Community and environmental protection groups including the Sierra Club and Save Mission Trails lauded the results of an over-five-hour San Diego Planning Commission hearing held Thursday, June 28. Commissioners were being asked to begin a process to convert land designated as open space near theMissionTrailsRegionalParkto an industrial site for a fossil fuel burning electric power plant.
The power plant applicant Cogentrix, LLC, a subsidiary of the banking giant Goldman Sachs, has already initiated a process with the California Energy Commission to license a 100 MW plant that would require eleven 100 foot tall smokestacks on lands that have been designated as open space for decades in what is known as the East Elliot Community Plan area north of the park.
Over 150 opponents of the proposed power plant including energy engineer Bill Powers, Santee Councilmember John Minto, health professionals and parents provided testimony as to why the power plant is not necessary to meet San Diego’s energy needs, how it increases greenhouse gas emissions and is a highly inappropriate use for the proposed site. Speakers addressed the damage to multiple species habitat and to destruction of spectacular vistas from nearly every vantage point in Mission Trails park. Commissioners were urged to reject the purported need for the power plant, since its purpose of providing peak power on very hot days could be better met by an expansion of local solar generation on home and business rooftops.
“We do not need to sacrifice the integrity of our precious parkland and open space, nor accelerate climate change in order to meet electrical power needs here in San Diego,” stated Jay Powell, a member of the Sierra Club San Diego “Run with the Sun” campaign. “With local solar generation and energy management we can meet our peak load electric needs and create more sustainable jobs for San Diegans.”
The majority of Commissioners present agreed with power plant opponents that they did not have sufficient evidence to meet the criteria necessary to initiate a process leading to such a radical change in land use. Commissioner Susan Peerson expressed concerns that this kind of non-conforming use would be a foothold for other incompatible industrial uses in an area to be set aside for permanent open space preservation.
Planning Commissioner Stephen Haase, in making the motion to deny the initiation, voiced concerns about the state preempting the City’s local land use review authority. He concluded that with the state in control of the schedule for power plant licensing and environmental review, the City Council needs to look at this issue earlier in the process. Such a review could only happen if the Commissioners deny initiation of the plan amendment and the applicant were to appeal that denial to the City Council.
Three of the five Commissioners present, including Chairman Eric Naslund, supported the motion to not initiate the change in land use; since the rules of the Commission require four votes to pass, the matter was trailed to a July 19 meeting.
Source: San Diego Chapter Sierra Club