NewsTeam 10 Investigates


Resident warns others to check property lines after utility box installed in front of home

Developer offers to place sod after Team 10 gets involved
Posted at 9:35 PM, Oct 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-17 00:49:07-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — The owner of a North Park home is warning residents to check their property lines after an SDG&E-labeled utility vault was installed on what she thought was her front yard.

“I feel like it's just really enormous for the scale of our front yard,” said Nina Ghatan as she described the power box that now takes up a chunk of land in front of her house. “It definitely looks like an eyesore and unkempt.”

Ghatan said the utility vault was installed earlier this year, but she only recently learned who installed it after months of digging.

“I have a master's degree and it's not that easy to understand,” she told Team 10 investigator Austin Grabish.

She said back in April, she got a call from the tenant she rents her house to. The renter said a contractor had stopped by to let her know a crew would be doing trenching.

Soon after, construction workers taped off the entire area in front of her North Park home with the mess from the easement spilling over into her yard.

“And so, we were like, you know, noticeably upset, confused, like wondering what was going on.”

Ghatan called SDG&E to find out what was going on, and she said the utility company told her it didn’t install the power vault. She learned a contractor for a new apartment complex across the street that required power was behind the installation.

She later learned during a meeting with a city engineer that her property line doesn’t start next to the sidewalk. Instead, it’s 14 feet from the curb, which gives ample room for the vault to be placed in the area she thought was her front yard.

“The whole thing's a mess,” said Tom Hulse, who lives next door and complained about a dump truck parked in front of his house as the project dragged on in the spring.

“City projects need to be more thought out.”

Property line can be 10-20 feet from curb: City

The city told Team 10 the vault is in the right of way and not on private property.

Spokesperson Perette Godwin said many owners aren’t aware the edge of their yard isn’t the property line and that it generally is set back from the curb 10-20 feet.

“SDG&E has the right to install their infrastructure in the city’s [right of way]. The property owner may request that SDG&E relocate the vault, but the city has no say in the decision made by the utility,” Godwin said in a written statement.

The utility company told Team 10 it understands Ghatan’s frustrations.

The city told Team 10 the vault is in the right of way and not on private property.

“The location of the in-ground vault was decided after a thorough vetting process with multiple parties including SDG&E’s design team, engineers, City inspectors, and the developer,” wrote SDG&E spokesperson Candace Hadley.

“This integrated team evaluates existing critical underground infrastructure, potential risks, and other safety factors to ensure the design and placement of the structure meets critical standards in the best interest of the neighborhood.”

Team 10 spoke with a development manager for the new apartment complex, which is not yet finished. He said he wasn’t authorized to do an on-the-record interview.

Back outside Ghatan’s home, the property is starting to look a little nicer.

Two days after Team 10 started asking the city, SDG&E, and the development manager questions, a crew came by to add soil.

Ghatan said the developer behind the apartment complex called her offering to place sod, rocks, and plants around the vault. She hopes other homeowners will learn from her experience.

“If you see construction happening in your front yard, be on site, like on day one, and try to get a really clear understanding of what's happening, otherwise, something like this could happen.”