The Unified Port of San Diego has hired outside legal counsel to fight a ballot initiative being pursued by a group of developers that aims to redevelop the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal.

The developers, Richard and Nancy Chase and Frank Gallagher, are pursuing a project that would attempt to meld traditional maritime uses with civic or commercial uses at the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal in San Diego. They propose building atop the cargo terminal there and are pursuing a November ballot initiative that would ask voters whether they wanted to amend the port’s master plan to pave the way for the project — effectively usurping the Port Commission’s authority.

The trio has turned to a ballot initiative as a way to get past the competing visions that have long been offered for San Diego’s bay front — whether it should be a tourist attraction or home for marine-based industry.

The Port Commission, which retained Allen Matkins LLP, voted 6-0 yesterday to have the attorneys analyze the ballot initiative “as it relates to state issues and federal Homeland Security concerns at the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal. In addition, the outside legal counsel will be asked to do an analysis of legal issues relating to the Coastal Development Act and the Public Trust Doctrine, which outlines uses that are permitted on state tidelands,” the port said in a news release.

The contract with Allen Matkins doesn’t cap legal expenses nor does it spell out a timeframe for duration of legal work. Attorney Michael Shonafelt will handle the case, port spokesman John Gilmore said, billing an hourly rate of $470.

The port has invited the developers to speak at its May 6 meeting. The legal analysis will be presented then, too.

The Port Tenants Association and the Working Waterfront Group, a coalition of port-related business, government and labor groups, also announced this week their opposition to the initiative.

ROB DAVIS

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