South Bay Substation Clears Hurdle With CPUC

To the cheers of an estimated 7,000 people, and after decades of trying to get the South Bay Power Plant decommissioned and removed, a series of blasts caused the colossal creature to come tumbling down.

That was back in early February.

Civic leaders touted the occasion as the dawning of a new day for one of the last pieces of undeveloped coastline in California.

No longer would Chula Vistans have to look out into the ocean through the lattice screen of a 53-year old gas-fire power plant.

But what wasn't even whispered about that day, were plans for a new substation with a 83-foot telecommunications tower and 68-feet tall transmission lines just a quarter mile south, along the coastline.

"I haven't heard anything about it," says Ernesto Vargas, a Chula Vista resident. His reaction echoed many with whom NBC7 Investigates spoke in southwest Chula Vista on Wednesday.

So far, the City of Chula Vista has not held a public meeting to inform the neighborhood about the new substation, set to be online in about two years.

A 2004 agreement between Chula Vista and San Diego Gas & Electric states the transmission lines will go underground.

"They broke that promise. They broke that promise to the City of Chula Vista and they broke that promise to the residents of southwest Chula Vista," said attorney John Moot. Moot represents business owners located across from the proposed site. 

Moot says his clients will be happy if the lines are placed underground, so as not to be such an eyesore on the coastline.

"Sure, people are going to be upset that there's a substation on the bay front. The reality is we need electricity. But, we don't have to build it this way," Moot said.

SDG&E Spokeswoman Stephanie Donovan says there is broad support for the project. And that the concerns of one person shouldn't outweigh the best interests of an entire community.

"All of this has been hashed out through the public utility commission's process and, in fact, the commission said in its proposed decision, 'We do not see the need for any further enhancements. There's nothing you can do that you haven't already done, SDG&E, that would make this project even better," Donovan said.

Donovan says transmission lines will be underground on the north side of the bay front where the city has plans for a hotel and condos.

However, some on the south side won't be underground, as originally planned. 

"For less than a mile's worth of undergrounding, of those high voltage cables, it could cost anywhere from $15 to 16 million dollars," she said, referring to the work SDG&E already is doing on the north side. "And so when other proposed undergrounding is suggested or recommended or asked for, the commission really has to take into consideration the benefits to the community and the cost to the customers." 

Last week, the project received draft approval from the California Public Utilities Commission.

Currently, a document on the city's own website tells residents the lines are going underground.

A spokeswoman for Chula Vista declined to comment on this story because the issue was before the City Council in closed session Thursday. 

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