you as the "plant", but ,apparently you have a guilty conscience, as you feel guilty about something becasue you know it was wrong. And "hijackings", how rude, you sound like Steve! Now to stay on topic, like it or not, we can say "no" to the project just as Ladera Ranch did. If we all roll over and act accepting of our plight as the City Council, SJC, and San Clemente Chambers have done, then when presented to the PUC, that is exactly how SDG@E will portray it, sugar coating it with the $16,000 contributation to our fire works display and touting the not so successful meetings with the residents of SJC leaving out the word not. BTW, if that is a genuine contribution, then SDG@D should being making the same contributions to all cities they service. It looks very bad! Also, please forgive my typos as "lose" is a first grade spelling word, but thanks for pointing out the negative all the way around.
Kim April 23, 2012 at 12:01 AM
And Stephanie, for the sake of disclosure, don't you think you should state your affiliation with the SJC Chamber and the fact that you co-chair on the "Citizens for Reliable Power" of which you and 16 other members support what is transpiring here in San Juan with SDG@E. Your above comments portray you as just a concerned citizen, I think not!
Kim April 23, 2012 at 02:21 AM
@ Stephanie..I forgot to mention your affiliation with the "Fiesta Association" as well. What exactly are your political goals, will we see you come the November City Council elections?. No doubt you are not on the Historical Society, SDG@E feels it is appropriate to tear down a historical building at the current substation....as the representative for SDG@E said coldly, we are simply demolishing it! Obviously he does not live here! Lori Porter from the Cultural Heritage Commission stated she found tearing down the hostorical building "troubling" to say the least. Big business Bullies!
SC life April 23, 2012 at 03:24 AM
The Rancho Mission Viejo Co's new planned city on our eastern border is the one that stands to gain the most from this increase in power. It will have 14,000 homes and 5 million square feet of retail/commercial space; about the size of SJC. SJC doesn't need the increased power - the Ranch does. SDG&E admitted at a council meeting that they have looked at several options for moving the substation. They said they could move it (maybe even underground it) but they prefer not to because of the cost. So how about SDG&E negotiate with the Ranch to pony up some cash to move the substation out of our downtown - and build it in theirs instead? There's plenty of open space out there on the Ranch property. They need the power, they have the land, they have the cash - seems like a good solution to me. It's time SJC stopped serving as a doormat for the Ranch's new city.
Kim April 23, 2012 at 03:41 AM
Ha, Steve B, you are right, it is a "conspiracy". You called it early in the game, and the Ranch seems to be the behemoth. Are you kidding me, the Ranch building a community as big as San Juan, no doubt they need the electricity and much more...Oh yes, it all makes sense now and as usual the San Juan residents are the doormat, and to boot are paying for it! Let the Ranch deal with the blight and substation...pony up the money for underground utilities as other less influential developers have had to do. Thanks SC life, we knew something was wrong with the meeting last Wednesday, now it is perfectly clear to all!

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