Village News Reporter
The County of San Diego plans to build a new Sheriff’s station on an 18.49-acre property near the intersection of State Route 76 and Interstate 15, the North County Fire Protection District would like to share that land and have its new Station 4 building on that property, and the Fallbrook Community Planning Group has given its support for including a fire station on the public safety complex.
The planning group voted 10-0 May 16 to provide a letter of support for a proposed shared public safety complex including a future NCFPD Station 4 as well as a Sheriff’s station. Four planning group members were not present while Tom Harrington, who is professionally part of the fire department, abstained.
“Hopefully we can get that up and off the ground in the next few years,” said NCFPD fire chief Keith McReynolds.
The 2005 Sheriff's Department Facilities Master Plan recommended that a new Sheriff's station be constructed on the Interstate 15 corridor by 2019 to provide service to the population north of State Route 76. An additional planning study was conducted in 2020 and confirmed the need for such a Sheriff's station.
The California Department of Transportation owns an 18.49-acre parcel on the south side of State Route 76 west of Interstate 15. After Caltrans declared the site excess to their needs, county Department of General Services staff identified that site as a desired location for the new Sheriff's station.
In July 2021, the Board of Supervisors voted 4-1, with Nora Vargas opposed, to authorize the director of the Department of General Services to execute an option agreement with the California Department of Transportation for the parcel. The offer included a one-year option with a non-refundable payment of $321,000, although if the county exercises its option to purchase the land, the $321,000 will be applied towards the purchase price.
The one-year option agreement will allow county staff to perform due diligence work on the site. The county may also be able to enter into a second one-year option if more time is needed prior to a decision whether or not to purchase the property.
The new Sheriff's station would not replace any existing facilities and the county would not close the existing Fallbrook, San Marcos, Valley Center, or Vista facilities. San Marcos and Vista are classified as stations. Fallbrook and Valley Center are designated as substations. All four are currently overcrowded, and the new facility would absorb staff from those existing stations and substations and thus eliminate the need to expand the existing facilities.
The county’s Capital Improvement Needs Assessment estimates that the Sheriff's station would have approximately 25,000 square feet of space, so the Sheriff’s Department would not need the entire 18.49 acres.
“This property needs to be used for essential services,” McReynolds said.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is reviewing the possibility of including a CalFire station on the parcel, and the Rainbow Municipal Water District may use some of the land for its new district headquarters.
“I don’t see why we shouldn’t work together,” McReynolds said.
“We can all fit on there,” said Rainbow general manager Tom Kennedy.
The current Rainbow headquarters building was constructed in the early 1970s, and sale of Rainbow headquarters land would cover the cost of a replacement building. The headquarters property totals 34 acres, and the district believes that no more than 14 acres are needed for district operations. The potential interest in purchasing part of the property will be contingent upon resolution of a general plan amendment which will allow residential use. Sharing the public safety complex would allow for the sale of most if not all of the current Rainbow headquarters property.
NCFPD Station 4 is currently in Pala Mesa and utilizes a portable building which is approximately 40 years old. Although the fire district could upgrade the facilities on the site, relocating Station 4 closer to State Route 76 and Interstate 15 would have service advantages. “We feel it would probably be better from a response standpoint,” McReynolds said.