Photo by Sam Hodgson
A warehouse on the south side of Harbor Drive, near Barrio Logan's industrial area.
This post has been updated.
The plans took six years to piece together, but at the eleventh hour, two more compromise plans have emerged – and two councilmen are backing different ones.
The two councilmen — David Alvarez and Kevin Faulconer — also happen to be running against each other for mayor.
City staff has prepared and studied two proposals for the new Barrio Logan community plan, its blueprint for growth in the coming decades.
The community is plagued by homes and schools sitting too close to potentially harmful businesses. The plan hopes to solve that issue, while also securing the long-term health of the shipbuilding industry, which supports the nearby Navy base.
The City Council is selecting between two options to that end — one supported by the residential community, the other backed by the maritime industry. The council can also pick and choose from the two plans to create a hybrid.
City planning staff, a community group formed to help write the plan and the city’s Planning Commission have all recommended the resident-favored plan.
But now, both Alvarez and Faulconer are staking out positions in between the two scenarios in hopes of striking a compromise.
Both moves followed a coordinated push by the maritime industry to lobby against the city’s preferred plan.
At a Tuesday press conference, industry representatives suggested the city’s preferred plan presents an existential threat to the maritime sector, which employs 46,000 people, according to a 2012 industry-funded study.
The issue comes down to attempts to create a buffer area between the predominantly residential north part of the community, and the shipyard at its south, along the San Diego Bay.
Members of the maritime industry sent a letter to Alvarez last week asking him to support two substantive changes to the city’s preferred plan. Both changes had to do with the so-called buffer area.
“What we’re trying to do is untangle the gnarliest set of incompatible uses in the whole city,” said Bill Fulton, director of the city’s planning department. “The question really is, ‘What kind of buffer do you want to have between the residential and industrial uses, and can you have residential or industrial uses in the buffer?’”
The first industry-requested change would prohibit any sensitive uses — schools, houses, nursing homes, etc. — in the area bound by Harbor Drive, Newton Avenue, Evans Street and 28th Street.
The city’s preferred plan would allow for residential units in some parts of that area.
The industry’s other request was to let certain types of industrial properties — companies that supply the maritime industry, but don’t manufacture anything of their own — open within the buffer zone.
Faulconer joined industry representatives at a Tuesday press conference pushing for those changes.
A day earlier, Alvarez, after receiving the letter requesting changes and meeting with industry representatives, sent a letter of his own to Fulton and the other council offices.
He said he’s willing to meet the maritime industry’s first request by prohibiting new residential properties in the part of the buffer area that currently allows them.
But he also said he’s unwilling to allow non-manufacturing maritime suppliers to operate in the buffer zone.
“This is completely contradictory,” Alvarez said. “If you say you want separation and a true buffer, you cannot also ask to put on one side of the street residential uses, and allow industrial uses across the street. It makes no sense, and it’s exactly what you’ve been advocating that you don’t want.”
Faulconer said Alvarez’s plan “gets us closer to the right solution.”
“We all share the same goal, which is that we have to ensure we’re protecting our maritime industry, which is so critically important,” he said.
He wouldn’t say whether he’d support a solution that prohibits residential uses in the buffer, but also restricts maritime-oriented suppliers from opening there.
“Nothing focuses the mind like a deadline,” he said.
Alvarez said he offered to give tours of Barrio Logan to all of his council colleagues, so they could see the tension between industry and residents. Every Council member except Faulconer took him up on the offer, he said.
“I appreciate everyone who took the time to see what the reality in this community is,” Alvarez said.
Fulton said the city’s planning staff doesn’t have any problem with Alvarez’s proposal to prohibit residential uses in the buffer zone.
“As far as I can tell, Alvarez has said he’s willing to have neither residential nor industrial uses in the buffer, and what industry is holding out for is allowing certain kinds of industrial uses in the buffer,” Fulton said.
He also said it’s impossible for planners to settle every issue, and the city has done a good job of narrowing the disputes to a manageable number for the City Council.
“In the end there are going to be a few things stakeholders can’t agree on, and that’s when politicians earn their money,” he said.
Members of the county’s congressional delegation — Reps. Scott Peters, Susan Davis, Juan Vargas and Duncan Hunter — all announced their support for the maritime industry’s proposed solution this week.
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