Escondido Mayor, and San Diego County District 3 Supervisor candidate Sam Abed may have gone to his 11th Town Hall meeting looking for a boost Wednesday. All he apparently got was a lengthy brow-beating and not even a lousy T-shirt.
Who knows what the Republican mayor believed would come out of this exercise in listening to his constituents. A room packed with residents from the Chaparral development near Dixon Lake threw the recycled water plant slated for their neighborhood in his face for about 40 minutes.
Residents grilled the mayor over a conditional use permit being considered by the city council— and opposed by the city Planning Commission — to build a recycled water treatment plant between E Washington and Citrus avenues and El Norte Parkway.
While some may have conflated recycled water with water treated for direct sewage, they weren’t that far from the heart of the matter. The proposed plant would add treatment layers to water treated for sewage sent ver from the city’s Hale Avenue Recovery Facility station.
Three underground storage tanks will be placed to serve the proposed facility. A six-foot wall and decorative fencing will also be erected around the tanks.
Plans call for a 90,000-gallon feeder, 163,000-gallon inter-processer and storage for 970,000 gallons on the 3.25-acre site. A 1,500-kilowatt backup generator will be installed. .
The new plant would use membrane filtration and reverse osmosis to produce up to two million gallons of water per day.
Margaret McCown Liles, as is her bent. covered the meeting for her A Blue View for Escondido. Thanks to her kind efforts, The Grapevine provides this account.
— Dan Weisman
As I waited for tonight’s “Town Hall Meeting” for Mayor Sam Abed to begin, I began to understand that this would not be an easy night for him. Most of the people in the audience were there to protest the possibility of the City Council passing a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) that would allow the City to build two buildings for a facility that would further treat the recycled water produced by the Hale Avenue Resource Recovery Facility (HAARF). Don’t you just love this euphemism for a sewer plant?
The proposed new facility would occupy two buildings to be built on the 3.25 acre property the city owns that is on the north side of East Washington Ave., the south side of El Norte Parkway, and west of the intersection of Washington and El Norte, and east of Citrus Avenue.
If that description sounds confusing, I agree—it’s what the city has used. It makes more sense if you look at a map. Pretty much, it’s in the middle of the Chaparral housing development—and the Chaparral folks were there to complain, as they had done successfully when the Escondido Planning Commission had considered the matter on April 26.
This link provides minutes of the Planning Commission meetings where the proposal was shot down, at least until City Council members got to it: https://www.escondido.org/Data/Sites/1/media/minutes/PC/PCMinutes042616.pdf
The Chaparral resident behind me was sure there was some skullduggery involved. Who initiated this, he asked his neighbor? His theory was that Henry Avocado was the moving force behind the entire project, because “he” would be the only one to benefit.
Wearing an unusual jeans/blue blazer/plaid shirt combination, Abed began the meeting with his usual “isn’t Escondido wonderful now that I’m in charge” video. He then proceeded to hammer home the video’s message with his own. He spoke of his budget balancing, cautioning the audience not to believe everything they read in the paper, no doubt referring to Joshua Stewart’s column found at http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2016/may/14/supervisors-tell-three-fibs-campaign/ .
Abed, once again, blamed the state for the increase in the crime rate due to AB109. He ended with a quote from Ronald Reagan. No surprises there.
Then began the main event, Abed v. Chaparral neighbors. They were not happy campers.
The first speaker said her home overlooked this new facility. It had already decreased her property values. It would destroy her views and quality of life. She said that most of the audience (nodding to the audience, and most of them responding) were there to protest the placement of an industrial facility in the middle of their residential neighborhood.
Abed responded that any project has to mitigate any impacts it produced. He did not want to go into the details, as the matter would come before the Council. The first speaker responded that she was hearing that the project would go through, and that the three-minute, or less, time allotted to the residents to plead their case was not enough for an 18-page report, considering a protesting petition signed by over 300 residents.
The only way to mitigate this project she said was to put it in an industrial area. It would be impossible to mitigate a 37-foot tower. Abed said he believed there had been a lot of misinformation. No one on the council had made up their mind.
At that point, City Manager Graham Mitchell politely stood, and Abed recognized him. Mitchell said it would not be a good idea to proceed with any further discussion about the project, since that discussion, under the rules of the Brown Act, should take place in a publically noticed meeting—i.e. the May 25 City Council meeting.
But, the Chaparral folks had not come to be silent.
The next speaker said that when she bought her home, they had looked at property near the Hale Avenue facility, and purposely chose not to buy a home close to such a facility. Another noted that if you googled such facilities, it would show that property values decreased. An elderly man worried that the decrease in his property values wouldn’t allow him to sell his home to secure a place in a managed care home.
Then, the neighbor sitting behind me said “who in God’s name would ever consider” such a project. Another suggested that the facility be built by the dog park because the dogs wouldn’t mind. Another asked if it would be possible for the neighbors to present a group presentation rather than individual pleas at the council meeting. Abed was pleased to have something with which he could finally agree.
Three more neighbors, however, couldn’t let sleeping dogs lie. The next speaker noted how Abed had shown a video about the beauties of Escondido, but if the city continued to put industrial buildings next to residential developments, that beauty would go, as would the quality of life.
The next speaker insisted the facility be built where it made sense. Then, the neighbor behind me asked Abed if the city couldn’t afford more water now, what were they doing approving all these new homes.
That gave Abed an opening to go into his yada yada property rights are American rights routine, noting that it would be un-American to deny anyone their right to build on their property if it were within the law. And, the law would not allow a building moratorium until the drought reached level three. The neighbor behind me did not “buy that,” and it was clear the audience was ready to continue the discussion on and on through the night.
Deputy City Attorney Gary McCarthy came to the rescue, basically suggesting that all discussion of the matter should be at a public hearing, not the current venue.
Abed had noticed several young people in the audience, and handed the microphone to one of them, asking him what he wanted for Escondido. Well, the young man said, it would be better not to build industrial buildings in residential areas. With good grace, Abed said he had hoped to change the subject.
The subject did change to the proposed hotel project between the City Hall and the California Center for the Arts. But, that’s for another blog.
(Margaret McCown Liles started blogging about the Escondido City Council following the demise of the North County Times as a public resource. Her blog is at http://ablueviewescondido.com).