South Bay Power Plant Shuts Down

Plant To Stop Producing Power Jan. 1, Demolition To Begin Soon After

Now that 2011 has arrived in San Diego County, the South Bay Power Plant has stopped producing power.

The 50-year-old plant, which sits on the southern end of Chula Vista's bayfront, will be decommissioned and demolished. During the last few years, the plant has only served as a peaker plant that generates power only when needed.

Environmentalists and political and community leaders have fought hard for the plant's closure. Opponents say the plant's water cooling system pollutes the nearby wetlands, harming plant life and animals. The visuals of the plant also discouraged would-be developers from building on vacant bayfront land.

"Who wants to invest their money next to a significant eyesore?" said Environmental Health Coalition spokeswoman Laura Hunter. "The power plant has represented for half a century environmental degradation, pollution of the community, economic blight."

Demolition of the plant will be a slow, careful process to protect the environment from further damage. Port of San Diego officials said $70 million has already been set aside, but it may not be enough, as no one is sure how contaminated to soil is beneath the plant.

"We don't know how extensive that's going to be. We don't know how much that might cost," said Port of San Diego spokesman Ron Powell. "If we don't have enough money, the Port may be on the hook for this teardown and that means the public's on the hook for it. That's something the Port doesn't want."

Once the plant is removed, it will be replaced with a new park and recreational vehicle area. That will be a large part of a Chula Vista's 550-acre Bayfront Master Plan. The plan will add approximately 1,500 condos, a 2,000-room hotel and resort, three smaller hotels, 238 acres of parks and open space, as well as shopping and restaurants to the city's long neglected waterfront.

Officials said it will take about 20 years to build out. The bayfront is expected to generate $11.5 million in tax revenue every year once construction is complete.

The Port of San Diego hopes demolition and clean up of the plant will be completed by the end of 2012.