By Ashly McGlone
SAN LEANDRO -- The battle over a 100-foot wind turbine a local businessman wants to add to his San Leandro property is headed to court.
The Heron Bay Homeowners Association filed a lawsuit against the city May 1, alleging the city improperly approved the height variance sought by businessman Louis Rigaud to put the turbine on his company's industrial property in the southwest corner of the city. His turbine manufacturing and refurbishing company, Halus Power Systems, is located next to the San Lorenzo Creek stormwater drainage channel, across from the 629-home Heron Bay community.
The association has opposed the turbine since Rigaud first sought approval to exceed the area's 60-foot height limit last year and last month unsuccessfully appealed the city's Board of Zoning Adjustments approval to the City Council.
In the lawsuit, the homeowners argue the city's approval was not based on substantial evidence and violates the California Environmental Quality Act and state planning and zoning laws. They dispute the city's conclusion that the project did not merit a complete Environmental Impact Report and will not have a significant impact on noise levels, recreation, land use or views, among other things.
City staff said last month their findings from an initial project review dictated that a less rigorous Mitigated Negative Declaration, not an EIR, be done and cited the lack of objection from a long list of public oversight agencies as support for the decision.
San Leandro City Attorney Richard Pio Roda did not respond to requests for comment.
San Francisco attorney Robert C. Goodman, co-counsel for the homeowners, said the city "not only had the discretion to do an EIR, they had a legal obligation to have it done."
Rigaud, who wants to use the turbine to power his business and test turbine parts, said the decision to sue is ironic, surprising and sad.
"I'm a businessman who started my business out of a deep concern for the environment ... to lessen our dependency on fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gasses," he said in an email. "To file a challenge based upon fears of environmental impacts -- to me, that just seems like they are unclear on the concept."
As for concerns the turbine will diminish views, Rigaud said, "Next door is a junk yard, a PG&E substation, high voltage power lines, rail line, water treatment plant, and other industrial buildings."
Ashly McGlone covers San Leandro, San Lorenzo and the Washington Township Health Care District. Contact her at 510-293-2463. Follow her at Twitter.com/AshlyReports.