Randy Lubert, San Juan Capistrano

For some time now, San Diego Gas & Electric has been throwing a considerable amount of money around San Juan Capistrano and surrounding communities in order to slam through their San Juan Capistrano substation “enhancement”—a lot of money. This has been an aggressive lobbying campaign to convince local and neighboring residents and businesses, as well as the California Public Utilities Commission, that this project in San Juan Capistrano is critical for reliability. What a sham.

The reason SDG&E is so fixated on this substation redevelopment rests squarely on their bottom line. They reviewed several alternatives and it evidently proved far cheaper for them to retrofit the existing Camino Capistrano substation rather than to move it to the area that the upgrade will most benefit—the planned 14,000 residences and commercial centers to the east, which is not located in the city of San Juan Capistrano. Alternative F—an option SDG&E rejected because of cost—places the substation squarely where it belongs—in Rancho Mission Viejo, with its vast open space. Very soon, this area will sport an intense electrical appetite, which will require feeding.  This is code for “reliability.”

The existing San Juan Capistrano substation is located within a densely populated residential area. Aside from the health dangers that this “enhancement” will rain down upon the community, the city will be forced to endure the ill effects of more than five years of construction delays on Camino Capistrano, the main traffic artery serving the city. If completed, the San Juan Capistrano skyline will feature several 50-foot-tall concrete megaliths protected by a 10-foot-high and 360-foot-long wall, providing a very unwelcoming gateway statement for visitors and residents alike.

SDG&E is spending a lot of lobbying money so that they can save a lot more money. It is a travesty that this utility and its supporters place profitability ahead of what is in the best interests of our city and its residents. Instead, SDG&E should spend their money on relocating the substation to the new town that it is intended to best serve. Again, Alternative F.

SDG&E, do the right thing and move this project out of San Juan Capistrano.

About The Author Capo Dispatch

comments (28)

  • Actually The City Council attorneys had an expert witness testify before the CPUC on 5-26-2015. While SDGE claims that San Juan Capistrano location is cheaper to build this substation here – the report refutes this. Page 14 of the report and testimony of Dariush Shirmohammadi (Expert Witness) for the City of San Juan Capistrano Attys.”The result shoes a minimum cost savings of $56 million can be attained through the adoption of DEIR Alternative F, page 15 Total DEIR cost 66 million”. So why in the world would SDGE not look out for their investors and plant this here in San Juan Capistrano rather than take it out to Rancho Mission Viejo where the 14,000 homes are being built (Option F) in a wide open community vs a dense community with extreme health risks here in San Juan Capistrano??

    • Thank you, Dawn for pointing this out. It seems as though cost is not actually a factor, so you have to ask yourself what SDG&E’s motive really is.

  • Couldn’t agree more with Mr. Lubert’s letter. This is not about servicing SJC residents. How do we stop this?

  • I have a photograph of myself in 1958 as a small child, sitting on the edge of the fountain at Mission San Juan Capistrano feeding a flock of white pigeons. I think that was the day I fell in love with San Juan.

    For more than 40 years, I have lived within a few miles of the historic downtown area of San Juan – in Dana Point and Laguna Niguel, but never within the city of San Juan Capistrano itself until finally in 1999, I found a house to buy here, and at once felt that I really was home.

    I now wake up every morning with a view of the Mission Basilica dome, the sound of the Mission bells and the songs of birds. So many birds! What peace I have found here. And I’m delighted that my neighbors are from from every imaginable walk of life–from many different countries, varied occupations and religious and political backgrounds. We are all connected in a way because we share the same love of this town. We feel that it is an honor and a privilege to call this special place our home, and that we have been entrusted to protect this rare and historic piece of California.

    Sadly, now my neighbors and I are faced with the nightmare scenario of the proposed expansion of the SDG&E substation that is adjacent to our neighborhood.

    Imagine five to six years of construction on a project that would triple the amount of electricity running over our homes, schools and parks. If this plan is approved, it will consist of several five-story buildings (exceeding the city’s building code) surrounded by a 10 foot perimeter wall complete with barbed wire fencing surrounding the entire six acres.

    To add to our misery, closures to traffic on Camino Capistrano and many other streets in San Juan would be necessary as well as disruption to the interstate rail lines, public transportation and power outages to local homes and businesses during construction. Add to that the noise levels of helicopters that will be needed to bring in the new gigantic steel towers to the site, and the resulting air pollution from construction that would keep residents holed up in their homes with their windows closed to avoid the threat posed by unacceptable levels of pollutants.

    And lastly, of course, there would be the irreversible scar the SDG&E expansion project would create with a massive electrical substation as permanent fixture on one of the main gateways to our historic downtown. What a way to welcome visitors from around the world to our beloved town.

    In fairness, this substation expansion should be placed where the power will be needed in the future – closer to the thousands of new homes in the planned community of Rancho Mission Viejo and beyond. San Juan Capistrano should not be required to bear the negative impacts to our neighborhood to ensure keeping the lights on for the multitude of homes to the east of us that have not yet been built.

  • I think this is well written and very to the point. Short and sweet, SDG&E is just out for it’s own profits. I think everybody needs to go solar and do away with greedy companies like this!
    F SDG&E

    • Yes, I agree. We need a solar company out there to give our neighborhood’s a great deal if we all agree to go solar!

      • We also need the City Council to pass an ordinance similar to Lancaster and Sebastropol, that mandates all new residential and commercial construction must have solar capable of providing up to 75% of the buildings demands.

        Also, to reduce water consumption, it would be nice to mandate the system KB Homes is installing in their new homes. It collects water from the bathroom sinks, bath and shower, and laundry, filters it and stores it for toilet flushing and garden irrigation. According to BRAC SYSTEMS of Canada, a family of four will save an average of 35% of their annual water use.

    • David, it would be better to just let us know what your opinion is rather than making us click through all these links. Besides, this is getting off-topic from the issue of where SDG&E is going to build their new substation.

      It has been determined that 50% of the electrical load growth over the next 8 years around the SDG&E’s South OC transmission loop is occurring at a single substation in that loop: the Rancho Mission Viejo Substation. That is where the expansion should occur, not in San Juan Capistrano where we will have less than 10% of the load growth.

      • I’m simply responding to the folks that naively think that solar is the answer to your problems…to those who think solar has no impact on the environment. Besides, I’m not making you do anything.

      • Patrice Roberts

        David, referring to us as naive is not going to help advance our conversation. There was a comment or two about solar, but the main point of this thread, which was made in Randy Lubert’s original Letter to the Editor, concerns the location of the SDG&E substation expansion. I’d be grateful if you could please help us keep on topic.

  • You make excellent points, Randy Lubert. Thank you for your well written letter. A ‘project’ of this size has no business being forced upon the residents of San Juan Capistrano simply because the other options available are inconvenient or will take longer to complete. The planned Rancho Mission Viejo developments will be using the bulk of the electricity, not San Juan. Also the Rancho area has the space for this behemoth without unnecessarily burdening its future residents.

  • I agree, as well, with Mr. Lubert’s letter. This is a sham and SDG & E has no regards for human life if they build this substation. I have been in this neighborhood since 1985 and would prefer not to have to move! Go to Rancho Mission Viejo with all the open space!

  • Thank you Mr. Lubert for shedding light on this event. Our historic town and Mission must be protected from a project of this scale. I heartily agree, to serve the new power needs in the new community, the project is better suited within the open space of the new development.

    • I can’t help but wonder if yesterday’s flickering lights were a carefully programmed PSYOP to convince us to support SDG&E’s application?

  • I had the same feeling about the flickering lights episode, given the the area that the “outage” covered, and the official explanation from SDG&E that “We have determined that a combination of factors has caused a problem in the electric system.”

    That really clears things up.

    • The problem was in a static Var compensator.


      Had San Onofre nuclear generating station remained in service (along with the 1200 men and women with families who lost their jobs), this event may not have happened. You could write madame Boxer and thank her for stabbing our communities in the back.

      • Patrice Roberts

        Gosh, David. Where are my manners? I had intended to write Senator Barbara Boxer a thank you note, and it seems that it has been sitting in my outbox all this time. Glad you reminded me!
        My letter to Senator Boxer thanks her for the support and concern that she showed to eight million residents of Southern California by helping us avoid the danger and possible catastrophic results that would have befallen us had she not spoken up against Edison and SDG&E, calling them to task for installing generators at the SONGS plant with known design flaws.

        Got to go send that email now. Better late than never. Again, thanks again for the reminder!

        ps… back to the plot…… remember that we’re talking about the SDG&E Substation Expansion in San Juan Capistrano here.

      • Yep, blame Senator Boxer. How blaming Mitsubishi for their design flaws. How about blaming SDG&E for building SONGS next to a fault.

        Yes, I know, in you mind there’s never been a fatality at a nuclear power station. Problem is, there were three deaths at Idaho Falls, and the partial meltdown of the FERMI reactor just south of Detroit, came close.

        We don’t like it when accidents happen, but the truth is people make mistakes and accidents happen.

        I would not have had a problem with SONGS if it hadn’t been built next to a fault and inland from the coast. Still, there remains the problem of storage of the spent fuel. What happens if the storage ponds suddenly lose their cooling water?

        About the only good thing about SONGS was that the reactors weren’t BWRs.

  • Patricia, when one is supplied with answers to questions they were wondering about, the usual response is not to accuse the supplier of being off-topic. As YOUR statements/questions regarding the flickering lights had nothing to do with the proposed substation, and as you appear to be the self-appointed topic monitor, you’ll have to forgive me for once again, traveling off the reservation to comment on a false statement you made. SCE did NOT install steam generators they knew to be faulty…that is a false statement. Now, it’s a free country and you are free to believe whatever you choose but I must say that not only is your statement false, it doesn’t even make any sense. Why would SCE install VERY expensive equipment that they knew to be faulty when the equipment it was meant to replace was still good AND it was still in place? They could have refused the new generators, demanding a quality product while running with the old.
    Contrary to the false narrative of the anti-nukes who are, to put it charitably, truth challenged, the public, be it 8 million or just 8 people, were not in danger.

    • David, rehashing the debate on the failure of SONGS is really a waste of time at this point. I have more productive things to do.

  • Joanna, the SL-1 reactor in Idaho was NOT a commercial nuclear power plant. Check out dam failures or the numbers of folks whose lives are cut short from breathing or mining coal if you want to see real killers. Commercial nuclear power, which makes up 20% of US electrical generation, has not caused a single death in the United States. All power production has some impact on the environment but per MW produced, nuclear power has the least.
    SONGs has stored fuel on site for 45 years…not harming a soul. The SFPs at SONGs could go weeks without cooling water.
    Joanna, perhaps you have been listening to all the wrong people; did you view the links regarding the tremendous pollution from solar panel production?
    See here for a list of dam failures:


    • At least 56 nuclear reactor accidents have occurred in the USA. Relatively few accidents have involved fatalities. The most serious of these U.S. accidents was the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Davis–Besse Nuclear Power Station has been the source of two of the top five most dangerous nuclear incidents in the United States since 1979.

      The United States General Accountability Office reported more than 150 incidents from 2001 to 2006 alone of nuclear plants not performing within acceptable safety guidelines. In 2006, it said: “Since 2001, the ROP has resulted in more than 4,000 inspection findings concerning nuclear power plant licensees’ failure to fully comply with NRC regulations and industry standards for safe plant operation, and NRC has subjected more than 75 percent (79) of the 103 operating plants to increased oversight for varying periods”. Seventy-one percent of all recorded major nuclear accidents, including meltdowns, explosions, fires, and loss of coolants, occurred in the United States, and they happened during both normal operations as well as emergency situations such as floods, droughts, and earthquakes. – Source: Wikipedia

  • We can blame and we can complain. Bottom line is we (citizens) haven’t been paying attention and here we are… I , for one, am guilty and have been expecting others to protect my best interests just because they said they would in their campaigns… And now here we are, decades later. It’s time we all put on our “big boy ” and “big girl” pants and face reality. We will have to lose/pay some to gain back what we have given away to those who have sweet talked us for a few years. To disagree on topics is great…the American way. But to be swayed by money and connections is vile and nauseating. Wake up, folks. THINK!!!!

    • For a real wake up call, check out Shawn Lawrence Otto’s new book:

      “FOOL ME TWICE: Fighting the Assault on Science in America”

      It takes a really great look at our political system today. One fix being called for by Senator Bernie Sanders is to replace the present day funding by SuperPACs, etc. with public funding–i.e. A public trust that we all contribute an equal amount to, and each candidate gets an equal amount of funds for their campaign, the amount based on the office they are seeking–local, state/congressional, or president. No other funds can be solicited, nor can personal/family funds be used (if you happen to be a millionaire).

      That would be a small start towards fixing the system.

      Personally, I would also call for limiting campaigns to no more than 60 days for local, 90 days for state/congressional and 120 days for President, and disqualify any candidate that is caught in a lie, like Hillary Clinton’s “Bosnia lie during her 2008 campaign.”

  • Does ANYONE KNOW the FACTS on the San Juan Capistrano power outage downtown on June 13th in the afternoon and how many business owners had to shut down their business plus the chaos in the town? Hmmm….cant find it anywhere on the internet?

  • SDG&E has posted an explanation for the flickering lights outage on June 8, but nothing on the downtown SJC outage on the 13th.


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