October 31, 2012

Heron Bay Homeowners Association Threatens to Sue San Leandro Over Wind Turbine

Vestas V17 wind turbine
Halus' Proposed Wind Turbine (not the actual location)
In a letter dated July 31, 2012, the lawyer for the Heron Bay Homeowners Association threatened to sue the City of San Leandro unless it required an environmental impact report for a proposed wind turbine that Halus Power Systems wants to install at its facility. The letter was one of about 25 comments the City of San Leandro received in response to a comment period for a mitigated negative declaration for the proposed wind turbine.

The Heron Bay Homeowners Association, through its attorney, A. Alan Berger, stated that “the Association and its owner/members strongly object to the proposed adopted [sic] of a mitigated negative declaration and will take this matter to the City Council and the appropriate Courts should this MND be approved. The Association demands that an EIR be required for this project.”

Halus Power Systems, owned by Louis Rigaud, refurbishes wind turbines at its facility on Grant Avenue in San Leandro for installation at client locations. The facility is located across San Lorenzo Creek from the Heron Bay housing development.

The proposed wind turbine has become an issue in the San Leandro District 4 City Council race in part because Benny Lee, one of the candidates, is President of the Heron Bay Homeowners Association. Chris Crow, another candidate for the District 4 seat, reported a $500 contribution to his campaign from Halus. At a candidate forum, District 4 candidate Darlene Daevu said that Halus Wind Turbines was one of the two most important issues facing San Leandro and said we can't “afford to let innovative businesses with the potential to create local jobs slip through our fingers.” Justin Hutchison, also a District 4 candidate, wrote on Facebook, “They want to place a bunch of these refurbs [wind turbines] on the san leandro shoreline. Not only will it make it look like crap, there has been no enviromental [sic] study.”

Just days before the end of a 30-day public comment period on a Mitigated Negative Declaration by the City of San Leandro, Lee joined other Heron Bay residents in requesting an extension of the public comment period at the June 18, 2012, City Council meeting. On June 28, 2012, the City extended the comment period by 40 days to July 31, 2012.

Other commenters included the California Department of Fish and Game and East Bay Regional Parks District.

The California Department of Fish and Game, in a letter dated June 29, 2012, had no objections to the wind turbine, but recommended eight “measures to minimize the potential for avian mortalities.” The East Bay Regional Parks District, in its response dated June 21, 2012, said that the Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration prematurely discounted risks to the California clapper rail and California black rail, failed “to analyze or discuss what potential strikes would occur at the proposed projects height,” and didn't provide “supporting information concerning sensitive receptors or where measurements were taken was included” for its statement that noise levels wouldn't exceed 55 decibels.

Of the 22 letters and emails received from individuals during the extended comment period, 16 were identified as being from Heron Bay residents, including San Leandro City Council District 4 candidate and Heron Bay Homeowners Association President Benny Lee. All but one of the letters and emails were opposed to the proposed wind turbine. Concerns raised included the potential for bird kills, effect on recreation activities, effect on property values, visual blight, potential health impacts, and catastrophic failures such as fires and explosions.

Although Lee said in the September 5 edition of the San Leandro Times that he didn't want to share his personal opinion about the wind turbine, his email to the City on July 29 clearly states his opposition to the proposed wind turbine. In his email, Lee cites six reasons for his opposition: 1) Financial hardships for homeowners from declining property values while Halus is consistently profitable year after year in worst economy of last 70 years; 2) Real health issues severely taking away quality of life; 3) Adversely impacting bay shoreline natural aesthetic view with first of kind installation by bay shoreline which may set precedence inviting others to do the same and thereby removing it's natural beauty; 4) Imposes a new unnatural view to homeowners which would have altered their original purchase decision; 5) No defined wind turbine policies in City of San Leandro with public input since this wind turbine is directly adjacent to homes and a natural estuary; and 6) Halus' underlying purpose and intent.

Many of these concerns have been the subject of published studies, a few of which are detailed below.

In December 2009, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory published a study entitled, “The Impact of Wind Power Projects on Residential Property Values in the United States.” Using data from nearly 7,500 single-family home sales, the study concluded, “Based on the data and analysis presented in this report, no evidence is found that home prices surrounding wind facilities are consistently, measurably, and significantly affected by either the view of wind facilities or the distance of the home to those facilities.”

To address potential health concerns about wind turbines, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and Massachusetts Department of Public Health commissioned a study by an independent panel. That report, entitled “Wind Turbine Health Impact Study,” was published in January 2012, and concluded, “The strongest epidemiological study suggests that there is not an association between noise from wind turbines and measures of psychological distress or mental health problems.”

Photo simulations prepared by Halus show the proposed wind turbine from a variety of angles. In most of the simulations, the electrical transmission towers are the dominant visual feature. Environmental Science Associates prepared a report for Halus with diagrams showing the shadow cast by the wind turbine. The report concludes, “Using the most stringent criterion for possible shadow effect, the study determined that the proposed project would cast no shadows on the residences from one hour after sunrise to one hour before sunset throughout the year.”

Concerns about bird kills have probably been one of the most well-known criticisms of wind turbines, especially of the turbines that line Altamont Pass. However, this is a single wind turbine and there are hundreds of wind turbines at Altamont Pass. A May 2007 report entitled “Environmental Impacts of Wind-Energy Projects” by the National Research Council addressed the issue of human-caused bird kills, including those by wind turbines. The report stated, “Collisions with buildings kill 97 to 976 million birds annually; collisions with high-tension lines kill at least 130 million birds, perhaps more than one billion; collisions with communications towers kill between 4 and 5 million based on "conservative estimates," but could be as high as 50 million; cars may kill 80 million birds per year; and collisions with wind turbines killed an estimated at 20,000 to 37,000 birds per year in 2003, with all but 9,200 of those deaths occurring in California. Toxic chemicals, including pesticides, kill more than 72 million birds each year, while domestic cats are estimated to kill hundreds of millions of songbirds and other species each year.”

Halus plans to use the wind turbine for research and development and provide renewable energy for operations at its facility, which is located south of San Lorenzo Creek from Heron Bay.

The Heron Bay housing development is bordered on the east by a railroad track, to the north by wetlands, to the west by wetlands and 120-foot-tall electrical transmission towers, and to the south by San Lorenzo Creek and a commercial/light industrial area. Halus is zoned as an Industrial General District.

The issue will be taken up at meeting of the Board of Zoning adjustments on December 6, 2012. A second comment period on the Mitigated Negative Declaration opened on October 12 and will end on November 13, 2012, at 4pm. Comments may be submitted by email to epenaranda@sanleandro.org or in writing to San Leandro Community Development Department, 835 East 14th Street, San Leandro, CA 94577.

Relevant documents:

Posted by Mike Katz-Lacabe at October 31, 2012 2:46 AM | TrackBack
Comments

Another example of San Leandro City Hall pushing special interests over the regards of the citizens they so-called represent. Yesterday it was flying flags for the homosexual lobby, regardless of the damage it does to families. Now we have the eco frauds that get preferential treatment over the needs of families living in Heron Bay.
>>>>>Folks, remember this the next election.<<<<<<<

Posted by: Phony Representation at April 6, 2013 9:29 PM
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