How a Nine-Block Area in Barrio Logan Became a Vast Gulf

How a Nine-Block Area in Barrio Logan Became a Vast Gulf

Photo by Sam Hodgson

A view of the NASSCO shipyards from Barrio Logan.

The city’s shipbuilding industry is not ready to let the Barrio Logan community plan – approved by the City Council last month – go.

Industry leaders and Councilman Kevin Faulconer, who’s running for mayor, announced Thursday a signature-gathering campaign aimed at overturning the community’s new blueprint for future growth.

They even had a novelty oversized petition.

But in making their case for overturning the plan, the leaders gathered might have overplayed their hand.

Specifically, their claim that failing to overturn the plan would jeopardize the city’s entire maritime industry is a bit shaky.

“And unfortunately, the plan recently adopted by the Council majority threatens 46,000 of these workers,” Faulconer said Thursday.

His campaign later sent out a press release making the same basic claim.

“Kevin Faulconer joined dozens of local shipbuilders today to announce he is continuing to work toward an agreement that protects 46,000 workers employed at San Diego’s waterfront,” it said.

But remember, that 46,000 number refers to the size of entire region’s maritime industry, according to a 2012 industry-supported study.

And the industry includes shipbuilding, but it also includes things like fishing, shipping and construction companies that focus on maritime projects.

The number of actual jobs at the Port of San Diego, according to the report, is 14,950.

But even focusing on the number of jobs at the Port obscures the actual point of disagreement between the shipbuilding industry and those who support the new Barrio Logan plan, which came together in part because of a last-minute compromise by Councilman David Alvarez, also a mayoral candidate.

The new plan doesn’t touch the actual Port. In fact, the Port’s not even within the city’s jurisdiction.

All the industrial area south of Harbor Drive – home to three shipbuilding companies – will remain untouched in the plan.

The real disagreement is over a small area just north of Harbor Drive that is currently home to a number of companies that support the shipbuilders, like vendors and cleaners.

City planners want to turn those blocks into an area for commercial properties so they can serve as a buffer between the shipyard and the residential community to the north.

Industry representatives wanted the area open to those maritime-serving businesses, and they wanted houses and other sensitive properties banned from the area.

The new plan met the second request, banning new homes and other sensitive uses from the area.

But maritime-serving companies can’t open in those blocks without getting a conditional-use permit. Those permits could easily be held up by the community.

That’s the disagreement: Can shipyard-supporting companies open without a conditional use permit in a nine-block area north of Harbor Drive?

That’s it. Everything else has been settled.

That nine-block area isn’t home to 46,000 jobs. It’s not even home to the 14,000 jobs that take place at the Port. It is, however, home to a handful of small businesses that work hand-in-hand with the shipyard (and those existing companies will be able to stay open, but their expansion options will be limited).

So what’s all this talk of 46,000 jobs if we’re really talking about whether new businesses can open in a few block area?

Industry leaders say the creep of the residential community toward the Port threatens its long-term existence. Even though the creep is coming from commercial businesses, they’re meant to serve a residential community, not heavy industry.

The creep is the first step toward eliminating the shipyards altogether, they say.

“Over time we believe this process will threaten the shipyard’s very existence in San Diego,” said Kevin Graney, vice president of operations for General Dynamics NASSCO.

That could very well be true. Or at least, there’s no way for anyone to say it’s false.

But it’s worth remembering the industry says it’s totally on board with a plan that would do everything the current plan does, except it would let new maritime vendors open in the contested nine-block area.

That means the industry doesn’t think it faces an existential threat from encroachment if it can draw the line outside those nine blocks. But if it fails to do so, everything’s in doubt.

Nine blocks.

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Andrew Keatts

Andrew Keatts

I'm Andrew Keatts, a reporter for Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0529.

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22 comments
Don Wood
Don Wood

Kevin Falcouner has made it perfectly clear that he is the candidate of big business, and has zero sympathy for the neighborhoods impacted by those businesses. Perhaps that is because the vast majority of his campaign contributions come from local big business leaders and real estate developers. If you care about "the little people" you need to vote for one of the other candidates, since a vote for Falconer is a vote for the business controlled status quo.

Don Wood
Don Wood subscriber

Kevin Falcouner has made it perfectly clear that he is the candidate of big business, and has zero sympathy for the neighborhoods impacted by those businesses. Perhaps that is because the vast majority of his campaign contributions come from local big business leaders and real estate developers. If you care about "the little people" you need to vote for one of the other candidates, since a vote for Falconer is a vote for the business controlled status quo.

Glenn Younger
Glenn Younger

Residents in the Logan neighborhood chose to move into a neighborhood and then complain about the neighborhood. Makes no sense to me. The industrial uses in those 9 blocks predate ANY of the current residents who are asking for the change.

Glenn Younger
Glenn Younger subscribermember

Residents in the Logan neighborhood chose to move into a neighborhood and then complain about the neighborhood. Makes no sense to me. The industrial uses in those 9 blocks predate ANY of the current residents who are asking for the change.

Erik Hanson
Erik Hanson

"Residential creep"? most of the houses in this area were built in 1890-1915.

Erik Hanson
Erik Hanson subscriber

"Residential creep"? most of the houses in this area were built in 1890-1915.

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin

This is not as much a Barrio Logan issue as much as it is a regional issue. The bay and its economic impact are regional concerns to economic health and all San Diego should weigh in on this. It needs to go on the ballot.

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin subscribermember

This is not as much a Barrio Logan issue as much as it is a regional issue. The bay and its economic impact are regional concerns to economic health and all San Diego should weigh in on this. It needs to go on the ballot.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Industries relocate from seemingly small events. If the city signals to the industrial marine industry that it isn't willing to accommodate the industries needs here, that it plans to increase the hostility, the impact could be far greater than a couple blocks. LA/Longbeach can absorb our entire marine industrial base, and it would love to, doing so would help them wrest the little commercial shipping we still get. I remember people warning of the impact of a small tax increase on the cruise ship industry here, but the tax and spend crowd went ahead with it anyway. How'd that work out for us? Heck, maybe we can put a super walmart there when it is all said and done..

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Industries relocate from seemingly small events. If the city signals to the industrial marine industry that it isn't willing to accommodate the industries needs here, that it plans to increase the hostility, the impact could be far greater than a couple blocks. LA/Longbeach can absorb our entire marine industrial base, and it would love to, doing so would help them wrest the little commercial shipping we still get. I remember people warning of the impact of a small tax increase on the cruise ship industry here, but the tax and spend crowd went ahead with it anyway. How'd that work out for us? Heck, maybe we can put a super walmart there when it is all said and done..

barb graham
barb graham

This type of obfuscation and massaging the data is exactly the kind of behavior we DON'T want in a mayor. Right, San Diego? Been there done that, more than once, right? So, for once let's vote together and get someone in who will be truthful with the city and have the residents' best interests in mind first and foremost. (it was hard to type this with a straight face...) Anyway, Kevin Faulkner and your 46,000 mislieading digits, take a hike. You lost my vote. I'm really tired of this sort of behavior, you insult our intelligence with this kind of casual truthiness.

barb graham
barb graham subscriber

This type of obfuscation and massaging the data is exactly the kind of behavior we DON'T want in a mayor. Right, San Diego? Been there done that, more than once, right? So, for once let's vote together and get someone in who will be truthful with the city and have the residents' best interests in mind first and foremost. (it was hard to type this with a straight face...) Anyway, Kevin Faulkner and your 46,000 mislieading digits, take a hike. You lost my vote. I'm really tired of this sort of behavior, you insult our intelligence with this kind of casual truthiness.

Don Wood
Don Wood

The Carnival Cruise Lines sent Jerry Sanders a letter telling him that they and the other cruise lines saw no need for a new cruise ship terminal on the Broadway Pier for the foreseeable future. Despite that Sanders urged Steve Cushman and the Port District to go ahead and build the unneeded new $25 million dollar cruise ship terminal, then told the cruise lines that they were going to add the cost of the new facility to the docking fees the Port charges cruise ships who come here. After the new facility was built, the cruise lines moved the ships they had home ported here to Australia and cruise ship traffic into San Diego has dropped off very significantly. The Broadway Pier is the Port's expensive White Elephant, and since fewer ships are coming here, docking fees have dropped off, meaning the Port has to cover the cost of the new terminal out of other funds. Now the city council has voted to extend the TOT tax surcharge used to fund tourism advertising by $1 billion and the big hotel owners have voted to add another $1 billion in TOT surcharges to fund the construction of the convention center expansion. So local hotel room fees will continue to skyrocket. Then when tourists stop coming here, the hotel owners and the politicians will complain that it's because we don't use enough tax dollars to subsidize more advertising. Simple economics indicate otherwise.

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster

Mr. Jones: I think the cruise ship industry was primarily affected by crime and/or the perception thereof in Mexico. I've never heard a cruise ship spokesperson it had to do with taxes. High taxes seem to be the norm in the hospitality industry and the leaders thereof seem to support them (e.g. convention center).

Don Wood
Don Wood subscriber

The Carnival Cruise Lines sent Jerry Sanders a letter telling him that they and the other cruise lines saw no need for a new cruise ship terminal on the Broadway Pier for the foreseeable future. Despite that Sanders urged Steve Cushman and the Port District to go ahead and build the unneeded new $25 million dollar cruise ship terminal, then told the cruise lines that they were going to add the cost of the new facility to the docking fees the Port charges cruise ships who come here. After the new facility was built, the cruise lines moved the ships they had home ported here to Australia and cruise ship traffic into San Diego has dropped off very significantly. The Broadway Pier is the Port's expensive White Elephant, and since fewer ships are coming here, docking fees have dropped off, meaning the Port has to cover the cost of the new terminal out of other funds. Now the city council has voted to extend the TOT tax surcharge used to fund tourism advertising by $1 billion and the big hotel owners have voted to add another $1 billion in TOT surcharges to fund the construction of the convention center expansion. So local hotel room fees will continue to skyrocket. Then when tourists stop coming here, the hotel owners and the politicians will complain that it's because we don't use enough tax dollars to subsidize more advertising. Simple economics indicate otherwise.

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster subscribermember

Mr. Jones: I think the cruise ship industry was primarily affected by crime and/or the perception thereof in Mexico. I've never heard a cruise ship spokesperson it had to do with taxes. High taxes seem to be the norm in the hospitality industry and the leaders thereof seem to support them (e.g. convention center).

David Hall
David Hall

Maybe not. It makes sense that the shipyards are served by supporting businesses close by. If you limit those options, you're likely limiting the shipyards' themselves. The rhetoric by the industry is over the top. But it shouldn't take special permits to open or enlarge a business unless they're dealing with toxic chemicals or whatnot.

David Hall
David Hall subscriber

Maybe not. It makes sense that the shipyards are served by supporting businesses close by. If you limit those options, you're likely limiting the shipyards' themselves. The rhetoric by the industry is over the top. But it shouldn't take special permits to open or enlarge a business unless they're dealing with toxic chemicals or whatnot.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Chris, the cruise ship industry definitely cited the tax increases as a factor, in fact I linked to the statement on VoSD back when this first happened. It just didn't get mentioned much by progressive reporters as it didn't fit their narrative (which is why I linked it). Regardless of that, the point remains that you can't assume that a impediment measured as a percentage of area equates to a result with the same percentage in a complex system, to do so is dishonest. A bullet to the head is a small impediment when measured as a percentage of the area of the body, but it certainly has the potential to kill the whole body. Limiting the growth of a business or even going so far as to mandate it shrink is a good way to lose that entire industry to somewhere that appreciates jobs and economic growth.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Chris, the cruise ship industry definitely cited the tax increases as a factor, in fact I linked to the statement on VoSD back when this first happened. It just didn't get mentioned much by progressive reporters as it didn't fit their narrative (which is why I linked it). Regardless of that, the point remains that you can't assume that a impediment measured as a percentage of area equates to a result with the same percentage in a complex system, to do so is dishonest. A bullet to the head is a small impediment when measured as a percentage of the area of the body, but it certainly has the potential to kill the whole body. Limiting the growth of a business or even going so far as to mandate it shrink is a good way to lose that entire industry to somewhere that appreciates jobs and economic growth.