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The San Diego Planning Commission meeting on July 19 is expected to render a determination on Community Plan Amendment Initiation (Project No. 270282) to re-designate a portion of a 22-acre parcel from open space to industrial at the northern border of Mission Trails Regional Park (MTRP) and at the western gateway to the community of Santee, nearest to sport fields and West Hills High School to site a power plant.

The agenda item was previously continued twice from March, to April and to the June 28 hearing date when a 3-2 vote was cast on a motion to deny initiating what could lead to re-designating from open space to industrial. Only five of the seven commissioners were in attendance on June 28 and at least four votes were required for passage of a motion according to the Planning Commission chair. The matter was trailed to July 19 for vote only.

Several organizations and officials have read the writing on the wall and have taken a timely stance in opposition to initiating this amendment and against the power plant project altogether. How could one not, considering this description about the threatened area in the East Elliott Community Plan: “It [East Elliott site] constitutes one of the largest and biologically most important remaining open space areas in San Diego with a number of endangered and threatened wildlife species”?

Kumeyaay Lake Campground at Mission Trails Regional Park, a local favorite camping experience, may get a front-row view and the direct damaging effects of pollutants (from noise, lights, pollutants) of the proposed plant, if built. The campground is closed for overnight camping due to budget restraints until further notice.

Conversely, during this time of belt-tightening, the power plant Goldman Sachs affiliate, Cogentrix Energy, LLC and Sempra/San Diego Gas & Electric are generously sponsoring our San Diego sanctuary via MTRP’s Foundation.

A past president of the East Elliott Property Owners Association, Stephen Goldfarb, who has historical familiarity with the politics of the land involved, submitted his third letter to the Planning Commission on this issue, and, based on the city’s criteria, concludes that, “If the power plant applicant’s proposed amendment is inconsistent with the General Plan and community plan, the Commission must NOT approve initiation of the amendment.”

Excerpts of Goldfarb’s letter:

For the City, this is an issue about location. A power plant belongs in an area zoned for heavy industrial use. The land where the applicant wishes to install its power plant is dedicated to open space conservation, zoned for very low residential use (RS1-8), is close to schools, hospitals and residences, and adjoins Mission Trails Regional Park. The land is in the Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP). The Mission Trails Design District Ordinance controls development in the region close to the park so that development is in conformance to park landscaping. The applicant seeks to amend this area to heavy industrial use. That means changing the East Elliott Community Plan, the Sensitive Land Regulations, zoning, the Mission Trails Design Group Ordinance, and the MSCP.

The problem is exacerbated because the applicant, who had wide latitude where to site its proposed plant, sought out this environmentally conserved area. It now is insisting on the City changing the land’s designation to accommodate the power plant.

The following ten points are covered in Goldfarb’s letter:

1. Three initiation criteria

2. The proposed amendment is inconsistent with the East Elliott Community Plan

3. The proposed amendment conflicts with the General Plan

4. The proposed amendment is inconsistent with the Navajo Community Plan

5. The applicant’s only alternative sites are in East Elliott

6. Is the area “pristine”?

7. The private owners and city-owned land

8. The elephant in the room

9. Can environmental damage caused by siting a large power plant in open space conserved land be mitigated?

10. What is fair to the applicant?

San Diegans are asked to act now and submit statements of opposition to the Planning Commission to safeguard Mission Trails Regional Park from industrial encroachment and also to plan ahead to attend the July 19 Planning Commission hearing at 9 a.m. in the City Council chambers on the 12th floor of the City Administration Building, 202 C Street, in downtown San Diego.

Additional information on this topic is at these websites:

http://www.savemissiontrails.org

http://www.facebook.com/PreserveWildSantee

http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/quailbrush/index.html

http://www.facebook.com/SanteePowerPlant

Theresa McCarthy is a resident of East County and an opponent of the Quail Brush Power Plant project.


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Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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