Friday, Oct. 10, 2008 | Sheila Seagrave wants you to vote for Proposition B, a group of developers’ plan to build a deck atop the cargo operation at the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal.

Who is Sheila Seagrave, you might ask?

According to a ballot argument that she signed in favor of the initiative, she is a “nonprofit director.” What nonprofit? It doesn’t say. Google “Sheila Seagrave” and you’ll learn only that she has written a letter to the editor of a local newspaper in support of the idea. Typically, ballot arguments are signed by local luminaries — mayors, public safety officials or business leaders. Proposition B, however, has few notable names.

If it seems like the plan to build a deck to allow development atop the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal isn’t drawing much public support, here’s why: It’s not.

Supporters of the ballot proposition raised $0.00 in campaign donations between July 1 and Sept. 30, the most recent disclosure period. They’ve garnered $157,000 in funding this year. All of the money has come from investors or businesses with financial ties to the project. The proposition has no website, no list of supportive public officials.

If approved by a majority of voters in San Diego, Chula Vista, National City, Coronado and Imperial Beach, the initiative would clear the way for constructing a 40-foot-tall deck above existing cargo operations at the terminal, one of two maritime ports in the region. Faced with a long-running debate about whether the region’s waterfront should be used for commercial or industrial uses, the developers, Richard Chase, Nancy Chase and Frank Gallagher, would in effect create new land atop the existing maritime jobs, making room for hotels or a football stadium.

While a steady stream of unlikely allies has opposed the initiative — San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and local labor groups do not often stand together — the supporters have produced few endorsements from anyone without a financial stake.

Consider the ballot arguments on both sides of the issue, which are circulated to all voters. Signatories against the idea include a former state senator, a university professor, labor leaders, an environmentalist, two business leaders, a taxpayer advocate and a top port official. They say it will ruin the waterfront and supplant well-paying union jobs with lower-paying service industry jobs.

The argument submitted by supporters of the idea includes a consultant being paid by the developers, a retired CEO (whose name was misspelled and company omitted), one of the project’s developers, a Fallbrook water board director and Seagrave.

John Lynch, president/CEO of the Broadcast Company of the Americas, which owns Sports Radio 1090AM, also signed off in support. Lynch’s company is a member of the Fans, Taxpayers and Business Alliance, a group pushing for a new Chargers stadium.

Frank Gallagher, one of the initiative’s developers, would not shed any light on the other supporters’ backgrounds. He became irritated when asked who they were. “You want everybody’s resumes?” he asked. “They like the project.”

Simply asked who Seagrave is, Gallagher did not answer the question. He replied: “She’s a supporter who signed the ballot argument. You’re asking me something of a loaded question. She runs nonprofits. You want a whole resume?”

He did not provide one upon request.

Other people who’ve signed the ballot argument in favor of building the deck include Gallagher; Scott Barnett, president of TaxpayersAdvocate.org; Keith Battle, a “water board director”; and Malcolm Franks, who’s listed as a “retired CEO” and is referred to once as Marcolm.

The ballot argument, which is submitted by proponents, doesn’t say what company Franks ran. Nor does it mention that the developers paid Barnett $3,000 for consulting work. Nor that Battle, who sits on the Fallbrook Public Utility District’s board, also works for Nancy Chase, one of the project’s developers.

Franks and Battle did not return a call for comment. No local listing could be found for Seagrave.

Barnett said he was paid for an analysis of the measure, not to sign the ballot argument. He supports it, he said, because development atop existing cargo operations could boost local tax revenue. “The bottom line is that it’s a net upside for the taxpayers,” Barnett said.

At the same time, the opponents have rolled out a steady stream of public officials who oppose the initiative: Sanders, all five area Congressional representatives, labor leaders and Navy Secretary Donald Winter.

“It is probably the largest coalition of diversity that San Diego has ever seen,” said Sharon Cloward, president of the San Diego Port Tenants Association, an opponent. “You have to question who’s supporting it other than the proponents themselves.”

Gallagher pointed to City Councilman Jim Madaffer as a public official who supports the development. On Monday, Madaffer cast the council’s lone vote against a resolution opposing the initiative. But Madaffer did not endorse the project. While calling it a “brilliant plan,” he also said, “This should go back to the drawing board.”

Gallagher also pointed to Councilman-elect Carl DeMaio’s statements in a recent San Diego CityBeat column. But DeMaio’s comments criticized a port commissioner and did not reference the initiative. “My position is officially neutral,” DeMaio said in voicemail message. The developers’ idea is creative, he said, “but it doesn’t seem to have been given a lot of review before heading to the ballot.”

Opponents have raised $207,000 to date. General Dynamics, the bay-front military contractor that owns NASSCO, the shipbuilder, has donated $60,000. Other donations have come from labor groups, maritime businesses and the Partnership for California Trade, a political organization funded by several shippers.

Please contact Rob Davis directly at rob.davis@voiceofsandiego.org with your thoughts, ideas, personal stories or tips. Or set the tone of the debate with a letter to the editor.

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