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Belcaro Residents Up In Arms About Power Towers

Residents claim property values have plummeted, along with their quality of life.

Residents
at a senior community took to the streets Tuesday morning to protest a monster
invading their formerly pristine neighborhood.

A
rally and press conference was held near the base of a lattice steel tower
installed less than a month ago just yards from the lawns and driveways of the
Belcaro gated community in Valencia.
The towers are part of the Antelope-Pardee Transmission Project, the name given
to the first three segments of the overall Tehachapi Renewable Transmission
Project, which has been four years in the making.

Image
Residents of Belcaro gather to protest Edison power poles

The
crux of the matter seems to be the type of towers being built – residents say
that they were promised tubular steel poles (TSP) and instead, lattice steel
towers (LST) are being built, which are much larger and, to use the residents’
lingo, “uglier,” than the TSPs. The seniors want the towers taken down.

A
letter signed by both Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar and Los Angeles County
Supervisor Michael Antonovich, asked Edison to remove the towers because they
do not comply with the original conditions of approval set forth by the
California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) nor do they comply with the
mitigations required by the California Environmental Quality Act for the
project. The letter, dated Aug. 25, is a follow-up to a meeting where all
parties were represented and Edison allegedly did not
address their concerns.

Image
A lattice steel power tower built within the last month

Tom
Burhenn, Director of Edison’s Regulatory Operations, said that the TSPs were
never promised to the citizens and LSTs are the only poles that would work in
the area, near

McBean Parkway

and
Copper Hill Drive
.

Edison
prides itself in doing public outreach on its projects and we have consistently
said that LSTs are needed in the Santa Clarita area,” Burhenn said. “The PUC,
in its final decision on the project in March 2007 asked us to use TSPs unless
they proved to be unfeasible. If that were the case, they would reconsider. In
January 2008, we submitted a revised proposal that outlined why they were
unfeasible and in February, the PUC gave us permission to proceed.”

Burhenn
said that the issue is fabrication; the diameter of steel towers needed for the
project are prohibitive and parts would not even fit into galvanizing tanks
currently being used. In addition, because of their size and length, there
would have to be a major reworking of access to the location, which they felt
could be avoided by using LSTs.

“This
is something we knew all along,” Burhenn said. “But PUC didn’t quite
understand.”

He
said that public notices were put up and published in December 2004 when the
application for the project was filed with the PUC and six months later, public
workshops were held with illustrations of how the towers would look. Burhenn
said he does not recall any issues or objections from the City of Santa
Clarita
during several meetings to describe the type
of power poles to be used and that Edison went out of
their way to publicize the issue to property owners within 600 feet of the
project area.

The
residents of Belcaro are angry with Southern California Edison and have hired
attorney Hunt Braly to pursue action against the utility that, so far, has
stopped short of a lawsuit.

Image
Teresita Gardner stands on her patio step, overshadowed by the Edison tower

“Everything’s
on the table,” Braly said. “We believe we can work through the public process
first and they can offer some relief. But it can always come down to a
lawsuit.”

Braly
called the lattice towers a “travesty” to the community, which had been
promised tubular steel poles, which are somewhat smaller and more visually
pleasing. Both lattice and tubular steel can carry the same amount of power,
but Edison somehow convinced the California Public
Utilities Commission that the larger, eyesore lattice towers were required and
commenced installation about a month ago.

Edison
provided no notification that they were going to change the kind of poles that
they were going to construct,” Braly said. “Edison
secretly, without any public discussion, public meetings or public forum, got
them approved without any peer review analysis.”

Braly
and the gathered residents said that Edison is being
driven by nothing but greed because the tubular steel poles would cost $15
million more, a cost they could recapture through utility rates.

Residents
were quick to comment on the poles and their concerns. Shari Dickinson said she
feels her real estate value has plummeted and the poles have “clouded the
quality of life that was the reason I bought here.”

Sid
Jurman, one of the original residents of the 4-year old complex, said he picked
his lot for the special view of the surrounding mountains.

“I
picked the lot and designed the house and Edison decided
to decorate my home in a way I don’t approve,” he said. “These poles are
dangerous, if one fell over in an earthquake, it would be equal to a 22-story
building falling on my house. They’re like a ghost hovering over our homes.

Winston
Green, who paid a premium for a lot on the end of the block three years ago,
said he started out looking at the mountain and now he’s looking at a tower.

“I’m
upset,” he said. “Someone has done a job on us. Take them down, period. I don’t
need to look at it.”

The
crowd seemed to pick up Green’s sentiment, starting a chant of “Take Them Down”
for the gathered TV cameras.

Image

Teresita
Gardner, whose

Forest View Court

home now looks directly at the overwhelming lattice power tower, calls her view
“horrible.”

“If
I go into the living room, I see the tower, if I go into my own bathroom, I see
the tower, if I go into the driveway, I see it,” she said. “I’m old and wanted
to spend my last days here, but since they built that, I’ve been kind of
depressed.”

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