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The stage is set for bayfront development Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Dec 25 2010 12:00 PM

The South Bay power plant will be switched off on New Year's Eve.

The South Bay power plant, which has long been considered by Chula Vista residents as a hindrance to bayfront development, was determined to be unnecessary in October.

In May, the San Diego Port Commissioners approved the master plan for the city, with a key element resting with the land exchange between Pacifica and the Port District.

Two weeks ago, the California State Lands Commission approved the land exchange agreement, moving the development of the Chula Vista bayfront one step closer to development.

"This is the next to the last hurdle in a long and methodical process to have the master plan considered by the California coastal commission in 2011," Mayor Cheryl Cox said.

Port commissioners approved the land swap of 35 acres controlled by the San Diego Port District for 97 acres of land controlled by Pacifica Companies.

"The 550-acres will benefit residents and visitors," Cox said. "It's an economic catalyst that will give people access to a waterfront that they haven't had for years."

Dynegy Inc. will demobilize the plant, cutting the cables that supply fuel from SDG&E.

The plant will take a few years to come down, after going through a process of demolition, removal and remediation, said Cox. "If there's been contamination to the land and or water, it will need to be addressed."

City officials said the end of the power plant means the beginning of economic development for the city.

Chula Vista city councilman Steve Castaneda said it was a long and winding road to get to that point and now the city is even closer to seeing plans that will beautify this part of the city. "I've always thought the last pillar holding the bayfront back was the power plant and now it's been put out of it's misery," he said in October.

Mayor Cheryl Cox said the bayfront master plan has the potential to bring thousands of new jobs to the South Bay and millions of dollars in annual revenue.

Spokeswoman for the Environmental Health Coalition, Laura Hunter said she credits the willingness of Pacifica to listen and work in good faith with the public.

"The plan is a testament to the success that communities can have when people work together," she said in a press release.

Hunter said this agreement will protect the environment, increase public access and provide good jobs and economic development.

In addition to the land trade, Pacifica will contribute $3 million for infrastructure improvements within Chula Vista's bayfront, including an estimated $7 million from residential unit sales into a community benefits fund for environmental, sustainable energy, affordable housing and other community purposes.

The master plan protects 100 acres of the Sweetwater District from high-rise development, removing all residential development from the lands adjacent to the Sweetwater Marsh and South San Diego Bay Refuges, which is a top priority for the community and environmental groups.

The coastal commission's approval is estimated to occur between summer and fall.

"Now it's a waiting game," Cox said.

The Chula Vista bayfront master plan was initiated in 2002 and is an effort of the Port, Pacifica Companies and the city of Chula Vista. Its goal is to create a world-class bayfront that includes a resort hotel and conference center, housing, commercial and office development, parks, habitat preserves, recreation areas, retail shops, cultural facilities and maritime uses.

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