Tensions build between Caltrain, Burlingame residents over tall electrification tower

Tensions between Caltrain and some Burlingame residents could ease if a community meeting Wednesday evening goes well. At issue: A tall electrification tower the transit agency wants to place in a neighborhood, directly in front of some resident’s homes. 

Olen Simon says he moved to his two story house in the mid-90s to escape the San Francisco, fog, and for his two young boy’s education.

“For the quality of life here. It’s just, you can basically walk anywhere in Burlingame,” said Simon while sitting at the dining table.

But just a short walk out his front door, in the 1,400 block of California Drive, a potential problem is taking root. Not the dead tree next to the Caltrain sound wall, but instead what’s proposed for the site. 

The transit agency wants to erect one of 10 power paralleling stations. The PS3 is a 60-foot-high structure used to distribute power once the tracks are electrified. Right now, the proposal is energizing resident’s opposition, many of whom say they found out yesterday from a flier on their doors.

“Families live here. These towers give off EMF and it’s hazardous to our health. It affects the quality of our health, life, and safety,” said neighbor Judy Wong.
Added Simon, “Do you wanna have an ugly, electrified tower staring at your house? I don’t think any homeowner in any other area of the Bay Area or anywhere else would say, ‘oh yeah, build it here.’”

Caltrain is holding a public hearing at 6:00 p.m. Wednesday, with residents telling KTVU thety will attend and deliver an earful over how this issue has been handled, making clear in no uncertain terms, the PS3 must go elsewhere. 

And resident’s complaints have not fallen on deaf ears. By midday, Caltrain officials announced they’ve come up with a work-around that should appease everyone.

“They’re looking at another location which is on north Carolan (Avenue). It’s in the same general area, but it’s on the other side of the tracks. So it should be less of a problem for residents,” said Caltrain spokesman Dan Lieberman.

The other side of the tracks is zoned commercial and contains warehouses and other businesses. Resident’s such as Olen Simon had questioned why that wasn’t the original site.

“If you’re putting up something that is an industrial use, it should be on the other side of the tracks. It’s not so much a nimby thing as it is common sense,” said Simon.

A sense of calm could return if the planned meeting produces a compromise that allows the electrification project to move forward, while allowing long-time residents to continue enjoying their view. The Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board is scheduled to meet Thursday to approve the final site selection.