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The City Council voted 4-1, with Councilmember Pam Patterson dissenting, to grant an easement to San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E) so they can install underground electrical utilities through a portion of San Juan Capistrano’s Serra Park.
According to a city staff report, SDG&E is planning on replacing overhead electrical wires and poles that run along the south side of the park adjacent to nine homes with the underground equipment. The report notes that removing the poles will be both an aesthetic and safety improvement.
The undergrounded utilities would be placed within an access road around the periphery of the park that’s currently used both by SDG&E and city staff for park maintenance. The access road runs adjacent to where the above ground poles are currently located.
Steve May, director of Public Works and Utilities, said if the city wished not to grant the easement, SDG&E could install electrical utilities along Calle Santa Rosalia and through an existing easement on the north side of the park, but that would be more disruptive because it would go through the turf area of the park.
Councilmember Patterson expressed concerns about the possible health impact of the poles.
“It’s my understanding that it’s actually more harmful for the residents that live in that area to have them put underground so I think that’s something we should look at before we make a final decision on this,” Patterson said.
She asked Duane Cave, external relations manager for SDG&E, what research he had available to prove the safety of the undergrounding. Cave said he did not have any with him at the meeting but could provide it to Patterson.