san juan capistrano substation
San Juan Capistrano, California

The Classical Revival style substation was constructed by Southern California Edison in 1918 and later sold to San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) in 1928. The building was a T-shaped, reinforced concrete substation that housed a “frequency-converter” that helped convert and distribute electricity to customers throughout southern Orange County.

SDG&E initially planned to demolish the substation as part of a larger system-wide improvement project. Chattel was hired to prepare a preservation alternative to retain and incorporate the historic structure into the proposed project. Working with staff engineers, Chattel provided guidance on design that retained the street-facing portion of the historic structure, yet allowed for the necessary infrastructure to substantially expand the substation facility. Ultimately, the preservation alternative called for demolition of the East Wing of the substation, which was the utilitarian and less visible portion. The retained West Wing is being rehabilitated.

The Final Environmental Impact Report was certified by the California Public Utilities Commission and Chattel was again retained to implement the preservation alternative and associated mitigation measures including preparing a Historic American Engineering Record documentation report with photographer Stephen Schafer, engaging Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates as architect/engineer of record, and providing construction monitoring.