Let me begin with a thank-you to the proponents of Proposition B, who have brought the reuse of Tenth Avenue terminal to a public vote.
The thank you is not for their creative reuse proposal, but for the far more important protection of our rights, as citizens, to the democratic process, that their actions have defended.
This is the first time, since the San Diego Unified Port District was formed 60 years ago, that the public has had the right to directly decide how a public asset, under the port control, should be utilized.
And this right did not come without a fight. The port’s leadership fought, with our money, our public funds, to keep this right away from us, the public. They fought it with a misinformation campaign. When that did not work, they fought it in court using a Los Angeles law firm to represent them — while again using our money to fight our rights. Port officials, if I read their pleadings correctly, argued that they, the commissioners, were the final voice on the use of port resources and the public had no say or frankly any ability to decide, such important issues.
The courts, most logically, ruled against the port. So the port continued to spend public funds to appeal the superior court’s ruling.
The appellate court sided with the superior court and ruled the proposal should and would appear on this November’s ballot. The port has continued to fight this proposal. Even though the law prohibits the port from publicly opposing this proposition, the port has found support from their tenants, who have taken up the fight of the port’s position.
This is a particularly troubling arrangement since the port is responsible for obtaining, for us the public, the maximum market-rate lease terms from these same tenants, they now having fighting their battle. Is this really the arm’s-length relationship with the private sector, the public expects from its representatives?
This ballot opportunity, was gained by the initiative process, which became a part of California law almost a 100 years ago when it was decided that, if and when our public officials, elected or appointed, are no longer responsive to the people of California, the people have a legal right to wrestle control from a non-responsive elected body and make the decision, themselves, at the ballot box.
Proposition 13, which capped property taxes in California in the 1970s, is an example of the public’s taking control of an issue where they could get no representation. And the public did the right thing, when they could not get their elected officials to stop raising their taxes, forcing the elderly from their homes.
Whether the proposal is the right use, under the right terms, for this valuable public resource is something I do not wish to publicly weigh in on. The decision is one each of us should make on our own, using information that we have gained, which we feel is sufficient to make an informed vote. Let me say that while leading the Centre City Development Corp., over the decades, I heard my share of naysayers, who said downtown would never be cleaned up, nor would Horton Plaza actually be built, nor would Petco Park ever be built. I learned it is far easier to destroy an idea then to build it. That is what the opponents of this proposition are counting on: That enough of the public will be too lazy to see the opportunities, creative ideas and work, can bring to our quality of life.
So I would hope my fellow citizens would not take the easy way out, but instead study the proposal before us. Let me also suggest that if this is not the best use, even if it is a better use then the present use, it should not be approved. The opportunity for the public to decide the eventual use of this public asset has now been guaranteed by the Courts.
I will say — as I have said all my life in public service — this property, offers one of the most beautiful views in San Diego. It is a place that should be open to public’s use and enjoyment.
If that requires a total reuse of the terminal then, in my opinion that is a fair tradeoff. However, I truly believe that once the port leadership stops stonewalling the public and begins to discuss “joint uses” a win-win situation can be obtained.