Proposed power plant near UTC and La Jolla raises residents’ ire

Solana Beach Deputy Mayor Dave Roberts characterized a proposal to build a natural gas-powered generating facility near UTC as “1970’s technology.” Pat Sherman photos

View the city’s report on the Capital Power Corporation project and its related analysis by clicking here.

By Pat Sherman

A proposal by a Canadian power company to build a gas-powered generating station just east of I-805 between Miramar Road and Nobel Drive has angered nearby residents and business owners who don’t want it in their community.

“I don’t know how the city even got this far to even consider this,” said Elisa Parker, a resident of UTC’s Renaissance community, speaking to representatives from Capital Power Corporation during an emergency meeting June 25 at UTC Mall’s Forum Hall. The meeting was called to address residents’ concerns about the project, which has expanded in scope since the city accepted the company’s request for proposal (RFP) in 2010.

“Are you aware that a Navy jet crashed into a house a few years ago (in this area)?” Parker asked. “Jets fly over here all the time, off-course. There’s no guarantee they’re not going to fly over your plant and crash.”

Parker said she also is concerned about the effect the plant could have on real estate values.

“If anyone wants to sell their house, this has to be disclosed, and that will bring our property values down,” she said.

UTC resident Ariane Jansma-Jones said particulate matter spewing forth from the proposed power plant would pose health risks to local residents.

The city issued an RFP two years ago, looking for power companies interested in adding to San Diego’s energy supply.

For Capital Power, the 50-acre site just west of MCAS Miramar was prime, with existing infrastructure to support its operations, including a high-pressure natural gas line to tap into and the North City Water Reclamation Plant, which would provide low-cost water for its cooling systems.

District 1 City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner noted that earlier in the day Capital Power asked that the issue not proceed to the November ballot, as previously scheduled, and that it be withdrawn from consideration by the city council’s Rules Committee on June 27.

Because the power plant would be located on Pueblo lands, voters will have the final say as to whether a sale or long-term lease will be approved.

“Rather than have this matter proceed to a city-wide vote in November 2012, our preference would be to begin the public engagement process now, in collaboration with the city, with a view to bringing this item forward in a future election once sufficient engagement has take place,” wrote Capital Power’s business development director, Patricio Fuenzalida, in a June 25 letter to Mayor Jerry Sanders.

Fuenzalida and other representatives from Capital Power were on hand during the meeting to offer information about the project and answer questions.

“We did our homework … and identified a need for additional (power) capacity in the 2018 range,” Fuenzalida told those in attendance. “If the economy recovers, there’s going to be an increment in the demand for power generation.”

Addressing the more than 200 people assembled for the meeting, which was organized by the University Community Planning Group, Lightner noted her opposition to the project at its proposed location.

“While I appreciate Capital Power’s willingness to be here and begin a real conversation with the community, it is the wrong site for so many different reasons,” she said. “The location is just 2,000 feet away from a dense residential neighborhood, as well as such important community assets as the Nobel Rec Center and library. Congregation Beth Israel is just a half a mile away and University City High School is three quarters of a mile away. Marine Corps Air Station Miramar has expressed concerns about the impact of the power plant’s thermal plume on their aircraft.”

Lightner said the plant, which could generate as much as 850 megawatts, would also have deleterious effects on local business and the proposed site, which includes vernal pools and other environmentally sensitive habitat.

University Community Planning Group Chair Janay Kruger said that when Capital Power first came before her group, the project was “much smaller” in scope.

“We’ve received hundreds of emails and phone calls outraged over the secrecy of this … and over the size and location of this,” she said.

Russ Gibbon, head of business development for mayor’s office, said the project was kept under wraps to avoid compromising the negotiating process between the city and Capital Power.

Russ Gibbon, head of business development for mayor’s office, characterized Capital Power Corporation as “pretty tough negotiators. We were haggling over details of indemnification and those sorts of things right up until a week ago,” he said.

“They were selected primarily because they provided a larger project with more public benefits in terms of the tax revenue, more jobs, more potential beneficial reuse of reclaimed water,” Gibbon said, noting that the negotiations had been finalized only a week prior.

“For all of you who were wondering, well, why is this being done in secret? It’s common practice for all government agencies and all corporations I know of to negotiate with confidentiality so that neither side loses its leverage with respect to the other party.”

Gibbon said required environmental studies, financing, zoning amendments and approval from the California Public Utilities Commission and other regulatory bodies could not proceed until voters approved the project. The company would then have 10 years to secure all other required approval, permits and financing, he said.

“There will be many public hearings and workshops at the energy commission, the Public Utilities Commission, city council and planning commission before the first shovel hits the dirt,” Gibbon said.

Should the company decide to leave San Diego at some point, he said, they would be required to post a bond giving the city money to demolish the plant.

“It’s not like it would be one of those situations like in Carlsbad or Chula Vista where the company kind of walks away and just leaves the facility sitting there collecting dust,” Gibbon said.

Addressing the crowd, Solana Beach Deputy Mayor Dave Roberts, who is running for a seat on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, said the University Community Planning Group should ask the city council why it would consider such a project in 2012, deeming it 1970s technology.

“The County of San Diego is looking at a new initiative to set up an alternative utility company, so that we never have to build natural gas plants like this,” Roberts said. “We don’t need to put projects like this in our neighborhoods destroying our quality of life and our home values.”

Fuenzalida said the plant would be “one of the cleanest sources of conventional energy generation in the world,” operating about 50 percent of the year, “when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing.”

“It’s not our intention to displace renewables,” he said.

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  3. Election 2012: City Council District 1
  4. Incumbent La Jolla city council rep challenged for seat
  5. Election 2012: Who is Lori Saldaña?

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Posted by Pat Sherman on Jun 29, 2012. Filed under Featured Story, La Jolla, News, Region. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

3 Comments for “Proposed power plant near UTC and La Jolla raises residents’ ire”

  1. Deborah Knight

    This is a bad project in a bad location pursued for years by a few members of the Mayor's staff without the knowledge of the public or the City Council. In 1997, the City Council committed to preserve this 50 acres of land in perpetuity as part of the MHPA, an agreement with state and federal wildlife agencies to protect habitat for a number of plant and animal species. The goal is to preserve a network of open space land rather than isolated pockets. This 50 acres is part of a greenbelt of open space in Rose Canyon stretching from just east of I-805 to the 52. As an urban nature preserve, this greenbelt is the most valuable land in the Golden Triangle, as it is the last vestiges of what most of the area was like a mere 40 years ago. Every time you pave over another portion of it, you reduce the value of what remains. The Rose Creek greenbelt is also a refuge for people to escape the surrounding world of concrete. Over 4,000 students, who come from all over the city, attend school within walking distance of this greenbelt, and Friends of Rose Canyon brings hundreds of them a year to explore and study nature. And this greenbelt is part of the Rose Creek watershed, which drains into Mission Bay – protect the watershed, and you help protect the water quality of Mission Bay.

  2. Liz

    Thanks for covering this very important issue. As far as I can tell you are the only news source in San Diego covering this.
    I am very much opposed to putting this type of facility so near schools and homes.

  3. Angela

    Hello fellow passionate community members.
    If you wish to consolidate efforts to PERMANENTLY abolish this proposition PLEASE like the petition on Facebook. By liking the petition you are agreeing to stop progress on this plan. Also, please spread the word by "sharing" the page on Facebook or simply inviting your friends to join.

    Thank you,
    -A University City Resident

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