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Growth powers utility fixes

Part of a 1930s-era substation that powers homes and businesses in the San Fernando Road corridor will be rebuilt as part of a $13-million reconstruction project to accommodate anticipated growth in the neighborhood following City Council approval on Tuesday.

The Grandview Substation, located at San Fernando Road and Grandview Avenue, currently serves 436 commercial and industrial customers and 1,168 homes, though utility officials said they expect businesses to expand and overall demand for electricity to grow in the near future.

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New equipment to be installed will boost the operating voltage level at the substation, which will also double as a backup power provider in the area served by the Western Avenue Substation in case of outages in that area, according to a staff report.

The project was conceived a few years ago, but didn't get underway until recently because of budgetary setbacks, Ramon Abueg, chief assistant general manager of electricity and water at Glendale Water & Power told the council.

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With a 4-0 vote, council members awarded the $13.6-million contract and $1.36 million for contingencies to San Diego-based Beta Engineering California, which will design the project and carry out the construction.

Councilwoman Paula Devine was not at the meeting.

A portion of the substation is enclosed within a building, while an adjoining section where a majority of the electrical equipment is housed is out in the open. As part of the project, that area will be enclosed.

Since the site was built in 1930, Councilwoman Laura Friedman said she'd like to see if the enclosed section would qualify as historic and, if it's determined to be, the new addition should bear a similar design.

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"We need to be sensitive with our buildings the same way we expect all property owners of older buildings to be sensitive and to make sure that before they do a renovation, they're not dealing with a historic resource and if they are, to do it in a way that doesn't diminish that resource," Friedman said.

Abueg said a city employee would evaluate the existing enclosure to verify its historical status, if any, and that the design of the added enclosure would reflect that finding.

Friedman asked whether the design should be reviewed by the Historical Preservation Commission if the enclosure is deemed to be historic.

Councilman Ara Najarian, however, said such concerns should have been made when negotiations with Beta began in July and triggering a new process at the moment could delay the project.

"I think we're running the risk, should they make some suggestions, that we're going to go back to the beginning. That's a lot of staff time," he said.

After the meeting, City Manager Scott Ochoa said he's not worried if the design goes before Historic Preservation commissioners because a design that matches with the current enclosure is relatively simplistic.

"Even if the [commission] wanted to add their stroke to the canvas, given the nature of this particular type of architecture, there's not a heck of a lot they can do," Ochoa said.

The Grandview Substation Reconstruction project is slated to be completed by the spring of 2016, Abueg said.

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