Saturday, October 29, 2005 | Virtual Candidate Forum
Editor’s note: Voice of San Diego over the last several weeks has asked readers and community members about the issues they are interested in knowing more about when they cast votes Nov. 8 for District 2 and 8 City Council candidates. Voice will be publishing information about citywide and district-specific issues as Election Day nears. Candidates were provided with a chance to respond and state their position on each topic. The candidates’ submissions have been edited for style, grammar and clarity.
Both Districts 2 and 8 butt-up against the Unified Port of San Diego, the Legislature-created authority overseeing the region’s trade tidelands. There are five member cities whose waterfront has been managed by the port district since it was created in 1962 – San Diego, National City, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach and Coronado.
Member cities often find their elected officials criticizing the port district concept, arguing that their own municipality should be able to manage and reap the direct profits from their waterfronts. The port’s profits are above $100 million per year, and it’s no wonder why some at San Diego City Hall would like to be in charge of their waterfront if it could directly profit off one of the port’s two cargo terminals and the cruise ship terminal if it operated the two directly.
The statehouse would have to approve dissolving the port, although council members are often in the ears of assembly members and state senators that hail from the region.
The council members in Districts 2 and 8 will also oversee land issues that could affect the future of the port and the Navy. With the success of downtown redevelopment has come the pressure to begin expanding residential development closer to the waterfront, frightening those who want to see the industries supporting the port and the Navy stay in San Diego.
As was seen with the recently approved behemoth mixed-use project known as Ballpark Village, tenants of the port and the nearby industrial lands wanted assurance that residents of the $3.2 million-square-foot project will sign waivers saying they will not sue because of the sights, lights, smells and sounds of the adjacent train yard, facilities and port terminal.
Because so many of the companies operating near the waterfront support the Navy, some port watchers say they are concerned that if those businesses leave, so will the fleet at 32nd Street. The Port Commission in September passed a non-binding resolution to create a 1,000-foot buffer zone between the port industries and residential development that stretches from North Embarcadero and the National City Marine Terminal to show their support of the industrial lands.
But some in the city think that allowing the buffer zone is missing out on a potential windfall for San Diego’s coffers. New developments could spell millions in new property taxes. When the Omni Hotel went up at 675 L St., its assessed value of the parcel was 200 times what it was valued at when Frost Hardware stood there. The $1.54 million tax increment, or the difference in taxes collected on the new and old value, is restricted for use downtown, but will be available to the city, county and state in about 30 years when the Centre City Redevelopment Project is completed.
The port land itself cannot be used for residential use, state law says.
Some believe entities like the city should tap into developments to raise other revenues, such as sales tax and the transient occupancy tax charged for hotel rooms. Shipyards, they say, are obstructing San Diego’s ability to develop its potential to be a tourism epicenter.
Developing waterfront projects like the highly touted North Embarcadero plan will also require the port’s input, frustrating some who believe the maritime authority is just one more set of interests to accommodate. The port, CCDC, the city of San Diego and the Navy all have a stake in the North Embarcadero plan.
Port supporters argue that a deep-water port is the most important resource for the San Diego region as well as the state.
Breaking up the port would also dissolve the $4 million comprehensive environmental monitoring and inspection program operated by the port. The agency monitors storm water runoff, inspects the shipyards and studies the San Diego bay’s water quality.
Members of the council are able to vet and confirm the mayor’s nominees to the Port Commission. Three of the seven commissioners are San Diego delegates, and the other four member cities are allotted one representative each.
Please contact Evan McLaughlin directly at