Rancho Santa Fe Upgrades

As part of this project, we’ll be making system upgrades that include new poles, wires and transformers. These upgrades will enhance the reliability of the electric system serving portions of the Rancho Santa Fe neighborhood. Additionally, we’re converting our system from 4 kV to 12 kV, along with equipment upgrades to the existing substation to serve increasing demand in the region.

Project Benefits

  • Enhanced safety and reliability of the local distribution and transmission system
  • Replacement of aging electrical equipment
  • Reduced cost and environmental impacts for future maintenance activities

Circuit Upgrades

  • Circuit 2 is comprised of about 120 poles. Work for this circuit is complete.
  • Circuit 3 project consists of:
    • Replacing 23,452 feet (4.5 circuit miles) of existing 4 kV overhead conductor with new 12 kV conductor
    • Replacing 13,800 feet (2.6 circuit miles) of 4 kV underground cable with new 12 kV conductor
    • Converting 57 existing wood poles to weatherized steel poles
    • Upgrading 58 existing poles to accommodate the new 12 kV conductor
    • Installing 2 new poles
    • Replacing 43 transformers

Project Map

Project Schedule

There are several components to this project - system improvements to two electric circuits and enhancements and upgrades to our existing substation.

  • Circuit 2 is complete.
  • Circuit 3 construction consists of four phases, each taking approximately four to five weeks to complete. Phase One commenced the week of June 17th. Notifications will be posted when additional phases take place. Please refer to the project map for more detailed information.

Please keep in mind, construction schedules are subject to change, without notice, due to inclement weather or other unforeseen circumstances.

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SDG&E presentation to Rancho Santa Fe Association, April 20, 2018
SDG&E presentation to Rancho Santa Fe Association, April 20, 2018

Frequently Asked Questions

To increase reliability of the electric distribution system serving portions of the Rancho Santa Fe neighborhood, outdated equipment and infrastructure is being replaced. Additionally, we’re converting our system from 4 kV to 12 kV along with equipment upgrades to the existing substation, to serve increasing demand in the region.

Customers in SDG&E’s service area do have options to convert equipment from overhead to underground. The Rancho Santa Fe Association is exploring its options for undergrounding power lines. These options may include the use of County of San Diego CPUC 20A Conversion Funds, but this approach may be insufficient for a project of this size. Additional options are to have residents fund undergrounding through the CPUC 20B and 20C programs or a special assessment district. Note: Undergrounding within RSF cannot be shared by other customers across our service area. Typically, undergrounding is significantly more expensive than traditional

It’s estimated the cost of undergrounding all overhead facilities (1,499 poles) in the Covenant would be in excess of $300 million.


The current pole heights for Rancho Santa Fe range from 30 feet to 56 feet tall. Of the roughly 120 poles in the project, about 70 of them will be on average five feet taller to meet current standards. The height of the 50 remaining poles will not change.

Safety. We turn off power for the safety of our employees who are working around energized wires and transformers. Our team schedules outages to facilitate timely completion of the project and we notify affected customers with as much lead time as possible.

Per State law and for your safety, SDG&E requires access to its equipment at all times. Restricting access is not only dangerous, it can drive up costs for all customers.

There’s no conclusive evidence that EMFs are harmful to human health at long-term, low-level exposure. Major reviews of scientific studies on EMF and possible health effects have reported that the body of study data, as large as it is, doesn’t demonstrate that exposure to power-frequency magnetic fields causes cancer or other health risks, although the possibility cannot be dismissed. 

Numerous internationally recognized scientific organizations and independent regulatory advisory groups have conducted scientific reviews, bringing together experts from a variety of disciplines to review the full body of research on EMFs.   The weakness of the reported associations, lack of consistency and severe limitations in exposure assessment in the epidemiology studies together with the lack of support from laboratory studies were key considerations in the findings of the scientific reviews.  Most reviews recommend further research, and, appropriately, research is ongoing worldwide.

We share the concerns of our customers over the possibility that electric and/or magnetic fields (EMF) might adversely affect health. Until research and the scientific community can provide greater direction, we’ll continue our efforts to inform the public and support ongoing research.

General Order 131D issued by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) provides the rules relating to the planning and construction of electric generation, transmission/power/distribution line facilities and substations located in California. Section III(C) covers the construction of electric distribution line facilities, and states that such construction “does not require the issuance of a CPCN [Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity] or permit by this Commission nor discretionary permits or approvals by local governments.” This provision means that SDG&E is not required to obtain a discretionary approval from the CPUC for distribution line facilities such as those at issue here, and similarly SDG&E isn’t required to obtain any discretionary approvals from the local government. CEQA applies to “discretionary projects proposed to be carried out or approved by public agencies” (Public Resources Code section 21080(a), 14 California Code of Regulations sections 15002(i) and 15357. Therefore, because SDG&E isn’t required to obtain any discretionary approvals for the distribution line work, CEQA doesn’t apply.


The project will not include trenching and doesn’t require encroachment permits from the County. Traffic control permits will be secured, if needed.

General Order 131D provides noticing requirements for projects subject to a CPCN or Permit to Construct. Distribution line facilities are not required to obtain a CPCN so there are no official noticing requirements. However, as a courtesy SDG&E will continue to provide ongoing communications to affected residents.

The distribution line work doesn’t require any federal authorizations or approvals.

Pursuant to General Order 131D Section III(C), a “utility must first communicate with, and obtain the input of, local authorities regarding land use matters and obtain any non-discretionary local permits required for the construction and operation of these projects.” Section XIV of General Order 131(D) further “clarifies that local jurisdictions acting pursuant to local authority are preempted from regulating electric … distribution lines … or electric facilities constructed by public utilities subject to the Commission’s jurisdiction.” Therefore, SDG&E is not required to comply with Covenant Height restrictions.

On Dec. 6, 2016, SDG&E’s project team met with Rancho Santa Fe Association staff to discuss the project, scope of work, timelines and project areas. The SDG&E project team and Association staff had numerous meetings during the past year and a half (between Aug. 3, 2016 and Feb. 1, 2018). In addition, we’ve provided six notices to residents within the project area. Finally, SDG&E staff has made two presentations to the Board of Directors: June 1, 2017 and February 1, 2018.


More information

Contact SDG&E’s Major Projects Public Affairs Dept.

Todd Voorhees, Regional Public Affairs Manager

Toll-free project number:  1-844-210-5821