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The city of Carlsbad and SDG&E are still looking for a new site for the utility company's North Coast Service Center. Photo by Steve Puterski
The city of Carlsbad and SDG&E are still looking for a new site for the utility company's North Coast Service Center. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Carlsbad, SDG&E narrow possible sites for service center

CARLSBAD — The Carlsbad City Council has withdrawn a site from consideration as a possible new destination for San Diego Gas & Electric’s North Coast Service Center during its Nov. 15 meeting.

The council voted to removed Lot 11, a roughly 20-acre parcel on SDG&E’s property located several hundred yards east of the Carlsbad Strawberry Company’s farmland along Cannon Road.

Deputy City Manager Gary Barberio said the site was removed from consideration for several reasons, including environmental concerns, land use compatibility, timing, cost concerns and difficulty obtaining necessary permits.

“Currently, the open space zoned does not allow for operations centers,” Barberio said. “It may involve another vote of the people to remove the property from open space. If you remove open space, you have to make up that acreage in kind.”

The issue of finding a new destination for the energy utility’s North County service center stems from a 2014 agreement between the city, SDG&E and NRG Energy, which negotiated terms to demolish the Encina Power Station, construct a 632-megawatt natural gas peaker plant (Carlsbad Energy Center), and relocate SDG&E’s North Coast Service Center, which is used for fleet maintenance, repairs, emergency services and training.

The SDG&E’s service center is currently located on Carlsbad Boulevard and Cannon Road.

The original agreement stipulates the new service center must be situated west of El Camino Real with good freeway access. The parcel must be 10 to 12 acres and relatively flat to allow for a new 30,000 to 32,000-square-foot building.

NRG would pay the city $10 million if unable to relocate the center, per the agreement. All three parties were responsible for agreeing upon a final location for the new service center by 2016.

The agreement also included a stipulation for NRG to pay SDG&E $22 million to cover construction costs for a new center if a suitable site was found. In a previous report to the council, Barberio said the $22 million projections were exceeded in 2019, thus leaving all three parties continuing negotiations.

Also, part of the deal is the city would take control over at least 10 acres on the west side of the current property, along with several acres on the north shore of Agua Hedionda Lagoon.

“Absent some 12- to 16-acre piece of land coming out of nowhere, I think the relocation on-site is the only feasible alternative left,” Barberio said. “I feel confident we can structure an agreement with the three parties.”

Brittany Applestein Syz, director of environmental services at SDG&E, said the parties are looking at keeping the service center on the same property but back against the railroad tracks and north along the SDG&E’s switch station.

Joe Gabalda, SDG&E’s public affairs manager, said the service center must be centrally located to serve coastal communities and engage in emergency response.

Syz said any relocation or reconfiguration comes with intense regulatory requirements and approval from the California Public Utilities Commission.

“We recognize that the council, staff and community may be frustrated,” she said. “This relocation involves a complex regulatory transaction. Our experience has shown the more diligence we can apply to this study … that it’s going to help us prepare a strong and thorough application.”