CALIFORNIA PORTS 2008 - Port of San Diego seeks to halt non-maritime development

By: | at 08:00 PM | Channel(s): Ports & Terminals  

By Paul Scott Abbott, AJOTWhile voters throughout the nation will have the selection of the next resident of the White House in their hands, those in San Diego County could have the future of the Port of San Diego in theirs.
On Nov. 4, San Diego County voters are to have an opportunity to cast ballots in favor of non-maritime development of the San Diego waterfront – development that port officials believe would threaten the viability of the busy Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal cargo facility.
Legal efforts by the Port of San Diego this month failed to keep the initiative off the November ballot, with a Sept. 4 ruling against the port by San Diego County Superior Court Judge Ronald L. Styn. The following week, the California Fourth District Court of Appeal denied the port’s appeal of Styn’s ruling.
Thus, the Port of San Diego Marine Freight Preservation and Bayfront Redevelopment Initiative is being made part of the November ballot – and, to add to the sting, the port district is being stuck with the $400,000 tab, pursuant to the state elections code.
Proponents of the measure, a political action committee by the name of San Diego Community Solutions, say they want to amend the San Diego Unified Port District’s master plan to allow for hotels, restaurants and possibly a sports stadium at the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal. This purportedly would be done by building some form of deck structure over the marine terminal, then putting these buildings on the deck, and/or by building the non-maritime infrastructure on the terminal itself.
Port attorneys have argued that state law vests with the port district, rather than the electorate, the exclusive jurisdiction over San Diego Bay and the tidelands. The attorneys have said that jurisdiction was granted the district and its board of port commissioners when the district was formed by the California Legislature in 1962.
Port commissioners voted unanimously in May to oppose the proposed ballot initiative. In addition to noting the legal argument, port officials cited threats such development would pose to security at the port, which is a federally designated strategic military facility.
Commissioners also said proponents deceived people in gathering petition signatures. While proponents have contended that the development plan would create maritime jobs, port officials firmly believe it would have an opposite impact.
“There is no question,” Commissioner Sylvia Rios said, “I believe this initiative is misleading.”
The initiative, whose language commissioners believe is vague, confusing and ambiguous, also states that the Tenth Avenue terminal is underused, a claim commissioners contend is unsupported.
In the past five years, the Tenth Avenue terminal has processed 12.6 million tons of maritime cargo. More than 14,400 jobs, with average pay of about $54,000 a year, are directly tied to the terminal’s operation, which has a positive impact on the regional economy of $1.6 million.
Despite the current economic downturn, port officials are projecting future growth at both the Tenth Avenue terminal and the port’s National City Marine Terminal.
Last year, the port processed more than 400,000 vehicles. Also, in a typical month, 185 million Dole bananas arrive at the port, which offers 300,000 square feet of dockside cold storage space, facilitating imports annually of 600,000 tons of perishables including mangos and avocados. Other key commodities for the port include steel, fertilizer, lumber, cement, sand and military cargo, as well as wind energy units and other project cargo.
Port officials point to their capability to efficiently handle project cargo and non-containerized freight that may have difficulty moving through other Southern California facilities.
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For more than a quarter of a century, Paul Scott Abbott has been writing and shooting images for the American Journal of Transportation, applying four decades of experience as an award-winning journalist. A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, with a master’s magna cum laude from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Abbott has served as president of chapters of the Propeller Club of the United States, Florida Public Relations Association and Society of Professional Journalists. Abbott honed his skills on several daily newspapers, including [em]The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Richmond (Va.) News Leader, Albuquerque Journal and (South Florida) Sun-Sentinel, and was editor and publisher of The County Line, a weekly newspaper he founded in suburban Richmond, Va.[/em] A native Chicagoan, he is a member of American Mensa and an ever-optimistic fan of the Chicago Cubs.