CHULA VISTA, CA -- After 50 years in operation and 55 years on San Diego Bay, the South Bay Power Plant came down Saturday morning in an implosion that took less than two minutes.
With noises like rolling thunder or the beating of a massive drum, the 165-foot-tall building that weighed near 25,000 tons was taken down by hundreds of pounds of dynamite a few minutes after 7 a.m.
Thousands of people in Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, San Diego and Coronado watched the power plant come down.
"You missed a spot!" yelled Danny Leung after the plant fell. Leung works at UTC Aerospace Systems near the Chula Vista Marina and watched the implosion in Chula Vista Bayfront Park. "That was definitely worth waking up for. Now I'm going to go home and go back to sleep."
Vietnam veteran Gary Watkins of Imperial Beach said the implosion reminded him of carpet bombing.
"Just the earth shaking power," he said. "It was a mind-altering experience."
Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox addressed a group of people atop a set of portable bleachers shortly before the power plant came down.
"There's a bit of reminiscence because this plant provided power to all of Southern California, but as with all things, times change," she said. "It is important this plant come down. It is the beginning of the Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan."
An RV park, public park and open space will take the power plant's place as part of the Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan. The 550-acre plan that received state approval last year will include space for a convention center, hotel, residential, commercial and retail space. Near half the plan is dedicated to conservation, habitat restoration, parks or open space.
Work to tear down the oil burning building started more than a decade ago when the Port of San Diego purchased the power plant from SDG&E in 1998.
The power plant's removal from the bay marks the end of the plant's detrimental impact on the local environment and the beginning of a new era for San Diego's South Bay, said public officials, an environmentalist and business leader said at a press conference Friday.
Work to salvage the tons of wreckage will begin Monday, said Kristine Zortman with the Port of San Diego.
Dynegy South Bay LLC, the plant's former operator, arranged the implosion.
Manny Harris came to the implosion with his grandson Max Snappcook and son-in law Jonathan Snappcook from Carlsbad.
"My son-in-law Jonathan called me up yesterday and asked me if I wanted to go on an adventure but we've got to wake up at 4 a.m.," Harris said. "Max is sitting here on my phone watching videos on implosion.com to give him an idea what this is going to look like."
Harris said he has only seen big implosions on TV and the internet.
Dennis Fuller said he has seen a few implosions and they never get old. He lives in National City but used to live on the Imperial Beach waterfront and is happy to see the eyesore go.
He thinks the Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan isn't a bad idea, but it may be overly ambitious.
"Chula Vista has always been overly ambitious in its projects and usually, sadly, people are disappointed with the outcome," he said.
People may oppose the development at some point, but change has to come, Fuller said.
"Sometimes people have to pulled kicking and screaming into the future," he said.
The Port of San Diego estimates that the new waterfront developments may generate $1.3 billion in its first 20 years and will create thousands of jobs.
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