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Retirees sue over power lines

Attorney: ‘Skyscraper’ Edison transmission towers lower property values of community

Posted: September 22, 2009 10:17 p.m.
Updated: September 23, 2009 4:55 a.m.
A group of Santa Clarita retirees sued Southern California Edison on Tuesday for ignoring mitigation requirements and erecting “skyscraper” transmission lines, which the plaintiffs claim have severely impacted their home values.  

“Instead of following this mitigation requirement, Edison fraudulently and negligently concealed from these residents, and the entire Belcaro community, that it was secretly convincing the (California Public Utilities Commission) staff to allow it to construct the skyscraper transmission towers through the senior community of Belcaro,” said Hunt Braly, attorney for the residents.

The residents are claiming damages for loss of property value and peace of mind, among other damages — all resulting from the impact of the Edison transmission towers, he said.

Southern California Edison officials were not yet aware of the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in Chatsworth on Tuesday. When contacted by The Signal, Edison had no further comment on the matter, said Steve Conroy, Edison spokesman.

More than 40 residents of Belcaro, a community for people over 55 years of age in Saugus, filed the lawsuit claiming the utility company refused to comply with the mitigation requirements established by the Public Utilities Commission when it approved the new Antelope-Pardee Transmission Line Project in March 2007.

Residents expected Edison to replace the outdated steel-colored lattice hydro towers with sleek new T-shaped tubular steel poles instead of the lattice poles. Edison effectively lobbied the commission in January making its case to show that using the steel poles would not be feasible to accommodate an increased power load.

They are claiming Edison is pulling a bait and switch by promising one project and delivering something quite different.  

“Those of us that attended Edison’s public meetings and followed the (Public Utilities Commission) approval process understood that the (Public Utilities Commission) had ordered Edison to use poles instead of the massive black towers that Edison erected,” said Maynard Davis, a Belcaro resident and one of the Plaintiffs.

“Edison concealed from us what they were doing until it was too late to have them removed.  Now we have these monstrosities towering over our homes and our lives every day.”

During the public comment period of Tuesday’s City Council meeting, some residents involved in the lawsuit aired their grievances before council members.

In the process of erecting a Tehachapi-to-Newhall transmission line, the utlity was unresponsive to residents’ requests to use less-noticable grey, tubular steel towers, Braly said.

Instead, he said, residents have “monstrous” black towers obstructing their skyline, said resident Brian Smith.

“They (stand) right in our backyard,” said Sid Jurman, a five-year Belcaro resident. “If they fell, they’d fall right on our house.”

The only compromise Edison suggested was “community enhancements” of landscaping, Smith said.

“They offered, with arrogance, petunias,” Jurman said.

City attorney Carl Newton said he has reviewed the lawsuit and will keep the council apprised.

“We will monitor the litigation and follow any (council) direction,” he said.

The mitigation agreement required Edison to reduce the height and size of transmission towers through the western part of the City of Santa Clarita, including the Belcaro community.

However, Tom Burhenn, Edison’s director of regulatory operations officials told The Signal in 2008 that the project has been open to public comments since 2004.

Burhenn told The Signal in 2008 there were several meetings where the public was told the lattice towers would be replaced with new lattice towers and not the tubular steel towers.  

The black lattice towers stayed and residents feel encroached upon, Braly said.

The plaintiffs are seeking an undetermined amount of monetary damages as compensation.

“It’s unreasonable to expect Edison to take down the poles after they have constructed them,” Braly said. “We are looking for property damages.”  


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