CARLSBAD — Piece by piece, the Encina Power Station and the iconic smokestack are being erased from public view and sent into the history books.
Now the issue is how the City of Carlsbad, NRG Energy and San Diego Gas & Electric will move forward. During the City Council’s April 20 meeting, the council unanimously approved appropriating $100,000 for city staff to work with those stakeholders, plus Brookfield Properties, to analyze relocating SDG&E’s North Coast Service Center to The Shoppes at Carlsbad.
The $100,000 will be used to hire Kosmont Companies as a consultant to facilitate the public-private partnership. The city and the energy companies are anxious to relocate the service center from its current location at Cannon Road and Carlsbad Boulevard, and to redevelop the power station site.
“SDG&E’s criteria includes within Carlsbad, east of El Camino Real, access to freeways and major arterials, be ‘relatively’ flat and 10-12 acres,” Deputy City Manager Gary Barberio said.
He said the city, NRG and SDG&E signed an agreement on Jan. 14, 2014, to facilitate the decommissioning of the power station, build the Carlsbad Energy Center (a natural gas peaker plant) along with several other provisions. Currently, the city does not own any of the property on-site but has an agreement with SDG&E to manage Cannon Park.
The peaker plant was constructed to replace the old power station and currently sits between the desalination plant and Interstate 5. Also on the property is an SDG&E switch yard, which will remain regardless of the outcome of the new proposed action, Barberio said.
He said the agreement must be a mutually acceptable site but is subject to SDG&E specifics and be cost neutral to ratepayers. NRG will pay SDG&E up to $22.5 million to fund construction of the new center.
Should the proposal be approved, the city will take ownership of 24.5 acres of SDG&E parcels at the current site and must work with NRG on a joint development strategy. Any agreement must be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, Barberio added.
If nothing can be found, NRG must pay the city $10 million, per the settlement, he said. Also, if the proposed project falls through, the city will not take ownership of SDG&E’s parcels, NRG will have a more constrained development site and SDG&E would lose $22.5 million toward a new building, thus forcing SDG&E to build a new center at a cost to ratepayers.
Barberio said the city is exploring the possibility of constructing a seventh fire station to replace the service center and help the city with emergency response times to the Village and other areas.
“The city and SDG&E have explored at least 10 other sites in the city, but none have met SDG&E’s criteria,” he said.
As for The Shoppes at Carlsbad location, NRG, SDG&E and Brookfield Properties all voiced their support.
Ted Lohman, vice president of development with Brookfield Properties, said his company is excited to explore a mix of uses, including housing. Additionally, he said the real estate company is also looking at maximizing transportation opportunities to tie into the Village and former power plant site.
Lohman said Brookfield has already begun discussions with the North County Transit District regarding transportation opportunities.
Also, the relocation of the SDG&E center would push forward Brookfield’s desire to develop housing on-site, too, he said. Barberio said it would push the city forward in meeting its Regional Housing Needs Assessment requirements.
Mark Rohrlick, senior director of real estate for NRG, said the redevelopment process will take years. He said NRG will design plans to mesh with the General Plan and Vision Carlsbad, while working with the city and community on how to best approach the development.
“To some, this action represents the end of an era. To others it represents a new beginning. To NRG, it represents a sustainable future,” Rohrlick said. “Perhaps there is a future where the land can house sustainable development in the form of food, water, energy, aquaculture and green development. This is all at our fingertips. Think of this as the location of Carlsbad’s first eco-village.”