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Community News

Santa Teresa Citizen Action Group Update -- April 19, 1999

by Elizabeth Cord - Santa Teresa Citizen Action Group

Santa Teresa Citizen Action Group

Update April 19, 1999

The following issues were discussed at our April 15, 1999 Community Meeting at Santa Teresa High School:


The proposed Metcalf Energy Center, a 600-megawatt power plant at the base of Tulare Hill, would be located off Monterey Highway near Metcalf Road, (see map) about 1 mile from the intersection of Santa Teresa Boulevard and Bernal. Calpine would be the operator of the proposed plant.

The proposed 600-megawatt power plant may be a good project, if it were to be sited in a different location. The proposed location is too close to existing neighborhoods and could also impact the City's plans for the Coyote Valley area.

The 186 tons of nitrogen oxide that the proposed plant would emit into our air is unacceptable for a residential area. The fact that we already emit many tons of nitrogen oxide into the air throughout the County, mostly from cars, is exactly why we don't need any more. Our city planning recognizes the need to separate industrial uses from residential areas, which is why the Tulare Hill location is not currently zoned for any heavy industrial use. The proposed power plant should be built in an industrial area, not near homes or the planned Coyote Valley campus research-office area.

The Calpine Gilroy power plant (located on Pacheco Pass next to Gilroy Foods) is very noisy (like an airplane engine going 24 hours a day), emits a steam plume visible for many miles around, and vibrates, besides being extremely unsightly. The plant proposed for our neighborhood is reportedly a newer technology. How do we know it won't have the same or similar problems? We are told that there is no plant for us to view which is similar to the one being proposed. Is this plant experimental? Experimental or not, once the plant is built, if problems do develop, it will be too late. Our neighborhood has already endured the Fairchild disaster. Were the neighbors of Three Mile Island told it would be totally new technology, clean and safe? Calpine didn't operate Three Mile Island; however, heavy industrial uses have risks and dangers which do not belong in neighborhoods.

The Gannon Power Plant in Tampa, Florida, exploded last week (4/8/99) killing 2 and injuring 49. Debris, wood and rubble showered the area for blocks around the power plant. Although the Tampa plant was a coal-burning plant, and the proposed Metcalf Energy Center would be a gas-burning plant, the Tampa situation still serves to illustrate why industrial uses should not be located in neighborhoods. The explosion in Tampa was believed to be caused by leaking gas.

The two 130-foot tall smokestacks will be sited behind a hill. However, they will be visible from Monterey Highway, from homes in the Monterey Highway area, from the new homes at Basking Ridge and Creekside (east of 101 at Bernal), and from Bailey Avenue, which is slated to be the new on/off ramp to 101.

People who want to live near industrial uses have opportunities to do so, for instance in Martinez and Moss Landing. We did not buy homes next to an industrial park, and don't want our local property values to decline if one is allowed to be superimposed on our pre-existing family neighborhood. If it doesn't bother you, it might bother a potential buyer for your home in the future. The proposed power plant will, we understand, boil recycled wastewater. The question of odor arises. Whatever the plant emits in terms of NOx, carbon monoxide, odor, or anything else, would impact our neighborhood.

The Coyote Valley area, which is now mostly farmland around Santa Teresa Blvd and Bailey Avenue, has been reserved for many years for the time when it will become a premiere campus research office park area. The City of San Jose needs this area for the jobs, and housing to be located there, and the future tax revenue it will generate. The City General Plan and zoning requirements for North Coyote call for a much higher standard than exists elsewhere in the City. More landscaping, more open space, height restrictions (90 feet), and more natural beauty are planned for the North Coyote area. The idea is to attract the very top, world class corporate user to the area. Cisco Systems has announced that they are looking at the area as a possible site for their world headquarters. The proposed power plant would be located adjacent to the proposed Cisco Systems site.

If the power plant goes in first, as planned, the tone for the as-yet undeveloped area will be set at heavy industrial. Will great, beautiful campuses follow? Or will Cisco go to North Carolina, which has been trying to attract them? Losing Cisco would negatively impact the City, and could set back the long-anticipated plans for Coyote for years, maybe forever. Businesses which prefer to locate near heavy industry are usually more heavy industry. The pristine beauty of Coyote, the unique opportunity to develop a beautiful campus research office park, could be lost forever, along with the potential for jobs and tax revenue associated with such a premiere, world class, garden spot type of use. Major landowners in the Coyote area share our concerns.

The benefit to the locality is negligible. The power generated by the proposed plant would not in any way be dedicated to San Jose or South San Jose. It would become part of the western power grid and be allocated by the ISO in Fulsom to wherever it is needed. Our rates would be no different from rates in neighborhoods which don't have power plants. The power plant would provide temporary construction jobs (which would be provided wherever the plant is eventually built), but would, when complete, only provide jobs for 20 -30 employees, about the same number a Taco Bell employs.

We don't want the power plant built in our backyard. We don't advocate that it be built in anyone's backyard. We suggest that Calpine find a location which is already zoned for industrial uses and is not in anyone's backyard.

Although we don't advocate any alternate site as yet, several come to mind. Since the proposed power plant needs to use gas from the existing natural gas pipeline which is located on the east side of 101, perhaps a site in the east hills would be better. This would eliminate the need to tunnel under 101 and Coyote Creek, which could disrupt the fragile creek and wetland ecosystem there. Members of the Santa Teresa Citizen Action Group asked Mr. Robert Hepple, Director of Projects for Calpine, if they had considered a site over there. He said it was a non-starter because there might be checkerspot butterflies over there. We congratulate Calpine on their concern for checkerspot butterflies; we expect Calpine to give at least as much consideration to the people who live in the Santa Teresa neighborhood, near the proposed Tulare Hill site.

Perhaps the proposed power plant could be built next to the existing Calpine Gilroy power plant. If the new power plant is cleaner, more efficient, quieter, etc., as Calpine suggests it will be, maybe Calpine could demonstrate their commitment to our air quality by taking the old plant offline and replacing it with the newer, more efficient one.

Maybe they could buy the old power plant at Moss Landing, in an area already zoned for industrial use, and build a power plant there. Members of the Santa Teresa Citizen Action Group also specifically asked that question of Mr. Hepple of Calpine. He told us that it wouldn't be cost effective; in other words, they wouldn't make as much money.

We call upon the California Energy Commission, which has licensing authority over new power plants, and the San Jose City Council, which would have to change both the existing City General Plan and the local zoning, to respect the concerns of neighbors. We suggest that Calpine continue their site selection process until they find a site which is not just the easiest, but which will not be in a residential area, nor threaten the planned Coyote Valley area.

Representatives from the California Energy Commission (CEC) addressed our group to indicate ways we can share our community concerns with the Commission, which has authority to license new power plants in California. They stressed that community input is given due consideration in the decision-making process. Connect to their information on the Metcalf Energy Center at

The official Application for Certification (AFC) from Calpine to the CEC is expected to be submitted on May 1, 1999. The AFC will be available (after 5/1/99) for public review in the Santa Teresa Public Library, 290 International Circle (next to Kaiser Santa Teresa). Members of the public are encouraged to study and comment on the document. Please share comments with the Santa Teresa Citizen Action Group at; there are four computers for public use at the library with Internet access.

Petitions to ask the California Energy Commission and the San Jose City Council to block the proposed power plant at the Metcalf location are available for download.

Please mail them back to the address on the petition.


PLAZA DE SANTA TERESA: Major clean up work has been completed. Pigeon clean up is underway.

A new tenant has not yet been secured. Please continue to mail community support letters to Mr. Leroy Watson of Trader Joe's. Letter is available for download; print out, sign and mail to Mr. Watson, or write your own letter using address and facts. Also, be sure your friends and neighbors sign and mail as well.

GREAT OAKS WELL/MTBE CONTAMINATION: The well at the corner of Santa Teresa Boulevard and Cottle Road is contaminated with MTBE. It is sealed and is not being used for drinking water. It will be permanently sealed. Questions: Mr. Dan Stockton, Great Oaks Water Co., 227-9540.

CISCO SYSTEMS COYOTE CAMPUS: We have deferred this issued until a future meeting. Neighborhood seems generally very supportive of the proposed Cisco Systems Coyote campus, although we have not seen any plans at this time.


The Santa Teresa Citizen Action Group was established in 1998 to address community issues and concerns. We have an ongoing Community Meeting format to gather, share, and discuss concerns and information. We are issue-driven and the impact to our beautiful Santa Teresa neighborhood is always our concern. We are a channel for information and resources, and a forum for community issues. The Steering Committee of the Santa Teresa Citizen Action Group meets regularly to prepare for upcoming meetings.

To join the Santa Teresa Citizen Action Group, please click on the envelope below to email us. Include your name and contact info (address/phone/email) and we will notify you of future meetings.

Be a part of this dynamic neighborhood group. Working together we are protecting and improving our neighborhood.

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