Supervisors Approve Expansion Of Las Colinas Jail In Santee - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Supervisors Approve Expansion Of Las Colinas Jail In Santee

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The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 today to move ahead with the redevelopment and controversial expansion of the Las Colinas Women's Detention Facility in Santee.

The board -- with Chairwoman Dianne Jacob casting the dissenting ballot -- approved the environmental impact report for the $308.5 million project and directed staff to seek proposals from prospective contractors.

Santee residents and city officials concede the need to refurbish the existing jail, but have long opposed expansion. Under the current plan, Las Colinas will nearly triple in size to 45 acres and contain 1,216 beds.

The location adjacent to downtown will stifle the development of a thriving city, opponents told the supervisors.

Mayor Randy Voepel said the property amounts to 18 percent of the downtown area.

"This will handicap our city," Voepel said. "This will handicap our citizens."

Warren Savage, executive director of the Santee Chamber of Commerce, said there will be a decrease in the value of properties near the jail, which will be an "eyesore" with guard towers and barbed wire.

"We don't appreciate downtown looking like a stockade," Savage said.

Supervisors Greg Cox and Bill Horn countered that the neighborhoods around jails in their districts are booming.

The current women's jail has been in need of replacement for two decades, is the subject of a critical county Grand Jury report annually and "is an embarrassment to the county of San Diego," Cox said.

According to the Sheriff's Department, which administers the county jail system, Las Colinas is 150 percent above inmate capacity on an average day.

The prisoners are housed in obsolete buildings, 75 percent of which are portable or modular.

Proximity to freeways, so law enforcement can transport inmates efficiently, and to public transportation for convenient visitations make the Santee location better than Otay Mesa, the site of other correctional facilities, the EIR states.

Jacob had not taken a position on the jail controversy, spending her time instead on trying to forge a compromise between the city and the Sheriff's Department.

With the vote looming, she said she wanted to hear from residents and city officials, and review documents before deciding her stance on the expansion.

"The city has changed significantly (over the years)," Jacob said. "It's no longer out in the middle of nowhere, it's no longer a sleepy little city. It's a vibrant town."

Santee's downtown has boomed in the past decade, with the addition of numerous chain stores and restaurants, a water park and the regional headquarters of The Hartford insurance company.

A large jail was incompatible with the new Santee, she said.

The project is scheduled for completion by late 2014, but Voepel threatened legal action to stop the expansion.

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