Local manufacturer says condo project threatens jobs

SAN DIEGO - A longtime San Diego manufacturing business said it could be forced to leave the area if a new luxury condo unit is approved in the Embarcadero area.

The Centre City Development Corporation listened to arguments from both the developer, Jonathan Segal, and Solar Turbines during a meeting Wednesday that was filled to maximum capacity.

"If residences are built in close proximity to our factory, it will unavoidably change our regulatory environment," said Jim Umpleby, president of Solar Turbines.  "Solar could find that it is no longer able to manufacture its products competitively from its long-time base of San Diego, putting 3800 local jobs at risk."

Segal and his group purchased the Fat City business park, located on the corner of West Hawthorne Street and Pacific Highway.  The area has been approved for both industrial and residential use for decades.

"So we knew going in that we had the rights to do this," Segal said.  "Where does this end?  There needs to be a line in the sand.  That is the law, and everyone needs to abide by that.  If you want to change the rules, change them, but do so legitimately."

The key issue is the air pollution that is created by Solar Turbines during their manufacturing of gas turbines.

Umpleby said if an apartment building is built across the street, it would almost certainly lead to additional environmental regulations on his business. 

Of the more 100 people who attended Wednesday's meeting, nearly all of them were there in support of Solar Turbines' efforts to block the construction. Most were employees of Solar Turbines, who extolled the virtues of the company citing their high-paying jobs and commitment to keeping employees for decades and sometimes generations.

The Centre City Development staff recommended the project be denied as did an air-pollution control officer.

"You're likely to develop problems," said Robert Kard, an air-pollution control officer.  "So my urging here is that the commission turn this project down."