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The hunt for a new maintenance yard location, roughly six years past its deadline, stems from a council-approved settlement agreement between the city of Carlsbad, SDG&E and NRG Energy in 2014. Photo by Steve Puterski
The hunt for a new maintenance yard location, roughly six years past its deadline, stems from a council-approved settlement agreement between the city of Carlsbad, SDG&E and NRG Energy in 2014. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Carlsbad, SDG&E to reconvene on service center location

CARLSBAD — Despite being six years overdue, negotiations will continue for at least another month between the city and San Diego Gas & Electric over the relocation of the public utility’s service center.

Deputy City Manager Gary Barberio provided the Carlsbad City Council with an update during its Oct. 11 meeting on the relocation of the utility’s North Coast Service Center on Cannon Road near Carlsbad Boulevard.

After the presentation, the council agreed to table the matter until Nov. 15, allowing the attendance of Mayor Matt Hall, who was absent Tuesday due to a personal matter.

Barberio informed the council that the city and SDG&E had researched building a new center on “Lot 11,” a roughly 20-acre parcel several hundred yards east of the Carlsbad Strawberry Company’s farmland along Cannon Road.

However, SDG&E said the site was not feasible for several reasons, including higher costs for construction and habitat mitigation, challenges with the California Public Utilities Commission and timing. 

NRG Energy officials agreed with SDG&E’s assessment of Lot 11, according to Barberio. 

Instead, 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.

The council directed staff during its July 26 meeting giving an 11-week period to work with SDG&E and NRG to find a suitable alternative location.

“We feel like we’re making progress,” Barberio said. “We think we can get there. There are a lot of challenging issues to get through.”

Councilwoman Teresa Acosta expressed frustration and pleaded with SDG&E and NRG officials to work toward finding a new location off the property.

Acosta said she’s worried the city is the “loser” in the deal and the new proposal diminishes potential public uses as a community gathering space.

The issue 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 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.

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

“Finding available land to relocate is very hard,” Acosta said. “Being right in front of the ocean is not a great use. I think it’s a terrible use for SDG&E. I would like to see it somewhere else. I’m very disappointed and we whittled down all our options to that same piece of land. It seems like the potential of the use of this land is slipping away. Let’s look at the other parties to please step up.”

Barberio said the new proposal is better than $10 million as it would free up 10 acres along Cannon Road and the city would also take ownership of Cannon Park, which is currently leased to the city, along with several acres on the north shore of Agua Hedionda Lagoon.

After the Nov. 15 meeting, the item is scheduled to return to the council on Dec. 13, which is the first meeting for the new council after the Nov. 8 election.

Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel and Acosta said it may be better to push the meeting into 2023 as those potential new council members will not be up to speed on the issue.