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Supervisors approve acquisition of Caltrans property

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

Once the formal real estate transaction process is completed, the County of San Diego will own an 18.49-acre property near the intersection of State Route 76 and Interstate 15 currently owned by the California Department of Transportation.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 June 28 to approve the purchase of the property which will be developed as a public safety facility. The county will pay Caltrans $3,214,000 including a $321,000 non-refundable option paid last year.

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, which will be applied towards the purchase price. The one-year option agreement allowed county staff to perform due diligence work on the site.

County staff conducted a parcel use analysis which determined that the S94 (Transportation and Utility Corridor) zoning precluded housing or other uses which create permanent concentrations of people. Transportation uses such as highways or railways are allowed by right as are pipelines and other facilities for the transmission of energy or water.

Allowed non-transportation and non-utility uses, some of which may require a Minor Use Permit, include fire protection, agricultural uses, law enforcement services, and parking services. A Major Use Permit would be required for civic services (including administration, ambulance, library, postal, and community recreation services), agricultural sales, outdoor sports and recreation, campground, or mining and processing uses.

The county’s general plan provides a Public/Semi-Public Facilities land use designation for the Caltrans parcel. Due to steep slope, sensitive habitat, and wetland constraints, approximately 11.5 acres of the property are able to be developed.

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 11.5 acres.

The North County Fire Protection District has expressed a desire to share that land and have its new Station 4 building on that property, 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 the new district headquarters.

The Capital Improvement Needs Assessment is updated annually and covers facilities projects slated for the next five fiscal years. The CINA does not include funding for projects on the list, although direction to the county’s Chief Administrative Officer is given to determine timing and funding mechanisms to implement the individual projects.

The county’s fiscal year 2022-27 CINA was approved by the Board of Supervisors on March 1 and estimates a total cost of $48,021,400 for the Sheriff’s station land acquisition, design, and construction. That included the $321,400 already funded and $3,200,000 for fiscal year 2022-23. The remaining $44,500,000 is scheduled to be spent during fiscal year 2025-26.

The May 24 Board of Supervisors meeting included a 4-0 vote, with Joel Anderson absent, to set the June 28 hearing date and to find that the action is categorically exempt from California Environmental Quality Act review.


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