June 18, 2009 (Santee, California) – On Wednesday, June 24, 2009, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors will consider whether to approve the revised draft environmental impact report (EIR) for the expansion of Las Colinas Detention Facility in Santee. Santee Mayor Randy Voepel opposes the expansion, arguing that it is unnecessary and that the jail sits on land that is commercially more valuable for other uses.
The hearing will take place at 9 a.m. at the County Administration Center, located at 1600 Pacific Highway in downtown San Diego, in room 310 of the North Chamber. Those planning to attend are encouraged to arrive early. The meeting is open to the public and citizens are invited to make comments to the Supervisors. Speakers must complete a form when they arrive at the meeting room. Those not able to attend the hearing may express their opinions in writing directly to the Supervisors before the hearing. More information about how to sign up to speak at the hearing or to write the Supervisors can be found at www.nojailexpansion.com.
The City of Santee has issued a 60-page response to the draft EIR detailing alleged legal and technical deficiencies with the County’s revised EIR. The City contends that the County’s project objectives are skewed and narrowly applied so that it appears the proposed expansion of the existing Las Colinas location in Santee is the only viable option to the County’s female inmate needs. Santee is also challenging the accuracy of the County’s numbers when describing the increase in beds from the existing facility to the proposed facility.
“The County is playing a shell game with its numbers,” said Santee Mayor Randy Voepel. “This jail could end up housing twice the number of inmates stated in the EIR. Even at the 1,200 beds stated, this proposed jail would be second only to George Bailey Detention Facility in Otay Mesa in the number of inmates housed. This kind of a facility does not belong in a thriving city center.” Santee is contending that the County has consciously ignored a 1,210-bed privately leased jail facility in East Otay Mesa that is reverting back to County control in phases, which could be a replacement facility for Las Colinas, and at the same required capacity. Additional County-owned sites in East Otay Mesa are at least as suitable as the site in Santee Town Center, and the City has challenged the County to explain why these sites cannot accommodate a female detention facility and benefit from shared infrastructure with neighboring detention facilities.
Santee has further questioned whether using the valuable County land in Santee’s Town Center area is fiscally responsible, particularly when the estimated cost of the jail has risen to $298 million from the $170 million initially estimated. According to a 2007 independent study, the land on which the current Las Colinas facility sits could have been sold for up to $89 million. The City believes that land should be sold by the County and the money put toward a new jail or other needed services. Given that the proposed jail could devalue the County’s own office park property by another $75 million—this represents a $165 million fiscal impact to County coffers.
Las Colinas Detention Facility was originally built in Santee in the 1960s as a juvenile detention facility. In 1977, the facility was converted to an all-women’s jail and currently houses 675 inmates on an average daily basis.