CHINO HILLS – Hundreds of residents turned out to voice their concerns to lawmakers about property values and public safety at a congressional hearing Saturday on the controversial Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project, which involves erecting 200-foot electric towers in the city.
The transmission poles and towers are being installed in Southern California Edison’s right-of-way from Chino Hills’ western border near Tonner Canyon through the city and eventually going into Riverside County.
The House Financial Services subcommittee hearing included congressmen and representatives from the Federal Housing Administration and the Housing and Urban Development Department.
Reps. Gary Miller, R-Brea, and Ed Royce, R-Orange, appeared to sympathize with the 450-500 residents, many donning green Hope for the Hills t-shirts, who attended the hearing at Chino Hills City Hall.
Miller chided what he saw as the cause of the problem: unfunded government mandates.
Under state law, electric utilities must produce 33percent of the electricity they deliver to customers from renewable energy sources by the year 2020. To meet this state mandate, Edison is upgrading its infrastructure in the region, including the installation of new high voltage towers and power line structures in Chino Hills, according to Miller.
The hearing gave panel members the chance to hear from homeowners who expressed concerns that the new 200-foot towers and 500,000-volt power lines will negatively impact home values and their ability to access FHA financing.
Royce said that with the government now playing such a large role in the mortgage market – owning or guaranteeing 97percent of all new mortgages nationwide – it is critical that people understand the rules by which the Federal Housing Administration and other government agencies underwrite mortgages in areas like Chino Hills, where high voltage transmission towers are being built
“The building of the Chino Hills transmission lines has been devastating for this community,” Royce said. “Two hundred-foot towers are located only 70 feet in some instances from existing homes. Roughly 1,000 homes are within 500 feet of this project.”
Bob Goodwin of the community group Hope for the Hills said values are down roughly 17 percent on average since the project started to become a reality in May.
“For those homes closest to the towers, the impact is all the more devastating,” said Royce.
The $2.1 billion Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project – approved by the state Public Utilities Commission in 2009 – travels through a 5-mile stretch of Chino Hills and is intended to carry wind-generated electricity from Kern County to the Los Angeles Basin.
Edison has already built the power lines in its right-of-way.
Chino Hills officials have spent more than $2 million over two years battling Edison in a lawsuit insisting its right-of-way through the city is too narrow for the proposed 198-foot towers.
The impacts to communities were carefully considered, said Les Stark, senior vice president of regulatory affairs for Edison. The utility developed 11 alternatives and six were on the route through Chino Hills. Alternatives such as traversing a nearby state park and burying the lines underground would be more costly, Stark said.
The approved route crosses through dozens of cities and communities in Kern, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, said Stark. The project does not create a new impediment to FHA loan eligibility, he said.
“High structures are routinely located near homes in Southern California,” Stark said. “Chino Hills is no different.”
But real estate agents and appraisers say the power lines may have some impact on home values and FHA financing.
“If FHA removes the ability of home buyers to utilize FHA financing on properties near the easements in question, those homes will be forced to sell at a discount to similar nearby properties that do qualify for FHA financing,” said Marion O. Profitt, a member of the California Association of Realtors.
The association does not possess statistics to show what the impact on pricing may or may not be due to a home’s proximity to power lines.
“I can tell you from my 20 years of experience that for some home buyers it does matter,” Profitt said.
Goodwin said the project was planned and built under the guise of “green energy,” is not healthy and environmentally safe.
The 200-foot towers with 500,000-volt power lines come within 70 feet of residences, with the lines as close as 40 feet in some cases, according to Goodwin.
“This is not only a safety matter, it also raises health concerns relative to (electric magnetic field) fallout and the consequences associated with prolonged EMF exposure,” said Goodwin.
Those consequences include, Goodwin said, citing a 2002 Department of Health Services report,development of brain tumors, childhood leukemia, ALS and increased miscarriages.
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