Before the first building permit for residential development or receipt for occupancy for a resort and conference center can be issued for land where Chula Vista’s bayfront power plant used to stand, city officials say an area fire station has to be built, staffed and operational.
The Chula Vista City Council voted last week to pay Pacifica Companies $1.4 million from the city’s general fund reserves for the bayfront property where the station will sit as part of the city’s bayfront master plan.
“Fire protection services need a home on the bayfront before bayfront development can move forward,” Chula Vista Assistant Director of Development Services Eric Crockett said.
A new station would be built at 610 Bay Blvd., which is the current site of Pacifica Trust Bank.
“It won’t be up a day before it has to be because of operational costs,” Crockett said. “We’re conservatively looking at January 2016 that we’d have to have it in service. The next step on this site is to do a (feasibility) study to see if it can be a permanent station.”
The property became available in early October for approximately $2 million, however, the seller reduced the asking price by almost $600,000 two months later and the city made plans to make the purchase.
City staff immediately began working with the Planning Division, Public Works Department, Finance Department, Building Division, City Attorney’s Office and Fire Department to determine the location’s suitability.
Staff recommended the city purchase the property from Pacifica Companies for the price paid including due diligence expenses and closing costs.
Staff also recommended that a new noncapital improvement project be created in the non-departmental budget, used for future improvements to the building, offset by unanticipated revenues.
The city plans to lease the building to current tenant Pacific Trust Bank through March and seek out other tenants as a way to pay for the feasibility study.
The current month-to-month lease with Pacific Trust Bank is anticipated to generate $27,600 in revenue as the tenant estimates termination of tenancy on March 30.
It would cost the city an estimated $3 million per year to have a fully operational permanent fire station at the location, according to a staff report, although a temporary station isn’t required until 2016.
Chula Vista Deputy Fire Chief Justin Gipson said since the fire station will be located on the bayfront there won’t be any problems responding to calls for service in an efficient manner.
“We would benefit right now with a station on the bayfront,” Gipson said. “In the western part of our city we have a high call volume.”
Once fully staffed, residents will see three rigs, each with a fire engine, fire truck and a heavy rescue vehicle.
At this time, Gipson estimates that fire personnel will total 33, with 11 working on each rig, manned with captains, engineers and fire fighters.
In addition, Gipson said staffing would be a mix of current fire personnel pulled from other stations as well as new hires.
Gipson said the department is looking forward to the new station.
“We’re looking forward to it from the standpoint of when construction starts happening and we get our fire station in, then we can serve both the transient and permanent population,” he said.
Gipson said the bayfront master plan’s residential and commercial mix along the bayfront presents unique issues to the fire department.
“What we anticipate is high-density development with high rise structures,” he said. “Anytime you have a vertical building that’s more than three stories, it potentially creates unique challenges. That’s why we’ll have a ladder truck out there. In this case we’re definitely going to be equipped.”