The relocation of Chula Vista’s proposed substation to a Bay Boulevard site is one step closer to reality, after San Diego Gas and Electric was awarded a permit to construct by the California Public Utilities Commission.
The commission on Oct. 17 unanimously approved the plans of San Diego Gas & Electric and the city of Chula Vista for the relocation of the substation.
The final step is SDG&E obtaining approval for a permit from the Coastal Commission, a commission on which County Supervisor Greg Cox serves.
John Moot, a commercial and business attorney representing the Berg family, on numerous occasions has asked the Chula Vista City Council to enforce a signed 2004 memorandum of understanding and to construct a much lower profiled substation.
The MOU specifically details undergrounding of the entire project.
However, not only has the City Council ignored Moot’s request, but California Public Utilities Commissioner Mike Florio sided with the city during last week’s meeting as well.
“I agree with the environmental impact report and support the proposed decision’s findings that the project proposed by SDG&E is the environmentally superior project and that the commission should grant SDG&E a permit to construct this project,” Florio said at the Oct. 17 meeting in Redding.
SDG&E’s proposal included the construction of a 9.7-acre substation on a 12.42-acre parcel with 230 kV lines and equipment. More than 8,900 feet of the power lines will be undergrounded, and it will remove five of seven lattice steel towers.
The estimated cost of the project is $140 to $170 million.
Chula Vista councilwoman Patricia Aguilar said she was “disappointed” in the commission’s decision because it did not include the Bayfront Enhancement Fund Alternative. The alternative is a $5 million mitigation proposed by SDG&E in which $2.5 million is used for undergrounding, with another $2 million used for an endowment for the Living Coast Discovery Center and $500,000 going to U.S. Fish and Wildlife.
The California Public Utilities Commission originally had the item on the consent calendar, but it was pulled when Commissioner Mark Ferron had concerns with the current language of the proposed decision.
His concerns were that the proposed decision limited the commission to require mitigation based on a community value affecting the substation.
Ferron agreed with the environmental impact report that showed the 230 kV transmission lines to the new substation would not have created a significant environmental impact, which Inland Industries contested.
The Berg Family, which has owned 20 acres of land across the street from the proposed substation since 1952, owns Inland Industries.
Ferron said despite what the environmental impact report showed, the commission could have ordered a mitigation for the undergrounding of the substation as a community value.
“The trouble with the conclusion of the proposed decision, though, and I’m paraphrasing here, is that California does not only require but actually precludes the commission from opposing less conditions for less than environmental impacts where they are found to be less than significant under California Environmental Quality Act,” Ferron said, according to the meeting transcripts.
Commissioner Ferron went on to say that if City Council had asked for the undergrounding of the 238 kV lines because of a community value, the commission would have probably approved it.
“Because these parties (city of Chula Vista and the Port District) that best represent the Chula Vista community have not advocated undergrounding the 230 kV segment, I recommend that this commission not find a need to modify this project as proposed by Inland Industries,” he told his fellow commissioners at the meeting.
“…as the proposed project is supported by the city of Chula Vista and the Port District there is not a community value basis to require underground the 230 kV.”
Aguilar said she didn’t think the city or SDG&E pushed hard enough to get the undergrounding, based on community values, in its application submitted to the commission in 2010.
Aguilar was not a councilwoman at the time the application was submitted.
Aguilar said she is going to do what she can to convince the Coastal Commission to approve the Bayfront Enhancement Alternative Fund.