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San Jose City Council defers General Plan change for proposed power plant until next year -- November 9, 1999

Reported and written by Scott Scholz

Last night, the San Jose City Council voted unanimously to postpone the decision to make a General Plan change to accommodate the proposed power plant for the North Coyote Valley. Although the City Council didn't set an exact date for the decision to be made, Jim Derryberry, Director of City Planning, responded to Mayor Ron Gonzales that it wouldn't probably come before the City Council again until August, 2000. San Jose City Attorney, Joan Gallo, reiterated that the City of San Jose is not the final decision making body on this issue. Ms. Gallo believes the city would be in a stronger position with the California Energy Commission if San Jose waits until the CEC completes their Environmental Impact Report equivalent document prior to making a decision.

A standing room only crowd of about 400 packed the council chambers and 50 individuals and families spoke out in opposition of the deferral. The hearing came to order at 7:02 pm and Mayor Gonzales set the ground rules. The applicant was allowed to take 5 minutes to introduce their project. Those who wished to speak in favor of a project were allowed 2 minutes each to speak. Those who opposed a project would then be allowed 2 minutes each to speak. All speakers were required to fill out a speaker card prior to being recognized. The applicant would then have an opportunity at the end to speak for 5 minutes to rebut any statements made in the public comment. After viewing all of the power plant opposition signs, the mayor asked everyone to put the signs away or to hold them in the back of the room. He also discouraged displays of emotion (clapping, boos, hisses, etc.).

The Council quickly approved all of the San Jose City Planning recommendations for the other agenda items. Although, there were other items on the agenda, only two other individuals came to speak on those other agenda items. Vice-Mayor, Frank Fiscalini, made motions on two amendments from his district with modifications and then those changes were approved as well. The remainder of the audience was interested in the proposed power plant amendment. At 7:25 pm, the Mayor began the discussion regarding the proposed power plant amendment (GP99-2-1). He announced that he had speaker cards for 45 speakers in opposition and 1 speaker in favor.

Mr. Derryberry introduced the amendment. He stated that there has been an extensive community process review and a thorough review of environmental issues by the CEC. He said the city will use that analysis for their EIR. He said the CEC has not concluded their analysis. He stated that the planning staff recommends deferral until you have a EIR to make a truly informed decision. The Council didn't have any questions of the planning staff.

Curt Hildebrand, Calpine Vice President of Project Development, addressed the Council and stated that he supports the city on the deferral until the EIR is done. He told the Council that Calpine will not be able to build the power plant if there are any adverse impacts.

As it turned out six speakers, instead of 1, addressed the Council in favor of the deferral. Actually there were seven if you include Rob Malech, who asked that the decision be "deferred until year 3000."

At 7:39 pm, Issa Ajlouny was the first speaker who spoke in opposition of the deferral. Before he began his comments, the Mayor and he agreed in order to streamline the number of people who would wish to speak, instead asked everyone who came in opposition of the deferral to raise their hand. Virtually everyone raised their hand. The next seven speakers were part of the technical review team who have been studying the power plant proposal. Barbara Buchannan, a 21 year resident of the area, shared her personal family experiences regarding the Fairchild plant in the Santa Teresa area.

By 9:20 pm, fifty speakers had spoken out in opposition to deferring the decision. Mayor Gonzales then concluded the public comment portion of the hearing and opened up the discussion for City Council members. District 2 Councilwomen, Charlotte Powers, prefaced her remarks by wishing this was deferred until year 3000 as well. She asked if the process would end if the Council denied the deferral tonight. Mr. Derryberry responded that the applicant could ask again next year or any year after. Ms. Powers stated that there are no easy answers. She thanked the community for coming. She said the City hasn't completed their analysis and until the facts are known, they can't make a decision. Ms. Powers then made a motion for deferral and somebody seconded the motion. Mayor Gonzales urged the community to be patient with this process. He stated the comments "have not been lost on me." He said they must "protect best interests of the City and the neighborhoods represented here" tonight, although it "might not appear to be the case" now.

The City Council then voted unanimously to defer the General Plan change. The hearing adjourned at 9:27 pm. Many of the boos and hisses that were discouraged earlier, erupted from the audience.


Channel 7 (KGO) 11:00 News Coverage

Video captured by Brad Huxtable

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