By Miriam Raftery and Jonathan Goetz
Photo, left: Chairman Preston Brown
February 2, 2023 (Jamul) – Multiple agenda items on the Jamul-Dulzura Community Planning Group meeting on January 24 shared a common theme: lack of empowerment of backcountry communities over decisions ranging from big energy projects to transportation and major land use projects. One planner commented, “We’re getting used to being treated like a forgotten stepchild” by the County.
County decarbonization plan could expedite big energy projects
In recent years, rural planning groups have often voted against massive wind and solar projects in backcountry communities, but have sometimes been overridden by Supervisors approving such projects anyway. That situation may soon get worse, warned Bill Powers with the Protect Our Communities Foundation.
He asked members of the JCPG to send a letter to the county opposing its proposed Decarbonization Framework unless modified. Powers said the framework, if adopted, could result in waivers of environmental permits and expediting of massive wind and solar projects in the backcountry. Powers says rooftop and parking lot solar is the least costly approach, without the need for added transmission lines across the backcountry.
So why is the county report pushing big energy projects in remote areas? Powers suggests a conflict of interest.
The coauthor of the county’s decarbonization framework “is also coauthor of SDG&E’s decarbonization plan, which is heavy on remote solar and wind,” as well as more transmission lines, he revealed. “This is the SDG&E plan with a county logo.”
Powers explained that now that many communities are switching to alternatives to SDG&E to purchase power through community choice aggregates, but which still rely on transmission lines maintained by SDG&E, “SDG&E makes its best money building transmission lines.” He warned, “Follow the money….the financial motivations of SDG&E are in conflict with what’s best for the customers.”
View Powers' comments to Supervisors on the Decarbonization Framework.
Chairman Brown voiced support for Powers’ request, adding, “There’s been a lot of tension around these projects. We need to kick the tires more, not waive or expedite them.”
Photo, right: Wind turbines on Campo reservation
The Protect Our Communities has pushed back against big energy projects in the backcountry, sometimes with legal actions, and was successful in keeping Sunrise Powerlink transmission lines out of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Powers noted that a large-scale solar project approved by Supervisors in Jacumba has not yet broken ground. He voiced concern that if the Decarbonization Framework is approved without changes, it could enable “greenlighting projects of unlimited size.”
The JCPG will hold a future discussion on the matter.
The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is controlled by a weighted vote in which San Diego and Chula Vista can outvote other cities across the region—and backcountry voices are largely excluded on issues such as transportation priorities and a controversial mileage tax proposal.
Seeking to bring equity to the unincorporated areas, Robin Joy Maxson, chair of the Ramona Community Planning Group, has proposed adding a new advisory member to SANDAG. That member would be from one of the 28 elected community planning group chairs and appointed community sponsor group chairs.
The JCPG will send a letter to SANDAG in support of Maxson’s proposal.
Jamul Casino expansion
The Community Planning Group has previously raised objections to Jamul Indian Village’s plans to add a high-rise hotel and event center to the existing casino, asking the tribe to choose the “no project” option due to concerns over traffic, noise, environmental impacts on nearby wildlife preserves, and more. But community planning groups are only advisory, and even the county has limited ability to affect projects on tribal lands. The JCPG also sent a letter asking Supervisors to participate in negotiations wth the tribe regarding the project.
Brown stated that the next step is for the planning group’s subcommittee on the proposed casino site expansion to request a meeting with Nora Vargas, the new Chair of the County Board of Supervisors, or with her chief of staff. He indicated that he’s spoken with former Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who has offered advice on how to approach Supervisors.
Capitol improvement priorities
Every five years, the County’s Department of Public Works asks planning groups to prioritize Capitol improvements desired, such as roadway improvements. James Bolz, project manager, discussed the priorities list.
One planner asked why a guardrail hasn’t been put up on a “dead man’s curve” on Lyons Valley Road where accidents including a fatality have occurred. Bolz said initially this project was to be funded with casino mitigation funds, but that the Jamul tribe asked for funds to be used instead to make the Otay Lakes intersection safer. Bolz promised to bring this project to the Director of Public Works’ attention in his upcoming report and try to find funding for it. Others asked for help to clean up section of Lawson Valley Road and Skyline Truck Trail that had rocks and debris obstructing roadways after the recent rain.
Code enforcement complaint
A code enforcement complaint has been opened against a property at 3025 Jamul Highlands Road for over 30 cars including some that are buried, as well as trash, golf carts for sale, shipping containers, and other issues creating a junky appearance.
Election of officers
The board elected Kevin May to serve as its new chairman, Dan Neirinckx as Vice Chair, and Preston Brown Secretary.
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