Battle over proposed SDG&E substation

Opponents say new substation is too big

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - A battle is brewing over a proposed San Diego Gas & Electric substation in Chula Vista that some say is too big and could be illegal.

"This community deserves better," said former Chula Vista Mayor Steve Padilla, who's worried about the proposed substation.

SDG&E is looking to replace the substation that currently sits on the Chula Vista bayfront. The South Bay Power Plant used to be its neighbor, and SDG&E agreed to move the substation after the power plant was imploded earlier this year.

Chula Vista, the Port of San Diego and SDG&E agreed to move the substation less than a mile south, just outside the footprint of the city's ambitious Bayfront Master Plan.

"The problem that I have is that the design that is being proposed just happens to violate Chula Vista's local coastal plan," said Padilla.

Padilla represents Inland Industries, which owns the property closest to the proposed substation site. He said his clients are upset because the proposed design is too big. Padilla said two tall towers and the power lines need to go underground, and he argued the city and SDG&E agreed to those standards in a 2004 Memorandum of Understanding.

"It's an issue of upholding the rules and making people keep their promises," he said.

"Ultimately, we'd love to see all of that undergrounded," said Chula Vista Deputy City Manager Gary Halbert.

However, Halbert said the money isn't there. He told 10News the city already had to borrow $7 million to underground the power lines within the Bayfront Master Plan footprint.

Halbert and SDG&E said the opponents to the new substation are reading the rules differently.

"It's semantics with the MOU," said Halbert.

SDG&E told 10News the Public Utilities Commission staff has recommended that the plan be approved.

Halbert agreed Chula Vista would like the two towers to be replaced by smaller ones. Otherwise, he said the plan works for Chula Vista "if it includes the enhancements, so that's why we're continuing that aggressive push."

"The question is: What kind of substation is going to be built down there?" argued Padilla.

The issue could be decided later this month when the Public Utilities Commission votes on the final plan.

In the meantime, one Chula Vista City Councilmember will ask the council to discuss the MOU between the city and SDG&E next month.

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