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In North County: The Bomb House, I-5 Expansion, Fairgrounds

Audio

Aired 12/6/10

Topics this week include the bomb house in Escondido, public comments on CalTrans' I-5 expansion plans; the proposed sale of the Del Mar fairgrounds; and perhaps the most expensive municipal golf course in the world.

Topics this week include the planned burning of the bomb house in Escondido this week, a plethora of public comments on CalTrans' I-5 expansion plans; the proposed sale of the Del Mar fairgrounds; and perhaps the most expensive municipal golf course in the world.

Guests: Logan Jenkins, North County columnist, San Diego Union Tribune

Kent Davy, editor, North County Times

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and You're listening to These Days on KPBS. The man accused of making his Escondido rental home into an explosive storage facility is expected to be arraigned in federal court this morning. Meanwhile, authorities are manning to burn his house down. On this North County update, we'll talk about the reasons behind the planned burn, as well as Del Mar's resolution to buy the Fairgrounds. And SANdag's refusal to comment on the I-5 expansion project. I'd like to welcome my guest, Logan Jenkins is the North County columnist of the Union Tribune. Good morning, Logan.

JENKINS: Hi, Maureen. Welcome back to North County.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thank you, it's good to be there, in theory. Kent Davy is editor of the North County Times. Hi, Kent.

DAVY: Hi. How are you doing?

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm doing great. Thank you for being here. Now the story of George Jakubec and his Escondido home filled with explosives is amazing. Kent, give us some background on this. How was this started?

DAVY: Okay. There was a gardener working a Mr. Jakubec's house, which is over just west of the I15, over towards El Norte, stepped on some material, and it looked [CHECK AUDIO] that brought the curiosity of the authorities who took a look around the house and in fact found 12 pounds of highly unstable explosives, including PETN, which was the explosive that was used in the shoe bomber case, I believe. HMTD, a whole bunch of acronyms that stand for some fairly nasty chemicals of the sort that are used by terrorists. The police quartered off the house, arrested Mr. Jakubec, who has since been moved from state custody to federal custody and will be in federal court this morning.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Right.

DAVY: But went into the house, as they examined it, realized that this is the most, in terms of weight, of this kind of chemical ever discovered in an investigation on U.S. soil. And they don't know -- they department know exactly what to do with it. After convening a panel of experts of what to do with it, how to move it, clean it up, they decided that the best thing to do was basically put a bunch of vent holes in the house and burn it.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So how are Jacubec's neighbors taking the news that this house is gonna be burned down?

DAVY: Well, I think they're understandably a little bit nervous that things won't go quite as planned. After all, you don't really want to lose your house as well. All of them will be have be evacuated, they, as I understand it, they'll be given 24 hours notice, although the burning is planned for after rush hour on Wednesday morning because I15 will be closed.

JENKINS: And there's also another section that's gonna be as a shelter in place,; isn't that right?

DAVY: Yes.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Were there any other ideas as to burning the house down, do either of you know?

DAVY: I think they took a look at the range of options they had, they send in their little expensive bomb robot and pick up and move things out, and do them in small batches. That sort of thing. And I think that the experts decided that the safest, best way to do this is you will at once.

JENKINS: You know, I was, Maureen, I was at the town hall meeting last week, in which bill gore and a whole panel of experts told the community there they were gonna burn the house and why. And I think one of the most extraordinary thing system how many experts were consulted. They said eight national labs had been modeling what -- you know, what should be done with this sort of thing. So to me, one of the interesting things is, is government competent to take care of these things safely in and they sure made an argument that they've done their home work.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, besides doing the home work with consulting with specialists, they actually have to there are legal loophole -- I mean thresholds that they have to meet in order to be able to do this,; isn't that right? Kent?

DAVY: I think so. And I think it's probably the reason the governor declared this a state of emergency. He has to be able to step over various kinds of restrictions on hazardous emissions and sore forth. The theory of burning this house is if you Get this chemical hot enough, and they're talking about 1800 degrees, that it, just like gun powder, will burn rather than explode, as long as it's not confined. So basically they vent the force or the heat up through holes in the house and burn it.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, Logan, Jacubec is in court as you mentioned today, federal court, is there -- do we have any indication that he's told authorities what he was going to do with all that stuff.

JENKINS: You know, he did admit to some bank robberies, but it's unclear exactly what his motives were, you know, was he gonna sell these bombs, was he gonna actually use them? You know, I think that's -- I think that's really unclear. Also unclear is exactly who the -- you know the homeowner is. He rented the house. And so far we've been unable to get a picture of what that homeowner knew about her tenant.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay. Well, so, when is this -- you said this burn is supposed to take place on Wednesday?

DAVY: If weather conditions permit, on Wednesday.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What are the weather conditions that they are looking for?

DAVY: I think that they're looking for a reasonably clear, windless day so that they don't have a breeze or wind blowing the plume around.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, have they taken precautions if indeed there are explosions in this house? I mean, I saw something about a wall going up to protect neighbors' homes?

DAVY: Well, they cleared a great deal of brush from around the house and treesment they brought in sand bags and sacks around. I don't know how much more will be done in the next two-days.

JENKINS: Maureen, that wall was being built to protect an immediately adjacent house from the radiant heat.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Right. So they really don't expect an explosion, I expect these chemicals to burn somewhat clean.

JENKINS: Yes.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I see. Okay. All right. So this is it annup folding story, we'll have to follow it and hope for the best on Wednesday. Let's move on if we can, Logan. The city of Del Mar's proposition, it's a resolution now, [CHECK AUDIO] that they're going to be buying the Fairgrounds from the state. How close is Del Mar to actually pulling this off, Logan.

JENKINS: I think Del Mar makes a strong case. [CHECK AUDIO] Chris Kehoe, of course, the state senator is pushing it in Sacramento. They've got a full-fledged PR campaign on their behalf, and you know, I call it -- where the surf meets the turf wars for decades, the city of Del Mar has been in had conflict with the Fairgrounds board to a somewhat similar degree, the city of Solana beach. And what's so interesting about this, Maureen, I think is that the city of Del Mar is -- you know, technically buying the Fairgrounds, however, you know, this is through revenue bonds, through a group of private horse racing men, who are coming in and putting down 30 mill job dollars, toward the purchase price as well as borrowing from the state, so there are through revenue strains. But the city of Del Mar is buying it, but they're immediately seeding power over the Fairgrounds to a sort of multicity and, you know, the county and the San Diegito river park and others into a kind of joint powers authority. Or something. So it's extraordinary that their name is gonna be on the deed, however, they don't anticipate any financial up side for the city of Del Mar.

DAVY: Well, that's because all the financial up side is gonna go to the horse race group that has a 55-year lead.

JENKINS: But that's still negotiable, Kent. The details -- there could be a limit as to how much the horse owners, you know, take away, and then the other could be recycled back into the Fairgrounds operation as a whole.

DAVY: I understand that. But the argument is that from Del Mar's point of view, was that we wanted to make sure that we could keep it local, when in fact, they got a deal to lease it to a business group that's from Arizona. The racetrack. The fair board itself is composed of all San Diego residents, so in some one sense, it's already local.

JENKINS: Well, that's true. They are appointed by the governor. And they are local from Del Mar's point of view. It would be that their allegiance is to Sacramento and not to the local jurisdiction. So, you know, that's where the debate is.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Right, yeah.

JENKINS: That's where the conflict is.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I think you two are doing a very good job of outlining where the debate is on this. Last week there was a great deal made about Solana beach trying to work together with Del Mar on this purchase. Is that -- are they gonna be able to do that or is that out of the question Logan.

JENKINS: You know, it's a sticking point right now because Solana beach, I believe, doesn't want, you know, Del Mar to be in the, you know, preimminent position. And Del Mar, I think in a pretty astutely moved, has backed away from giving itself a near majority position on this new governing board. So that's being worked out right now. Of the mayors of other cities, San Marcos, San Diego, and others, have come down in favor of this deal. But Solana beach significantly has not stepped on board as yet.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, Kent, what's next on the agenda for the Fairgrounds sale? Is it going to be introduced again during this special session in Sacramento?

DAVY: Yes, yes. Christine Kehoe who introduced the legislation last time, and was probably upset about this, was that this legislation was crafted and nobody knew about it until it was introduced at about 9:00 o'clock at night at the end of the session.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Right: She's going to reintroduce it again. I understand that there's been some changes. I haven't read the new proposed legislation, so I don't know exactly what got changed one way or the other. But it'll be coming up.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It'll be coming up in the next week or --

DAVY: Yes.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay. Well, let's move on to the expansion of I-5. I know we always get an awful lot of phone calls when we talk about this. And we can't really take calls right now because we have so little time. But of course, the proposed ideas to expand I-5 from La Jolla to Oceanside, Caltrans has been gathering, having information meetings and so forth and getting a lot of comments from residents and interested groups and a lot of negative comments. Tell us about the process Caltrans has gone through, Logan.

JENKINS: Well, they've sought public reaction in -- as a prelude to getting an EIR for the project. And right now, the issue is whether to do nothing, whether to add four lanes or add six lanes. And in this area of North County, adding lanes is a very controversial issue. It's almost as controversial as it was in building Interstate five in the first place back in the 60s. And most recently, Christine Kehoe, her name comes up again, has really asked the Caltrans to do, you know, take a mulligan. Come up with a different plan that's less weighted toward adding more lanes. The a couple weeks before that, SANDAG, our regional planning agency, it failed to take a position on how Caltrans should proceed. This won't be decided until the middle of next year, but right now, everyone's kind of positioning themselves vis-a-vis this decision. And SANDAG is taking a hands off approach at the present time.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I see, yes, and that surprised a lot of people, but considering the kinds of comments Caltrans has been getting and that we've heard on this show, perhaps it isn't that surprising. We have to close, Kent on the city of Carlsbad, which is surprisingly, perhaps in this time of lean budgets, has subsidized a municipal golf course again to the tune of $1.7 million of what's the story with this extend tour?

DAVY: Well, the current economic climate is only really an unfortunate circumstance for the city and its golf course. Carlsbad spent, I don't know, 15 years or better, planning a municipal golf course that turned out to be probably the most expensive municipal golf course in the United States by the time it was all said and done. It was redesigned several times, it was done by a world class golf designer, it sits over near pal marairport, and the problem with it is twofold. One, it has a fair amount of weight to it in terms of budgetary constraints because of various agreements the city had to do for habitat mitigation. And it is a course that is extremely difficult to play. I am told. I'm not a golfer. But people who I know who have played it say the back nine is just brutal.

JENKINS: You can't walk it.

DAVY: Yeah.

[AUDIENCE LAUGHING]

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So this golf course is called Carlsbad crossings; is that right?

DAVY: The crossings at Carlsbad.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: All right. So is the city just gonna keep on with this, or is there any other plan?

DAVY: Well, they had a consultant come in who has made some recommendations on some pricing. It's also a fairly expensive course to play. So they've made some originations on group rates. And those kinds of special discounts. There will be some recommendations on what they may be able to do to tweak some of the back nine holes and greens to make it a little more playable. But for the time beings, it's going to be a drag on the city of Carlsbad, much like the arts center in Escondido.

JENKINS: To take a green elephant in golf slacks.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Leave it to you, Logan to give us a great thought to leave us on. Thank you so much Logan Jenkins, UT north -- oh, gosh. UT North County columnist, Logan, thanks so much.

JENKINS: My pleasure, Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Kent Davy is editor of the North County Times. Kent, thank you.

DAVY: Thanks Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And coming up, we'll discuss the changing mission of the US marine. That's as these days continues here on KPBS.

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