Protesters fight to keep Carlsbad landmark upright

CARLSBAD, Calif. – If you’ve driven through or lived in Carlsbad at any point in the last 50 years, you’ve seen the towering smokestack.

“It’s a beacon for me,” said Anne Estes with the City’s Historic Preservation Commission Monday night’s meeting. “I look for it and I’d miss it if it were gone.”

“Paris has the Eiffel Tower, London has Big Ben, Seattle has the Space Needle and we have the Carlsbad Power Plant,” another woman said.

She was joined by a handful of others to protest the decision to tear down the stack at some point in the next two years.

A few years ago, the company that owns the stack, NRG, needed to make updates to their property. Mainly, they weren’t allowed to use ocean water for their practices. So the company wanted to build new equipment. In a sign of good faith and partnership, they reached out to the City of Carlsbad to get their thoughts and approval. The city suggested that if they were going to make improvements, they tear down the old 400-foot smokestack in the process.

In a statement to FOX 5, a spokesperson for the company wrote in part:

“... NRG is contractually bound by the City of Carlsbad and the California Energy Commission to demolish the old power plant.”

That’s what brought the protesters to the meeting, hoping for a landmark designation or a stay of execution on the tower. They argued, why tear it down when you can transform it into something else?

“I have an idea of what could go there,” said Bill Bowman, a supporter of the preserving the tower.

He brought sketches to the meeting displaying a design to morph the tower into a bird of paradise-like design, hoping to make the whole property into a venue.

“We would also have parking there, a small amphitheater with maybe 3,000 seats," Bowman said.

“I don’t think so,” Glenn Bernard said. “People in Carlsbad have been waiting for decades for that smokestack to come down.”

Bernard has lived in the area since 1984. His thoughts were echoed by another commissioner at the meeting who pointed out that the city had agreed to tear it down five years ago after careful consideration, so revisiting the issue is a waste of time.

“This is a new day,” she said. “This is a new era. We are looking for something beautiful on that land. We are looking for a clean slate.”

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