Alvarez comes on strong, shipyard labor calls out maritime lies and affordable housing advocates join the fray
By Brent E. Beltrán
On an unseasonably warm winter’s day in the heavily polluted community of Barrio Logan a shift in Maritime Industry’s false jobs narrative occurred.
At the home of Barrio Logan resident Hector Villegas (the same home that Councilman David Alvarez grew up in and caught asthma) the Environmental Health Coalition, under the leadership of Georgette Gomez, organized a press conference featuring Alvarez, Villegas, union leader Bobby Godiñez and affordable housing advocate Susan Riggs, executive director of the San Diego Housing Federation.
Before the assembled media hordes David Alvarez called out, in no uncertain terms, Maritime Industry lies and deception [see full text of his presentation below]. In his strongest opposition to the referendum yet he emphatically stated, “out-of-state billionaires launched and funded a referendum process to scare voters and overturn the democratically created and approved plan. It is truly regrettable that their paid petition gatherers have spread outright lies to fool voters into signing the referendum petition, threatening the City Council’s effort to create jobs and a healthy community for children.”
He went on to say, “The most egregious lie told by signature gatherers is also the easiest to disprove: it is categorically false that all maritime business must leave under the plan, all existing businesses can stay and expand up to 20 percent.”
“I put my trust in voters to see the referendum process for what it is: a greedy attempt to keep the status quo at the expense of hardworking residents and workers and an attempt to hijack our community planning process. This was an open and transparent process that led to the first planning effort in Barrio Logan in more than 30 years and protects and expands a thriving maritime industry to benefit all of San Diego.”
Resident Hector Villegas spoke about the need for a better quality of life for all Barrio Logan residents and the concern he has for his daughter who contracted asthma after living next door to an industrial business. That concern also extends to his unborn child and fellow residents.
“I just want things to get better. Not just for my family but for all of the families that are here. This is a beautiful community.”
Alvarez’s comments were very important. As were those of Villegas but the main nugget of information came from shipyard labor.
Bobby Godiñez, President of Shipyard Workers Union Local 1998, called out maritime industry management for misleading the shipyard workers.
He now says that all unionized shipyard workers support the Barrio Logan Community Plan and will vote against the referendum to repeal it. He also says that the new plan will create additional jobs not lose them, blowing Maritime Industry’s jobs loss narrative out of the water.
If unionized shipyard labor believes that no jobs will be lost due to the new community plan then it should be considered so. No union in their right mind would support something that has the potential to destroy good paying union jobs and the dues that come with them. If the shipyards leave, then those union jobs go with them.
San Diego Free Press’ Doug Porter has more on this in today’s The Starting Line.
In addition to the newfound support provided by the shipyard unions, affordable housing advocates have also joined forces with Barrio Logan residents in favor of the community plan update and to oppose the referendum.
They and the City Council have come under attack for their plans to raise funds for more affordable housing by adding a 1.5% fee to new developments. Developers are opposed to this and are gathering signatures to place their own referendum on the June ballot.
With Maritime Industry and developers trying buy their way it makes Barrio Logan advocates and affordable housing advocates a natural fit to join side by side in opposition to these corporate funded referendums.
“We need to show big business that they cannot buy democracy by standing by the thoughtful and well reasoned actions of the City Council,” stated housing advocate Susan Riggs.
With Councilman David Alvarez finding his fighter’s voice, residents like Hector Villegas speaking out, union leader Bobby Godiñez stating that his membership was mislead by management and will now oppose the referendum, and affordable housing advocates joining forces with Barrio Logan it seems that Maritime Industry’s false narrative of jobs being lost has been exposed for the lie that it was.
With all this, and other signs of solidarity seen throughout San Diego, it appears the tide may be turning in favor of the little barrio that could. Today at 2pm the City Council will meet to vote on whether or not to allow the referendum to move forward. Those of us fighting Maritime Industry pollution say BRING IT ON! ¡Juntos venceremos! Together we will win!
The following is the full text of Councilman David Alvarez’s presentation at the Environmental Health Coalition’s press conference on December 16 in Barrio Logan.
We stand here in front of the childhood home that I grew up in. This home was next door to a chrome plating plant, and at that time I developed asthma, as many children do in Barrio Logan. I can trace my own asthma to the constant presence of toxic emissions affecting residential areas, school playgrounds, and parks. Residents here have faced decades of neglect by the city and a patchwork of incompatible land uses that threaten quality of life. Outdated zoning laws have allowed residential homes to be located only a block away from shipyards such as NASSCO and General Dynamics.
Barrio Logan’s Community Plan Update, approved by the City Council on Sept. 17, breaks a 30-year history of toxic land-use planning that allowed houses, parks and schools to intermingle with polluting industrial properties. The City Council’s approval of the plan creates an important buffer between residents and industrial uses, including the shipyards and allows for Barrio Logan families to finally have a healthier community.
During the five-year process, in response to concerns by maritime representatives, I met repeatedly with various stakeholders and subsequently crafted a compromise in order to address the concerns raised and allow the plan update to move forward. This plan represents a compromise that I, along with a majority of the City Council, believe is in the best interest of the city. Unfortunately, out-of-state billionaires launched and funded a referendum process to scare voters and overturn the democratically created and approved plan. It is truly regrettable that their paid petition gatherers have spread outright lies to fool voters into signing the referendum petition, threatening the City Council’s effort to create jobs and a healthy community for children.
I’ve spoken to San Diego residents who were told by paid signature gatherers that 46,000 jobs will be lost, when the plan actually increases jobs by increasing prime industrial land, giving certainty to developers and businesses that want to locate in the community, and reducing conflicts between residential and industrial areas. The most egregious lie told by signature gatherers is also the easiest to disprove: it is categorically false that all maritime business must leave under the plan, all existing businesses can stay and expand up to 20 percent.
More than five years of work and $3 million of public money are being exposed to dirty politics from out-of-town interests who are trying to overturn the community’s plan so many have worked so hard to develop. If the City Council’s approval of the plan were to be rescinded, children will continue to suffer from environmental injustice and the resulting health impacts. Even more importantly, if special interests are allowed to derail this community plan, then every other community plan throughout the city will be threatened.
The plan update was an open, transparent model for community-involved planning, and I’m proud of the majority of the City Council who stood up to threatening and bullying tactics to approve it. I put my trust in voters to see the referendum process for what it is: a greedy attempt to keep the status quo at the expense of hardworking residents and workers and an attempt to hijack our community planning process. This was an open and transparent process that led to the first planning effort in Barrio Logan in more than 30 years and protects and expands a thriving maritime industry to benefit all of San Diego. This plan allows for this community to have separation between industry and homes, and a healthier future.