Thursday, Feb. 8, 2007 | I have read the recent proposals regarding the San Diego Bay waterfront and believe as one member of the Board of Port Commissioners and Chairman of its Maritime Committee that I must join this discussion.

First, I feel the port is completely on board with grand visions. The North Embarcadero Visionary Plan —10 years in the making — is an example of a “big bodacious idea.” The plan, which took a long time to thread the “pipeline” of regulatory approvals, adds about 25 acres of parks, plazas and open space along Harbor Drive. We are on the brink of implementing the plan’s first phase with the development of Lane Field by Rob Langford and his joint-venture team who will provide the financing for the first step. The same is true for expanding cruise ship operations at the Broadway Pier and B Street Terminal. Our cruise ship companies, particularly our largest, the Carnival family, are partnering financially with the port on the expansion.

So the question is, could we step back from these projects and “rethink” the North Embarcadero. Sure. But, as noted above, there is a cost. Perhaps a better approach is to discuss incremental improvements to existing plans without losing the momentum of all that has gone before.

However, I must draw a line in the sand about the idea to relocate the Cruise Ship Terminal to the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal. For the past five years, the port’s maritime business has experienced 15-20 percent annual increases and is at its highest level ever. Similar increases are projected over the next five years. The equipment at the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal — the $10-15 million conveyer belts, the multi-million dollar cold storage warehouse or the $25 million investment for Dole produce — cannot be relocated easily on the bay because there just isn’t enough land.

So, then the question may be, why not reduce maritime cargoes and consolidate that activity in National City? We would lose jobs and economic impacts for our region. The port’s two maritime cargo terminals — Tenth Avenue and National City — generate $1.6 billion in economic impact in our region and account for about 19,000 direct or indirect jobs, according to the port’s 2006 preliminary assessment. I am not willing to sacrifice jobs and economic impacts when the region can benefit from expanding the existing cruise terminal while counting on a robust maritime cargo operation.

The port already has constructed 25 acres of parks and open space between the convention center and the airport and is committed to adding at least 40 more acres through the North Embarcadero Visionary Plan, the redevelopment of the Old Police Headquarters/Seaport Village, the Hilton Hotel and Fifth Avenue Landing redevelopment.

I look forward to discussing these ideas as we work together to improve the San Diego waterfront while meeting the needs of our region and our state.

Stephen P. Cushman is on the Board of Port Commissioners for the Port of San Diego.

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