Village resident unhappy about new SCE pole on his property

Neighbors Mike White, left, and Bob Mendez discuss on Tuesday a large utility pole that was recently installed by Southern California Edison. Courier photo/Steven Felschundneff

by Steven Felschundneff |

On August 28 workers from Southern California Edison knocked on Claremont resident Bob Mendez’s door to inform him that they were going to replace the utility pole on his property.

According to Mendez, the men worked on the replacement project for most of the day and at some point, he and his wife Trudy left to visit their accountant. When they returned, the modest utility pole that had been on the south side of their Cambridge Avenue home’s front yard had been replaced by a 50-foot-tall behemoth with a network of wires headed in several directions. Needless to say, he was very surprised.

Mendez knew Edison had an easement on his property, but the terms in that document state the pole is for the transmission of electricity. He contends the new pole is a miniature substation and it has no business being erected in a suburban residential neighborhood.

At the top of the new pole Edison has installed a “remote sectional recloser,” which is an important part of the utility’s effort to modernize its grid, according to information Edison sent Mendez. The company uses the RSR to switch on and off certain parts of the grid when there has been a system failure, which prevents a circuit from being “locked out.”

“Prior to installation of the RSR, a system failure would necessitate SCE shutting power off to numerous customers — even if service to those customers was not affected by the disruption,” read a letter Mendez received from Mark A. Rothenberg, senior attorney at SCE. “This equipment assists SCE in isolating problems that develop and facilitates the expeditious restoration of service.”

Mendez is concerned about electric and magnetic field exposure from the RSR; that it is top heavy and could topple onto his home in a windstorm; and that it negatively affects property values. He would like to see Edison install their RSRs on the perimeter of the residential area of the Village, not in its center.

The letter from the attorney was in response to a formal complaint Mendez filed after getting little action through conversations with SCE employees. He said everyone at Edison has been polite, but the message has been that the utility has the right to install the apparatus and there was no requirement for them to issue advance notice.

“The safety of our customers and communities is our top priority and when we learned that the customer was concerned, we sent SCE electric and magnetic field specialists to the location, tested the equipment and provided findings to the customer,” SCE spokesman Reggie Kumar said. “There is no increase in electric and magnetic fields related to the new pole and the remote sectional recloser will not raise electric and magnetic levels when it is operational.”


Southern California Edison recently installed this utility pole in Bob Mendez’s front yard. Mendez says the pole is too large for the residential neighborhood. Courier photo/Steven Felschundneff


Mendez confirmed SCE sent a technician to his property to test for heightened electric and magnetic fields in his home and property and that the readings were normal. However, he is concerned that once the RSR is fully operational that situation could change.

However, Kumar said there is no evidence of harm associated with electric and magnetic fields, and the remote sectional recloser does not increase the electrical flow and will not increase electric and magnetic field levels when it is operational. The RSR at the Mendez home is the sixth one to be installed in Claremont.

Mendez has been in contact with Claremont’s engineering department and believes Edison did not get the proper building permit to install the RSR. But, according to Rothenberg’s letter, the company does not have to seek discretionary approval, such as a conditional use permit, when working within its easement at the Mendez home. Rothenberg did say Mendez could file a claim for damage his African gardenia allegedly suffered during installation of the pole.

The last thing Mendez wants is a fight with the utility. He would rather find a way that allows Edison to achieve its goals without the remote sectional recloser being on the pole above his property.

“Let’s find a solution that works for Edison and the community,” Mendez said. “But this can’t be the only solution.”

“The replacement pole is within SCE’s right of way and meets SCE’s safety guidelines and was installed to support the remote sectional recloser,” spokesman Kumar said. “This easement was chosen to install this equipment to reduce potential outages and enhance service reliability in this community.”

Assistant City Manager Jamie Earl said she has spoken with Mendez and acknowledged he has some valid concerns. She said the city’s role is to be a conduit of communication between Edison and Mendez and has asked the company to engage in better public dialog in the future.

Earl confirmed Edison did not need a permit to replace the pole but that it was issued one for the temporary street closure on the day it went up.

The city would also like to know if the RSR represents the new normal when Edison upgrades utility poles, particularly in residential neighborhoods, and how many more the company plans to install in Claremont.


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