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Some responses to my post have come in, here are my thoughts.
Reader Vlad wrote:
Peter, the port tidelands are owned by the state, not by local voters. If the Prop B people wanted to qualify a ballot measure across the entire state, and allow all California voters to weigh on what should happen at the 10th Ave terminal, that would certainly be a proper use of direct democracy and I doubt you’d see a legal challenge; however, they didn’t do that. The analogy is that San Diego voters can’t get together and vote to build a second deck over Camp Pendleton, or vote to start oil drilling off the coast of Mission Beach. The port commission is an agent of the State Lands Commission, not of the local cities or their voters.
Port commissions, like the one that administers the San Diego Tidelands, are appointed by local city councils, which are elected by the local voters. I agree that the tidelands are a state resource, and I am not sure why local control was granted, but it appears to me that the courts have decided the petitions were properly circulated, to the proper individuals, and thus the vote is proper and legal.
Reader Discdude wrote:
Interesting. However, ignoring the current proposal before us and just talking about the general idea of using the ballot, I’d say this is probably not a good trend. Would we really expect the public to examine, understand, and vote for every development proposal (or any proposal for that matter)? Our ballot list won’t go from A to D, it’ll go from A to Z. We do have elected representatives who help to make decisions and while they don’t always make the right ones, we have a choice to vote them out. That’s the hallmark of democracy. I think asking the public to examine every decision is too much to ask. However, I *definitely* think that our elected representatives should LISTEN to the public instead of their typical glad-handing and backroom deals. The current process isn’t broken, it just needs to be improved.
I disagree — this is exactly a case of the people’s right to wrestle control from a non-responsive governing body. The purpose of the vote may seem self serving. But the reason a vote is being held is because the port abdicated his control of this issue by shutting the people’s voice out of the discussion.
Reader Watcher wrote:
The Port board, having a sad history of ignoring what the public wanted on our waterfront in favor of pandering to big hotel owners like Doug Manchester, now finds itself running behind trying to convince the public to vote down this proposal made by a group of greedy land speculators that would take away the boards zoning and land use powers over this particular stretch of public tidelands. I support the Port’s maritime commerce development efforts, on the grounds it makes more sense and creates more good jobs than simply lining our bayfront with giant highrise hotels dedicated to tourists. If the Port doesn’t want to see its land use powers further diminished, it needs to sponsor a downtown bayfront precise planning process, with input from the city, the Navy and the general public. Build what the public wants on our harborfront, not what big hotel developers want.
Uses such as increased cruise ship activities or other hospitality uses such as the Convention Center expansion, or hotels, arenas, parks or promenades remains to be decided and an open, transparent discussion at the port would certainly be a better method of determination then the ballot box. But as we, and hopefully the port, has learned, the ballot box remains an option, if they continue to ignore the public’s input.
I agree with Watcher that this problem was brought to us by a port with a sad history of ignoring the public. As a commissioner I tried, in 2004, to open discussions on the possible reuses of the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal, only to find a room filled with those who did not support a change to the status quo, or even any discussion. In fact, as I recall the resolution presented and passed 6 to 1, placed a gag order on all staff and commissioners, on any further discussions of reuse. I said at the time this was not the way to end the discussions. This is only the way to end the port’s involvement in a future discussion. That sadly has proven true. Cargo activity is diminishing according to figures that reflect a drop of over 50 percent in last three years.