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San Leandro company to install four short wind turbine towers

SAN LEANDRO – Homeowners who went to court to stop construction of a 100-foot-tall wind turbine in an industrial area south of their neighborhood now are likely to see four shorter windmills there.

Heron Bay Homeowners Association won its lawsuit when a judge agreed that San Leandro should have required an environmental review before approving the tall turbine in April 2013.

But Halus Power Systems now will put up four 60-foot turbines. Because they would be within the industrial area’s height limit, no special permission or environmental review is required, said San Leandro’s city attorney.

Halus would like to start work on the turbines this summer, said the company’s general manager, Louis Rigaud.

“We had the permit for a 100-foot tower, and we agreed not to do any other towers,” he said. That permit was a city-granted variance from the height limit. “We thought it was a pretty good deal for the homeowners.”

But since the homeowners association won its lawsuit, the company went with the four shorter wind towers, he said.

Halus will use the towers to test wind turbines it designs. Halus makes and refurbishes the turbines for small commercial uses. The four turbines will generate some power for the company, but Rigaud doesn’t know exactly how much, since the main purpose is research and development.

The Grant Avenue business is across a flood control channel from the Heron Bay homes and 600 feet from a marshlands enhancement area. It’s about half a mile east of the shoreline.

California law required an environmental review for the taller structure, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo wrote in his April ruling. The review would have studied whether the project would harm birds, affect views from a trail on the north side of the channel or increase noise in the area, according to the ruling.

Grillo rejected the homeowners’ contention that the turbine would harm views from Heron Bay homes or affect property values. It only could have been seen low on the horizon from a few houses, according to the ruling.

The industrial area already has a line of 120-foot electricity transmission towers, 60- to 70-foot utility poles and an 80-foot cellular antenna tower.

“I don’t really know why they objected in the first place,” Rigaud said.

The homeowners were concerned the project could harm the environment, said their attorney. Although he had not seen the revised permit application, attorney A. Alan Berger said the homeowners will challenge it.

“The staff should have required an environmental impact review, which would have been presented as part of application,” Berger said. “If it had passed, which we doubt, then the project could be approved.”

The homeowners now are asking the court to require San Leandro to pay their legal fees.

“Why the city is going out of their way to accommodate this one person to the detriment of 629 homeowners is beyond me,” Berger said. “The city didn’t seem to care that we were going to file a lawsuit, and now they’re going to bear the consequence of this motion for attorney fees,” Berger said.

San Leandro wants to encourage green businesses, said City Attorney Richard Pio Roda.

“The city will absolutely support any green business as long as it complies with our ordinances,” he said.