magnifierEvery once in awhile, someone will object to content that I’ve chosen to include in this website, mostly something I’ve spent time researching that involves an unpleasant angle of living here in Silicon Valley. Luckily complaints are exceedingly rare! But the question may arise of “why is she writing about THAT?” The answer is simple: it’s what I’m encountering in my real estate practice, it’s something I’ve been spending time on with my buyers or sellers.

High voltage electrical power lines and towers

Recently I wrote about high voltage power lines that run through Los Gatos, Cambrian, and Almaden and their relationship to public schools.  Why there? Why that topic?   Because that’s where many of my home buyer clients are buying, as these are all wonderful areas, and this is a topic that has been raised repeatedly by them.

  • one client wanted to be “at least four houses away” from any high voltage lines
  • another wasn’t sure how far to be, but said 1/10 of a mile was too close
  • another eliminated all public schools with high voltage power lines adjacent or within a block away (and chose to live in Willow Glen instead)
  • and another wanted to live at least a full mile from the lines

When something comes up again and again, I think it’s fair to raise it in this blog, because it is relevant to consumers, even though I know it will step on some toes. I don’t have an answer as to whether you should or shouldn’t buy a home within any particular distance of the towers or lines (or a mine, flood plain or anything else).  Every house has pros and cons.  I would say that if you get the EMFs tested, you might be surprised that the emissions are higher in front of your microwave than they are near the lines, so I do encourage home buyers and home sellers near the wires to get the facts and to see the numbers from a reputable source.    If you’re buying with FHA backed financing, of course you will need to be aware of the high voltage electrical tower fall zone – if for some reason the tower fell in an earquake, the FHA folks want to make sure your new home won’t be in its path.

Not every home buyer cares at all about the lines, the towers, or even a substation.    For home sellers near any of them, it’s important to understand that it is a potential home buyer concern, and that could translate to a lower sale price (depending on the market).  For home buyers, even if there’s no real concern for health and safety, it is important to appreciate that if you are super close, it could be a resale issue in the future.  All of these make it a topic worth discussing, not to be alarmist, but to be discussing what concerns real estate consumers today.

Natural hazards: mercury, asbestos, earthquake faults, liquifecation zones, unstable soils, flood plains and other scary things

Another topic that I covered recently, which also may have bothered some readers of this blog, is mercury mines in the west valley areas.  In the past I’ve written about other natural hazard zones too.

Again, the selection of this topic of the location of the nearest mercury mines was due to my home buyer clients’ concerns.  One client was worried that if he had a child play in a back yard in Almaden, there’d be mercury in the soil (not likely at all!).  Another was worried about growing fruit and vegetables and consuming them if there was mercury there.    One of these won’t buy a home in Almaden due to the presence of the mines, and is unsure about buying in Los Gatos because it may be too close.

In an effort to allay fears, I did a lot of research to locate the public quicksilver mines, which meant reading obscure maps and deciphering faint numbers to see where they are.  There are none in Los Gatos (could be some private ones, but I’m not aware of any) or Cambrian and even the ones in Almaden are all part of the same large Almaden Quicksilver Park, as far as I can tell.

For my Los Gatos home buyer, I wanted to point out that the nearest one is behind a large hill.  Since mercury would seem to travel via rainwater and creeks, the liklihood of it somehow getting over a hill appears remote to me.

Having spent a lot of time on that research for this particular client, I took what I learned and made it a blog post.

That’s how a lot of my research posts come to be.

Right now I have a Cambrian home buyer who’s particularly keen on staying out of liquifecation zones.  Luckily, most of the Cambrian area is not in that type of natural hazard zone – and that is a big help in narrowing where to look.   It’s entirely possible that I’ll be researching this topic more and sharing what I learn.  If you live in Silicon Valley, it’s almost impossible to avoid all natural hazard zones.  It is nearly impossible to find a neighborhood that is immune from all risks.  People who live here are aware of earthquake zones, flood plains, and many other concerns.  Sometimes it’s hard to find good info on these issues, though.  Hopefully I can help with that.





  • Mary Pope-Handy

    Silicon Valley Realtor, selling homes in Los Gatos, Saratoga, San Jose, Silicon Valley, and nearby since 1993. Prolific blogger with a network of sites.

    View all posts