January 14, 2012

The U-T San Diego is to be commended for its support of Solar Turbines and its hard-working employees. (“Don’t threaten 1,800 San Diego jobs”, Jan. 8). In this economy, we must do everything we can to not only create jobs, but also keep the good-paying, quality jobs that we do have in this region.

That’s why I partnered with City Council President Pro Tem Kevin Faulconer, Port Chairman Scott Peters and dozens of elected state and local government officials and community leaders from across a wide spectrum of business and environmental groups to hold a rally Jan. 6 in support of Solar Turbines that drew more than 300 people. The rally included representatives from the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, San Diego Port Tenants Association, United Way of San Diego County, San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, Industrial Environmental Association, Working Waterfront Group, Environmental Health Coalition, BIOCOM and CONNECT.

We are not opposed to good projects that provide housing for San Diegans. But what we do object to are poorly placed projects that threaten the jobs of hard-working San Diegans. Common sense tells us that you don’t build luxury lofts across the street from a major manufacturing facility that has been in San Diego for 83 years.

If allowed, the Fat City Lofts project will undoubtedly trigger problems around regulations and permits for Solar Turbines, threatening its ability to compete in this global economy and forcing it to move its facilities and jobs out of this region. Simply put, this is the wrong project in the wrong place at the wrong time.– Greg Cox, Vice chairman, San Diego County Board of Supervisors

The Fat City-Solar Turbines quandary, like the great airport debacle, is yet another typical example of the mess that develops when a lack of robust and effective regional planning combines with an overly burdensome regulatory environment to thwart economic activity.

Am I right that U-T believes that property rights can and should so quickly be cast aside just because a neighbor doesn’t like the plan and has friends in high places? How can a developer function in such an environment? The Fat City site is proposed to be developed in accordance with what it is entitled (even though one could question the soundness of trying to develop residential under a runway, adjacent to rail lines, gas stations and industrial sites).

Conversely, an important, established industrial manufacturer is facing increasing environmental hurdles to stay in business at an existing site. Local and port authority planners call for improving the waterfront to be a new centerpiece to attract residents and tourists starting with North Embarcadero, which also sits adjacent to Solar Turbines. Can they realistically envision that, long-term, the port can maintain the Solar Turbines site as an industrial site sitting smack-dab in the middle of that waterfront zone?

Solar Turbines will inevitably continue come into conflict with the myriad regulations that can be brought to bear against it. Its time for regional authorities to find the incentive package for an important manufacturer to move the operation to another part of the city or county in a controlled way. Lets not make the same mistake as the airport. – Jay D. Matthes, Coronado

The U-T is still not digging deeply enough to define the issues.

First is the claim that somehow locating 232 apartments across the street from Solar Turbines plant on property zoned for residential use will cause the company to relocate and San Diego would lose 1,800 good-paying jobs. As your editorial states, the fact is that pollutants generated by Solar’s operations would exceed residential building-permit restrictions. Solar doesn’t want to spend the money to clean up its facilities, which, it seems, is OK unless you are living too close, as if cleaning up its processes is not to be considered.

No one is asking if Solar is polluting the air (or groundwater) to such an extent that it would fail residential zoning permit requirements. Why don’t they fulfill their promise of being environmentally conscious? Go to www.solarturbines.com and read “All of Solar’s facilities place high priority on environmental health and safety performance. High priority areas include Pollution Prevention and Waste Reduction and many of Solar’s facilities have received awards for safety and environmental management.”

Solar is owned by Caterpillar Co. Surely such a major, image-conscious international corporation can afford to run a clean production line in San Diego. Plus, how about these 1,800 workers who are in the middle of these airborne pollutants five days a week? How’s their health?

The bad boy in this controversy is Solar, yet the chamber and local politicians have lined up to oppose Fat City Lofts. Are Solar or Caterpillar making campaign contributions? And what about the economic benefit to Little Italy to have some 350 new neighbors frequenting its many restaurants and shops? Turn this story over to your Watchdog crew. – Bob Battenfield, La Mesa

Thanks to U-T San Diego for supporting Solar Turbines in opposition to Fat City Lofts. As a 30-plus-year employee of Solar, the last decade (1995-2005) responsible for the manufacturing operation at the Harbor Drive facility, I echo the position of the paper.

In addition to Solar’s history, global sales, export leadership and earnings, it is a values-based enterprise. A number of its journeymen machinists have benefitted from Solar’s noteworthy manufacturing apprentice program; Solar employees have a proud legacy of volunteerism in the greater San Diego community while Solar and its parent, Caterpillar, provide financial support to various charitable organizations within our community.

These are not only “1,800 or more good San Diego jobs,” they are very valuable jobs held by very responsible citizens of greater San Diego as well.– Edward J. Zell, San Diego

“Solar Turbines also has international locations which brings in money back into the U.S. to fuel the American economy.” As the editorial stated, 75 percent of its revenue comes from abroad.

I wonder if the Fat City Loft developers could match a company with a longstanding successful and prolific history that contributes to the city of San Diego and state of California as Solar has done over 83 years, employs so many workers and helps bring down the unemployment rate?

Could the Fat City Loft developers also stimulate the U.S. economy as Solar in a significant way by their proposed endeavour? How many people would be able to afford these units in an unrelenting economic downturn? How much revenue will it bring in the city of San Diego? Can the Fat City developers have a global impact like Solar does?

Buildings will always run down and become a memory as soon as some other “hot” building is erected, but the legacy of San Diego cannot be replaced once it is destroyed. – Tricia Hovell, Trinidad, Calif.

http://utsandiego.com/news/2012/jan/14/letters-solar-turbines-and-fat-city-lofts/