Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox said today that she opposes building a new power plant on the city’s bay front.

“I want the area open to the public,” Cox said at an 11 a.m. news conference. “Tying up 15 to 20 acres on the bay front for a power plant is neither desirable nor necessary.”

LS Power, a private New Jersey-based company, is proposing to replace the existing South Bay Power Plant with a more efficient plant that would create enough energy to power about 600,000 homes.

The Unified Port of San Diego owns the power plant and the land on which it sits. LS Power operates the plant through a lease it holds from the port district. The power company is seeking a new 30-year lease with two five-year options from the port district.

Cox said the plant should be decommissioned and demolished, and another energy source should be sought off the bay front — but within Chula Vista. This should happen by 2009, she said.

Building a smaller plant to meet peak electricity demand would help the city retain approximately $2 million in annual property taxes and utility fees, Cox said. That’s less than the $7.5 million to $9 million the city would receive if LS Power built the bay-front plant, Cox said.

Getting rid of the power plant is one key to freeing up one parcel of land that the city is considering as a potential Chargers stadium site. Several Chula Vista sites are in play, both inland and on the bay front, including the power plant site — if a new plant isn’t built. Cox, who was elected after negotiations with the football team began, has so far been supportive of the talks.

Cox’s announcement came four days after San Diego Gas & Electric told a joint meeting of Chula Vista City Council and the port’s commissioners that it has no desire to purchase power from a new bay-front plant. Such a contract would be vital to financing the plant’s estimated $400 million construction.

For background, see our coverage of the joint Thursday meeting.

ROB DAVIS

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