For years, one group of people has dreamed that a stadium or hotel or some beautiful structure could find its way onto the valuable land of the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal at the port.

And for just as long, another group has fervently worked to protect the terminal, its maritime functions and its union jobs.

Now, a developer thinks he can do both — maybe even put a new Chargers stadium actually aloft somehow above the workers unloading cargo ships below.

Business on bottom, party on the top.

The idea first came up in 1998 but next week, the developer of the once controversial Gregory Canyon landfill says he will notify the port of San Diego that he will be sending a petition to voters in the five cities that make up the port.

Richard Chase, who with his wife Nancy engineered the years-long process to build the landfill in North County, is leading an LLC known as San Diegans for Community Solutions. He thinks that some clever architecture might both protect the jobs at Tenth Avenue and make way for a new convention center expansion, a new stadium or whatever else San Diegans dream of.

This isn’t one of the pie-in-the-sky ideas many have floated over the years for the terminal. Chase’s group has actually gathered local lobbyists and conducted polling (one of the questions was whether San Diegans supported moving the Chargers to Tenth Avenue).

Scott Maloni, a spokesman for Chase and the group, said voters in the five cities that make up the port district would be asked whether they wanted to amend the port’s master plan to pave the way for this supposed smart port.

Could Tenth Avenue keep importing big stuff with a stadium on top?

Part of the language of the initiative, Maloni said, would also ensure that the maritime functions of the port couldn’t be changed by whomever is sitting on the port commission at any given time. Rather, he said, the language would require that any decision about whether to make the port an importer exporter or a beautiful chain of resorts would have to go to a vote of the people.

That is, of course, after the door has been opened for this one last proposal.

What would the initiative do exactly? Here’s Maloni:

The proposed initiative measure would enact an amendment to the Port Master Plan requiring the participation of marine freight tenants and marine freight labor organizations in the process of developing a Master Plan to preserve existing marine freight activities and to implement modernized marine freight activities by means of cooperative development agreements.  It would also require consultation and participation with all public or private entities affected by any redevelopment plan, including but not limited to existing tenants, labor organizations, environmental groups, community groups, business organizations and visitor or convention groups.

If you made it through that, nice.

Now, to the other side of things.

Port officials aren’t so enthusiastic and they have some serious questions. For example, for security reasons, you have to restrict access to working harbors like Tenth Avenue. How would that work if you put a stadium or hotel or convention center on the same space or somehow on top of it? Plus, companies import sometimes huge products that are very tall. Would the double-decked port restrict what could be brought in to the terminal?

Irene McCormack, the port’s spokeswoman, called the proposal a “double-decking” of Tenth Avenue. She said port officials met with Chase Thursday.

“The port of San Diego looks at ourselves as one of a string of ports up and down the West Coast. Deep water terminals like this are precious resources. We don’t want to jeopardize what we have,” she said.

She also said that it was unclear what power an initiative would have. The port commission considers itself trustees of the State Lands Commission. In other words, voters aren’t in charge of it, so how can they change what it does?

Maloni said the port’s master plan can be changed by initiative.

Chase is no stranger to this sort of effort.

The Gregory Canyon landfill came about from a similar effort. Local officials were reluctant to approve the landfill. So Chase took it to the voters and twice persuaded them to approve of his plan. Tom Shepard, who runs the firm Public Policy Strategies (Maloni’s boss), engineered the last electoral success in 2004 in spite of the well-funded opposition of the Pala Band of Mission Indians, which didn’t want a landfill near its resort and casino.

SCOTT LEWIS

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