The Star-News


Council set to hear underground issue

Mon, Sep 30 2013 04:00 PM Posted By: Robert Moreno

The highly contested undergrounding of a proposed substation is heading for a public hearing at Tuesday's Chula Vista City Council meeting.

Former Chula Vista councilman John Moot and ex Chula Vista Mayor Steve Padilla brought the undergrounding issue to light, claiming that both the city and San Diego Gas & Electric are not obeying a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed by then-Mayor Padilla, nearly a decade ago.
 
"I support the relocation of the substation," Padilla said. "What I don't support is the design they are building."

Padilla said the city's current project design does not call for
undergrounding of the entire substation, which he said is a violation of the MOU.

The portion of the  MOU that mentions undergrounding states: "A key objective of the city is to remove all above ground electric lines and associated hardware as described herein and to underground such lines and associated hardware in the area identified in paragraph 1.3 as the Bayfront. The city and SDG&E have agreed to work in concert to achieve that result as set fourth in this MOU."

Padilla, a city council candidate, said he hopes at Tuesday's public hearing that the city does what's in the best interest of the community.

"I hope the city council makes it very clear to the California Public Utilities Commission that the community's values for a new low-profile, state of the art substation does not include overhead power lines."

Moot, a commercial and business attorney, represents the Berg family, who has owned the 20 acres of land across the street from the proposed substation since 1952.
 
The attorney said the Berg family maintains they support transport of the substation to the Bayfront, however, he said  his clients just want the city to live by the terms stated in the MOU.

"We've always been in support of it (moving the substation)," Moot said. "That is a complete red herring thrown out by SDG&E."

SDG&E spokeswoman Jennifer Ramp said the gas and electric company is abiding by the MOU.

"We are not in violation of the proposed project," Ramp said. "We believe our proposed project is in line with the MOU, which includes $23 million worth of undergrounding."

Ramp declined to state how SDG&E is in accordance with the MOU.

In a SDG&E proposal to the California Public Utilities Commission on Aug.6 only 300 feet of the nearly 5,000 foot project won't be undergrounded.
 
The estimated cost of the entire project is roughly $145-175 million, Ramp said.  And that hefty price tag includes the relocation of the substation, putting in new equipment and the undergrounding of the overhead wire.

Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Rindone isn¹t advocating for or against the undergrounding. He said he just wants the Chula Vista's Bayfront to finally come to fruition.

"I want to see the Bayfront project built. That's the bottom line," Rindone said.

Rindone also said having the remaining 300 feet undergrounded could cause a set back in the building of the Bayfront. He said he would like the city to renegotiate the undergrounding of the project at a later date.

Rindone said undergrounding the substation now could jeopardize the Bayfront project.

Council members agreed to a Sept. 10 request by councilwoman Patricia Aguilar for the substation matter to go to a pubic hearing, this is  the first time community members and the city's elected officials have an open dialogue about the issue.

In past council meetings, supporters for the undergrounding have only voiced their opinions in public comment while council members met in closed session.
 
The public hearing was dependent on the California Utilities Commission pushing back their Oct.1 meeting to Oct. 3, which they did.

City Council meeting starts at 2 p.m. with public hearing scheduled for 5 p.m.


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