Friday, June 22, 2012

One Wind Turbine, Four Notices And One Day To Respond Has Residents Irate

SAN LEANDRO | The city’s zeal to attract green technology firms to San Leandro may be alienated a growing group of residents at the shoreline’s Heron Bay development upset over a proposed wind turbine rising in their backyards and the lack of notice given to them by city staff.

Halus Power Systems, a firm specializing in refurbishing wind turbines and outdated replacement parts, is seeking a height variance for the single 100-foot monopole at the industrial area of 2539 Grant Avenue. City zoning allows for installation of the wind turbine, but limits the height of buildings to 60 feet. The wind turbine would produce over 50 kilowatts of power for the fledgling San Leandro company, according to the application.

Louis Rigaud, the owner of Halus, said he first broached the idea to city planners in January and applied for the variance in March. In the meantime, city staff determined the project to be of a negative mitigating impact. The designation found no significant environmental dangers and in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act guidelines. A 30-day public comment began May 23 and was slated to expire on Thursday, but homeowners in Heron Bay say they only learned of the project a day earlier.

In fact, many of the over 80 homeowners in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting appeared deeply unaware of specifics of Rigaud’s plan. One homeowner understood the plan entailed a sprawling wind farm, while another misinterpreted the proposal as discussion of wind energy versus solar. Rigaud said he merely intends to use the singe wind turbines to lower growing energy costs for his decade-old business which currently employs 10 workers. “I hate sending a big check to PG&E every month,” he said. However, in city documents, the issue of using the turbine for energy costs is never mentioned. Instead, there are numerous references to employing the wind turbine for research and development purposes, even though the company does not currently design turbines, but merely creates makeshift and discontinued parts.

Many angry homeowners at Wednesday meeting repeatedly lauded Rigaud’s overall ambitions for creating clean energy solutions, but laid into city staff for the impression they were rushing through plans for the wind turbine without noticing homeowners, some of which would sit about 500 feet from the proposed turbine. City planner Elmer Penaranda said staff sent just four notices to adjacent houses within the legal 300-foot radius of the property on May 23, along with six neighboring industrial businesses. In comparison, the relatively new San Leandro housing development on the shoreline encompasses over 650 households.

Nonetheless, even the small number of homeowners say they did not receive the city notices detailing the project and the 30-day public comment period. “If you are green, why do you have to hide? Show us your research and let us decide,” said an irate homeowner on Riverside Street, who refused to give her name for fear of reprisals.

Heron Bay Homeowners Association President Benny Lee said it is the group’s intention to work with the city and Halus to get project off the ground, but voiced concerns over the city’s lack of an environmental review. A limited 18-page environmental report paid for by Rigaud made some of the same assumptions as the city’s equally flimsy report. One board member asked for a review of the wind turbine’s effect on humans, the potential failure of the turbine and the effects of shadow flicker on neighboring homes along with the wind turbines visual aesthetics on the shoreline's landscape. Several homeowner asked Rigaud if he would reimburse residents if their property value were lowered by the presence of the wind turbine. "Sure," Rigaud said. Give me a fair deal. Pay me if the price goes up."

Rigaud said turbine malfunction can occur, but turbines breaking off and traveling much farther than 50 feet from the monopole is nearly impossible, including the entire device tipping over in the case of a earthquake and striking homes in Heron Bay. The project is slated to be constructed at the center of his five-acre property to mitigate any potential damage to his neighbor’s property. “We were reluctant at first,” said Liao. “We had initial reservations, too.” But, through further examinations and research, he said, city staff felt more comfortable with the project going forward down the regulatory process.

The appearance of the city, its chamber of commerce and one of its brightest green tech small businesses being in cahoots was clearly evident Wednesday night. The San Leandro Patch reported this week the three groups involved in pursuing the wind turbines met before Wednesday’s homeowner’s meeting to celebrate the impending success in gaining approval of the project. The city, on the heels of loads of positive press over OSISoft’s downtown fiber-optics loop, is widely known to be repositioning the city as a hub for green tech. Halus is seen as another opportunity to raise a positive banner for San Leandro. “Halus is one of the greenest of the green technologies that the city is trying to attract,” said Gayle Quinn, president of the San Leandro Chamber of Commerce.

Members of the Heron Bay Homeowners Association on Monday asked the city council to extend the public comment period from this Thursday for an undetermined length to give the vast majority of its residents an opportunity to learn more about the proposal. On Wednesday, one Heron Bay board member pointedly asked Rigaud if he would join the board in backing an extension. “I’m sure you understand our angst. Some of us just received this information yesterday,” said Stephanie L’Archuleta. Rigaud, though, was initially non-committal.

When again pressed by another homeowner, Rigaud asked, “How much time do you need? A few days?” but he did not agree to an extension. On three occasions, Liao and Penaranda, along with Quinn, also a consultant to Halus, interrupted the group’s desire to pin an extension of the public comment period on Rigaud. However, city staff were seen discussing the matter and later Liao informed homeowners he would consult with the city attorney to extend the period to an undetermined date in the future. A postponement of the agenda item regarding the variance scheduled for June 27 Board of Zoning and Adjustments is also likely.

Although the situation appears to ultimately become an issue of NIMBYism, at this point, most homeowners are more upset with the city's lack of noticing the community and the repercussions of a whirring wind turbine potentially becoming an eye-shore for not only them, but large numbers of dog-walkers and cyclists who use the adjacent trails surrounding San Lorenzo Creek. “I’m not here as a temporary person. I’m in your neighborhood here every day,” said Rigaud. “We started this business to help the environment, not to hurt it.”

However, when asked what he would do if the variance fails, he said, “We would probably move the business.”


in all deference, one turbine is not going to cause problems for heron bay or san leandro. obviously with airport nearby, there can never be turbines in area of flight path. it is not going to cause any unsightly view for community. Rigaud, and I met him, is great young individual who is working to make a dent on energy situation in US. he needs a break-help him succeed instead of getting in the way! tony santos

One turbine will eventually translate into many turbines. The wind/turbine experiment has been a bust, just drive to the Altamont if you have any questions. This is all part of the Dems/Obama plan to force these pie-in-the-sky green projects down the throats of the people. But you fools in San Leandro deserve what you get by allowing one party rule.

I agree that Rigaud seems to be a nice businessman in need of a break. However, he bought cheap land in a bad location - immediately adjacent to the largest, almost 300 acre East Bay wildlife habitat. Tens of thousands of birds reside there - including at least 37 different endangered species. Wind turbines are known bird killers. Rigaud's single turbine, positioned within feet of these almost extinct birds, is a direct threat to their existence. My message for Rigaud is: BUILD ELSEWHERE. PROTECT ENDANGERED SPECIES. Even 1 endangered bird, lost every 6 1/2 years (per HALUS' obviously flawed bio impact report estimates), is one too many.

The president of the chamber is also Rigaud's consultant. How am I not surprised.

Like I wrote in the article, this story is not yet about NIMBYism. It probably will be soon. What I'm interested in is getting an idea of what the city is trying to do. The SL chamber's hand in this should make people nervous. They like many chambers are too cozy with City Hall. Were they trying to push this through under everyone's nose. Sounds like it. If not, then everything community development does should be investigated.

Despite the great press OSIsoft received, I'm deeply suspicious of the aim of its CEO, his relationship to City Hall and the fact that he's a businessman. In this era, those suspiciions are relatively easy to conjure up.

Keep an eye on San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy. He's nearing two years in office and has literally zero accomplishments under his belt. OSIsoft is the only one he can list, but most realize the plan came before him and was the brainchild of the data processing company. Re-election is coming soon, the expectation for poltiicians is that they actually accomplish things so they can tell the voters why they should voted for them, right?

By MW:

The best and most effective way to get a lot of wind, and especially hot air, to drive turbines would be to catch and use even only one percent of the hot air coming out of the mouths of the local politicians, lawyers, consultants, lobbyists, and "experts."

That would not only be more than sufficient to cover any and all of the electrical, energy, and power needs of all of the residents of the East Bay, but in fact of the entire universe.

For instance, just think of all of the hot air that such politicians as Bill Lockyer, Willie Brown, and Jerry Brown, etc, produced to "educate" the sheep into believing that Nadia Lockyer, the extreme drug addict, was far and away the best qualified candidate for the opening on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

If we could have harnessed and converted to useful energy even a fraction of all of the hot air that Bill Lockyer, Jerry Brown, and Willie Brown produced in their efforts to get Nadia on the AC Board of Supervisors, PG & E would be out of business.

People are against Russell City, wind turbines in San leandro, wind power at Altamont, Sierra Club against solar farms in desert. I guess they want us to pitch a tent in the backyard!!

This story is much more than mere NIMBYism. It may establish a devastating precedent with HUGE ramifications!!! It's not just an issue of allowing a single little wind turbine in San Leandro to promote City Government with their "green hub" objectives. It's actually a HUGE THREAT to the WHOLE BAY AREA SHORELINE!!! It doesn't just impact the San Leandro Shoreline, Heron Bay, or San Leandro residents. This is a gateway circumstance that will open the door to other wind turbines throughout the ENTIRE Bay Area. Once, San Leandro, a comparatively poor socioeconomic demographic (as compared to Palo Alto, Menlo Park, etc) allows bird killing aerial blades just mere feet away from supposedly protected marshland and endangered species, it's just a matter of time before other shortsighted "green energy" enthusiasts reference San Leandro's wind turbine as a precedent with which to base building many more wind turbines near the shore. Do you think HALUS, or any other company, would even try to pass this project in a higher socioeconomic demographic? Absolutely not! The dangers this poses to species extinction by virtue of its proximity to over 36 endangered species would be prohibitive. This is much more than a bunch of "whiny" Heron Bay residents. This is much more than just a noble little businessman trying to create a little energy for himself. This is a landmark case that will open the door to the gradual destruction of the Bay Area's pristine & protected shoreline habitat & vistas. Shame on us, if we allow this to happen! Mr. Louis Rigaud - Be true to your company's internet claim "Halus will always respect the environment." Protect endangered species! Move your worthwhile green energy wind turbine to a safer area, suited for large aerial blades! San Leandro Mayor & City Council - do not allow your legacy to be destruction and species extinction. Build a reputation of honor and integrity. Instead, assist Mr. Rigaud in building his wind turbine to a safer location. EBCitizen readers, let's work together to SAVE ENDANGERED SPECIES, STOP THE BAY SIDE HALUS PROJECT, & join the FIGHT TO PROTECT OUR THREATENED NATURAL SHORELINE RESOURCES from this ominous precedent.

Let's protect those who have no voice. Let's protect those who are the most threatened. Let's protect the fragile, mysteriously beautiful, endangered, winged creatures and their sanctuaries. Let's ensure their survival for our children and generations to come. Stop Halus!

I totally agree with everything said here. Let's keep it simple, though. The guy just wants to save on his PG&E bill. Let's all get windmills!

With the incredibly high stakes, the San Leandro Mayor and City Council should at the very least require a full Environmental Impact Report before authorizing building.

I truly believe that Mr Louis Rigaud is a very thoughtful, decent man who is honestly trying to make the world a better place with his little green energy business. I also believe that the city officials in San Leandro should be applauded for their efforts to support green energy businesses like Halus. I do not believe that both Mr. Rigaud and the San Leandro officials have a hidden agenda to disturb endangered species or be the first to begin a domino effect of destruction around the whole Bay Area shoreline. But I do believe that, like everyone who can be focused on plans with intentions for good, they have overlooked the possibility that these plans could have any other outcome than their beneficial intentions. I think they are both guilty of being human. They are both guilty of wanting something so much, that they have overlooked some things. It is very clear that a full environmental impact report is required to avoid the distinct potential of irreparable damage to endangered birds and the survival of protected shoreline throughout the Bay Area. If the cost of a full EIR is prohibitive, then the wind turbine should simply not be constructed and set into operation within a mile of endangered birds and protected natural habitats.

Prediction. A wind turbine will not be built and Halus will continue making reburbished parts. In between residents of the shoreline will raise hell and the city will make themselves look bad.

I'm totally don't want a 100foot wind turbine near by resident areas. This is unacceptable, will effect the health problem to human, animals around this areas. Please vote "NO" for this protect.

I suspect the prediction above will come true and the comment before it = the only level headed perspective seen so far.

No need to proposed wind turbine protect. This protect need to be CANCELL & END.
I voted 100foot NO NO NO.

There are no health effects on human from this single turbine - do your homework and compare apples to apples. The flicker effect is a non issue - its virtually impossible for this Turbine to cast a shadow on Heron Bay. Noise issues are BS for a single turbine 400+ ft away. Even if the turbine failed from runaway or rotor failure - I haven't ever seen winds high enough around here to toss a 20 foot rotor 400ft - have you ? - The only danger involved in this project is for the wildlife around it.

Let's work together to SAVE ENDANGERED SPECIES, STOP THE BAY SIDE HALUS PROJECT, & join the FIGHT TO PROTECT OUR THREATENED NATURAL SHORELINE RESOURCES from this ominous precedent. I will go to City Hall to protect this no matter what.
Let go.

Now they said single 100-foot monopole...next years another single 100foots....and more more. Since once was up, then next will more will go up...this project will not safe for whomever or whatever around will effect everything.

We don't need the ugly wind farmers in our neighborhood and rather pay a bit more for energy to protect our enviornment. If it is so great, how come Palo Alto, Cupertino (even Alameda City) is not building their wind farmers.

SL resident

I agree with the prediction above. Without this turbine, Halus will not move.

Mr. Rigaud hates to pay PG&E monthly bills. So he decided to erect a 100-foot turbine to generate electricity for his own use, ignoring concerns over the environment, the endangered species,...

Mr. Rigaud probably forgot to calculate his break-even time for this project. It probably takes 10 years or more for him to get breakeven.

It's a poor selection of location to set up a 100 ft tall wind turbine. Building it only 300 ft away from a large residential neighborhood and next to a bird sanctuary is really a bad idea all for reducing his monthly PG&E bill.

Without a full EIR, how do you know there are no adverse impacts to the environment and humans as well as to the birds?

There are no health effects on human from this single turbine - do your homework and compare apples to apples. The flicker effect is a non issue - its virtually impossible for this Turbine to cast a shadow on Heron Bay. Noise issues are BS for a single turbine 400+ ft away. Even if the turbine failed from runaway or rotor failure - I haven't ever seen winds high enough around here to toss a 20 foot rotor 400ft - have you ? - The only danger involved in this project is for the wildlife around it.

We don't want any wind turbine near our Heron Bay. Leave the birds alone.

Please vote "NO".

We don't need to compare apples to apples for this stupid project... City San Leandro worker & Mr. Rigaud just want to make money inside their pocket. Let leave us alone.

I think the city is trying to listen to all sides. I just hope that they acknowledge that more info is needed & approve an EIR. I also hope they go further to establish a permanent buffer area of a half mile to a mile surrounding the protected shoreline habitat, thousands of birds, and endangered species that will forever prohibit any new structure or business with even remote potential of disruption, destruction, or decimation of natures fragile ecosystem.

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