High voltage power lines are a “location issue” that impacts real estate values, and it sometimes elicits worry regarding safety.
High voltage power lines: how far is far enough?
Something we have spoken about recently with our clients is being far enough away so that if the tower and high voltage power lines were to fall, they’d miss your home and property. In our recent series of atmospheric rivers in January 2023, in San Jose one of these large transmission towers did fall down. It’s rare, but not impossible.
I have not seen a website that can tell us how tall any given tower is, but from what I have read online, it seems that most of them are under 200 feet tall, but some could be higher than that. In most cases, that puts the lines about 4 houses away if the lots are a typical 6,000 SF lot of 60′ across the front and 100′ deep.
We cannot speak to the concerns around potential increased risk of cancer or other problems. Each consumer should research that issue on his or her own.
Where are the high voltage power lines?
Years ago, I painstakingly mapped out the transmission lines from what I knew on the ground and what I could tell from tracing the Google satellite view. (You can find that link near the bottom of this article.)
Today, though, there’s something better than my map available online. The California Energy Commission has a map of the transmission lines that you can view using THIS LINK. Or click on the image at the left.
From the landing page you can zoom in or out. It covers the entire state of California – you might find it interesting to navigate around a little.
Also, a few years ago, PG&E published an interactive map where you can view the location of electric lines (I’ve filtered the imbedded map below to show Electric Transmission Lines in the South Bay), and another map of natural gas pipelines, searchable by address. This doesn’t cover the entire state, but it does cover all of the Bay Area / Silicon Valley.
The PG&E map:
On the map I hand-drew at the bottom of this article I did also include the location of schools. Quite a lot of schools do have transmission lines present.
What other location issues are there to factor in?
“Location, Location, Location!” The most important element when buying or selling a home is the one thing you can’t change – it’s location. Because of that, you’ll need to know some location-specific things, naturally occurring and man-made, such as the high voltage power lines, when estimating the probable market value of a property.
If you own or are thinking of buying a home in Silicon Valley, here are a few location-specific things you want to know upfront so that you can make informed decisions:
- where are the earthquake fault lines?
- where are the geologic hazard zones, such as liquefaction areas?
- where are the flood plains?
- where are man-made things that will negatively or positively impact a home’s value? Things such as
- train lines
- electrical transmission
- school district boundaries
- zip code boundaries
- proximity to entertainment venues
When looking at maps, sometimes these items show up and sometimes they don’t. Realtors and other real estate professionals in the San Jose area used to use a Barclay’s Locaide and various online resources to locate the natural hazard areas. Unfortunately, Barclay’s stopped producing these, and now some of the zones have changed. There are other tools to help locate school districts and zoning restrictions.
Google maps can help uncover some other areas, like distance to shops and freeways, but sometimes it raises more questions than it answers. For instance, a years ago a Realtor who didn’t know the Belwood of Los Gatos area too well phoned me to ask what a large object showing up on satellite view in the hills of Belgatos Park was. It is just a covered reservoir, but since it was not identified on the map it concerned some buyers. Local knowledge is still extremely helpful.
Mapping the Grid: High Voltage Power Lines
High voltage power lines and major utilities have always been one of those items of concern for potential buyers. Properties closer to major transmission might not fetch as high a resale value, may be a nuisance if there is an easement through the property, or may even cause a health and safety concern.
When I first wrote about this topic more than 14 years ago now, I was working with clients who wanted to avoid major power lines, but there weren’t any maps to find them! So I spent time manually zooming in on Google Maps satellite view to identify and map many of the paths of the power towers running through Los Gatos and nearby areas, such as Saratoga, Cupertino, Almaden Valley, Santa Teresa, and South San Jose. In 2015, I added schools to the map. There are a few playgrounds and schoolyards next to and even under high voltage power lines, and I have had clients with school aged children who have found this to be material information!
Below, please find the fruit of that labor. I do not claim to have tracked all of the high voltage electrical lines in the west valley area of Santa Clara County, but I think I got many – maybe even most – of them. I hope you find the information helpful!