Maritime Industry Ramps Up Anti-Residents Referendum
By Brent E. Beltrán
The residents of San Diego’s neglected Barrio Logan neighborhood gained a significant win Tuesday over maritime industry’s attempt to derail the community plan update. On a 5-4 party line vote Democratic members of the San Diego City Council held firm in their resolve to do what is right for the people who live in Barrio Logan.
This was the second and final vote the city council made to implement the updated Barrio Logan Community Plan, the first significant update since 1978.
Over time the new plan will help separate unhealthy industry and businesses away from residential areas and create a buffer zone of non-polluting businesses between homes and those enterprises that are toxic to the neighborhood.
The process that the city implemented to update the community plan took around five years to complete. Many Barrio Logan stakeholders, including residents, industry, businesses, social service agencies and other organizations, participated in a truly democratic process that created the final plan.
Maritime industry — specifically NASSCO, Continental Maritime and BAE Systems — did not receive everything they wanted during the stakeholder’s process even though many compromises to them were made throughout. Nor could they get five councilmembers to side with them to change the plan even though they hired the politically powerful, local lobbying group Southwestern Strategies to twist the arms of councilmembers.
Diane Takvorian, executive director of the Environmental Health Coalition, the organization instrumental in helping the Barrio Logan plan get passed said to the Democrats on the council: “The maritime industry says 46,000 jobs will be lost but the fact is, the Barrio Logan update doesn’t threaten jobs at all. It will increase jobs by 47 percent. It’s just deceitful intimidation directed at getting you to change your vote.”
The Democrats on the council saw through the lies and distortions and stayed strong for the residents of Barrio Logan. Many props go to councilmember David Alvarez for pushing the plan update through even though it may not be the politically expedient thing to do while running for mayor. It took a lot of guts to do what he did.
Thanks also to Councilmembers Todd Gloria, Sherri Lightner, Myrtle Cole and Marti Emerald for withstanding the enormous amount of pressure that came down on them from maritime industry interests and lobbyists. They stood strong on behalf of the residents of Barrio Logan.
Though this battle may have been won the war that maritime industry has declared against the residents of Barrio Logan goes on.
Instead of abiding by a fair process maritime has decided to make an end run around the stakeholder’s decision, around the San Diego Planning Commission’s — which forwarded their recommendation to the City Council — decision and the vote of the City Council by starting a citywide referendum to overturn the results.
Councilman Alvarez stated at a press conference in Barrio Logan that morning that “a referendum is the wrong approach. In San Diego we went through the process with public input, and now we’re going to allow corporations who didn’t get their way to buy a decision that this council so thoughtfully considered?”
Signature collecting has already begun. So far over 25,000 people have signed with around 34,000 needed to put the referendum on the ballot. Maritime industry will easily make the November 1 deadline to turn in signatures. A potential election would be scheduled for June 3.
Not only is this a childish move by maritime industry — as in I’m-gonna-take-my-ball-and-go-home-because-I-can’t-get-my-way — but it also sets a bad precedence. If any business or individual with enough money can put a community plan update to a public vote against the wishes of said community then that would turn the entire planning process on its head.
Stakeholders in La Jolla don’t want Barrio Logan residents voting on their community plans and we don’t want them voting on ours. Each community deserves to make their own plans as long as the process was legally followed. And in the case of the Barrio Logan Community Plan Update it was.
As a resident of Barrio Logan I find it insulting that these mostly out of state, and in the case of BAE Systems — which paid one of the largest criminal fines ever — out of country, corporations are pushing an agenda that is antagonistic to the health and safety of the people who live in Barrio Logan. They do not care about us.
We’ve put up with a lot of crap from them, the city and the state throughout the years. We’re tired of having to fight for our dignity, tired of fighting for the basic things that other more affluent areas of San Diego get. Though we may be tired we will never give up fighting for what we think is right.
We fought for a park underneath the ugly, grey concrete pillars of a bridge that bisected our community. We won.
We fought for public access to the San Diego Bay against the wishes of maritime industry and others. We won again.
We fought against junkyards and metal chrome plating businesses that marred and polluted our community. We won those as well.
We fought against the destruction of the Chicano Park murals due to CalTrans retrofitting the San Diego-Coronado Bridge. We won that battle too.
And most recently we fought for a fair Barrio Logan Community Plan Update and came out victorious. Short lived though it may be if industry has their way.
We are a resilient community that has been victorious in the face of insurmountable odds in the past and we have defeated the bad intentions of maritime industry, the city and the state on numerous occasions.
We are battle hardened and we are ready to fight again. We may not have billions of dollars backing us. We may not even have the majority of the electorate backing us. All we have is a righteous cause and our minds, bodies and souls to give. And, like in past battles, this barrio of many Davids will be victorious over the goliath that is San Diego’s maritime industry. We have to. Our existence is at stake.