Recycled water plant approved in Escondido
By J. Harry Jones| January 12, 2017
large recycled water treatment plant will be built at the
southeast corner of Washington Avenue and Ash Street in Escondido,
despite the protests of dozens of residents and business owners
who argued the project will ruin their neighborhood.
Escondido City Council voted 4-1 Wednesday to approve the
plant, saying its for the greater good of the city.
project will allow already partially treated water to be further
desalinated and piped east, where it will be used mainly to
irrigate 3,000 acres of avocado groves. Perhaps more importantly,
it means the city wont have to spend as much as $500
million to expand a major outfall pipe that takes Escondidos
treated wastewater to the ocean.
location for the plant was chosen months after residents in
another part of town vigorously objected to initial plans
to build the project near their homes. The council ultimately
agreed that site was inappropriate.
decision was cited by some people who attended Wednesdays
council meeting and suggested the city had settled on the
new location because its in a predominately Latino and
less wealthy part of the city. They said the citys refusal
to put out public notices about the project in Spanish was
further proof of discrimination.
Sam Abed and other council members bristled at the suggestion
that race or class played a part in the decision.
you bring up ethnicity, that really rubs me the wrong way,
said Councilman Ed Gallo. This is B.S., plain and simple.
said the earlier location would have seen the plant built
within 10 feet of homes in a strictly residential neighborhood.
why we opposed that. It was absolutely the wrong location,
he said, adding that the Washington and Ash site is primarily
surrounded by commercial uses.
status doesnt have a damn thing to do with it,
John Masson agreed.
has nothing to do with social injustice, he said. We
dont do that crap here!
Olga Diaz who sided with residents and voted against
the plant urged the council to instead consider putting
the project on a 16-acre lot on the western side of town where
the citys public works storage yard now exists. The
council majority has long hoped that site would be developed
into a high-tech business park that could employ a thousand
people at good salaries.
said the Washington and Ash location was inappropriate for
the neighborhood and the the storage lot was a far better
place for an industrial building.
said the storage yard is the most valuable land the city owns
because its next to Interstate 15 and state Route 78
and near the transit center. It would also cost $60 million
to relocate the yard, he said.
fighting the plant included residents of the Springs of Escondido
retirement home, who say theyre worried about noise
and health risks.
retirement home sits just to the east of the city-owned 4-acre
lot. About 20 of the 100 apartments in the three-story building
will overlook the plant which will be built about 150 feet
away. Several residents told the council the noise of construction
would disrupt their already fragile lives since many residents
have health problems. They also said they were concerned about
the chemicals that will be stored and used in the process,
even though the city has assured them they pose no threat.
Everett DeLano, representing the Springs owner, Holiday
Retirement Corp., filed a lawsuit earlier Tuesday accusing
the city of violating the Public Records Act by not providing
documentation showing how they determined the site was the
only viable location for the plant.
also said the environmental assessment of the property made
by the city is incomplete because it is likely that at some
point in the future the plant will be expanded to turn recycled
water into drinking water and that component of the long-term
plans should also have been analyzed.
owner of the nearby Washington Square Shopping Center also
urged the council to reject the project, saying an industrial
plant at that site wouldnt bring new customers to the
assumed business would benefit some day by other businesses
or residential being built next door, shopping center
owner Steve Dixon said. An industrial property will
decrease the surrounding property values.
Mike Morasco countered, saying having a vacant, muddy, weed-filled
lot sitting there for decade after decade after decade
certainly hasnt done much for property values.
Manager Graham Mitchell said Thursday that, barring legal
complications, construction should begin by this fall and
be completed by the end of 2018.
760/529-4931; Twitter: @jharryjones