Over the objections of Santee residents and some elected officials who represent them, the County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Wednesday to triple the size and inmate population of Las Colinas Women's Detention Facility.
Opponents warned that expanding the jail, built on the eastern side of Santee in the early 1960s, would ruin private property values and stifle the progress of economic development in the city of 56,000.
"You shouldn't build this in any town," Santee City Councilman Jack Dale told board members at a hearing attended by dozens of Santee residents -- among them Elaine Murphy, who said: "No matter how much lipstick you put on this jail, it's still a jail."
The $309 million project calls for creating a new campuslike compound on 45 county-owned acres that include the current 16-acre Las Colinas site.
The new facility, which is scheduled for completion in 2013, would house 1,216 women and a wide variety of in-custody services that the current jail lacks.
Santee city officials, who spent nearly $500,000 on economic studies and public outreach campaigns, are widely expected to bring a legal challenge to the board's approval of the project.
The lone dissenting vote was cast by Supervisor Dianne Jacob, in whose district Santee is located.
"We don't know whether this is the most effective decision, where we're getting the best bang for the buck," Jacob told her colleagues, adding that she sides with residents who suggested building the new facility on county-owned land on Otay Mesa, where a major state prison and men's jail are located.
The board heard complaints describing the project, which will be surrounded with high fencing topped with razor-sharp concertina wire, as "a stockade" and a "knife in the heart of the city."