First a correction. In my last blog, I referred to the payment of SDGE to Escondido of $20 million over eight years in $200K annual payments—should be twenty years. In another age I was good at math, but that age has long passed—sigh!
I discovered that mistake while looking through the stuff on my hard drive for more information about the Palomar Energy Plant (PEP), and the Escondido Research and Technology Center (ERTC). Perhaps many of you are unaware of the history of the ERTC.
Once upon a time there was a lovely area between Escondido and Harmony Grove called Quail Hills. It was undeveloped chaparral habitat, and, no doubt, home to many California Quail. In 1986, the City of Escondido rezoned the area as industrial. There was a problem. The hills in Quail Hills are mainly composed of granite. Developers declared the area too expensive to develop.
Then in 1999, H.G. Fenton suggested a way of “turning lemons into lemonade,” by turning the granite in Quail Hills into crushed granite for roads and construction. This did not go over well with the neighbors—dust, noise, respiratory illnesses, and a minimal financial return to the City of Escondido pretty much squelched that idea by 2000.
Enter James R. McCann of JRMC Real Estate, Inc., and Sempra Energy Resources, who joined to turn Quail Hills into a business park, in 2001. McCann said “Every project has specific challenges, constraints and opportunities. . .Generally, the successful developers are the ones that can see opportunity where everyone else on some level has been stumped.” http://legacy.utsandiego.com/news/northcounty/20040822-9999-bizparknorth.html After the Enron manipulated power outages of 2000, Californians were less antagonistic to building new power plants. As one neighbor, Steve LoRusso said, “Do I want a power plant in my back yard? No. Would I prefer a power plant to a rock quarry? Yes.” http://legacy.utsandiego.com/news/northcounty/20040822-9999-bizparknorth.html McCann saw an opportunity. When neighbors have been threatened with a rock quarry for 15 years, a power plant that can be built in a year or two seems like a bargain. And so PEP, with its annual addition of 72 tons of nitrogen oxides to the atmosphere came to be.
Not all the neighbors were pleased. One such neighbor to the west of the ERTC construction, noticed and documented the unfiltered water runoff from the ERTC site, into the Escondido Creek watershed in February of 2005. The San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board fined JRMC Real Estate $1.26 million for that pollution. Sometimes, there is a just outcome.
Stone Brewing was the first business to open in the ERTC, in 2005. The PEP began operation in 2006. Then, of course, came the new Palomar Hospital. Another story for another blog, I will remind you then about the granite in them there Quail Hills.