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I read San Diego port board member Scott Peters’ article with concern. Scott was responding to my blog post regarding his visit last Monday evening to the Citizens Coordinate for Century 3 (C-3) board meeting, one of the region’s most respected urban planning organizations, where he asked for help trying to sell the Broadway Cruise Ship Terminal to the public.

The C-3 board is planning to hold a special meeting to respond to Peter’s presentation and request for feedback, but apparently Scott couldn’t wait and decided to put his own spin on things citing his past service on C-3’s board. In doing so, Scott joins a tawdry tradition of former C-3 members who used their former affiliation with C-3 to further their own political career, as he did in getting himself elected to the San Diego City Council and then getting himself appointed to the Board of Port Commissioners.

In Peter’s world, up is down and black is white. For example, he asserts that:

“Right now, there are legal challenges to the new cruise ship terminal on Broadway Pier, which was approved by the port in 2009 and is currently under construction. But that does not affect the NEVP. The lawsuits challenge what is happening on the pier; the NEVP has to do with improving the areas near and around the pier. I understand that cruise terminal opponents have a right to file such a suit, but I don’t agree with them. The cruise terminal was prompted in part by security concerns following 9/11 and conceived in 2007 through a long set of negotiations that preceded me. I voted for construction in 2009.”

Ian Trowbridge, co-chair of the Navy Broadway Complex Coalition and a member of the Friends of the Water front, responded to Peters assertions in comments on today’s article.

“The Port is responsible for the delay in Implementing the original NEVP because they unilaterally struck a side deal with Carnival Cruises to build a cruise ship terminal on Broadway pier that destroyed its function as a public pier, eliminated the Oval Park and created the prospect of traffic chaos on days when three ships would be berthed. Their plan violates the California Coastal Act and is not in the public interest. After agreeing to conduct a Port Master plan amendment, the Port now wants to go back to the Commission in October with the same flawed Coastal Development Permit already rejected by the Commission using political heft to change the vote…I am sorry Peters is trying to use the good name of C3 to further his own goals.”

(Update. For full disclosure, I am also a member of the NBCC, which is suing the port over its failure to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act when it approved the proposal to build the new structure on the Broadway Pier.)

Sharp eyed VOSD reader Janet Shelton commented,

“Peters doesn’t get it. The port has been trying to turn the area around the bay into a Disneyland for visitors, while systematically excluding the general public from its projects and plans…Carnival should never have been allowed there. Eventually, the area around the cruise ship will be lost because of increasing security requirements.”

Peters is trying to prevent VOSD readers from understanding that by beginning construction of a cruise ship terminal on the Broadway Pier, the port is attempting to run a sword through the heart of the original North Embarcadero Visionary Plan (NEVP).

The whole plan was focused on building a new Broadway Landing Park at the foot of Broadway, with the park extending out onto an open, public Broadway Pier, which is to be available to the public almost every day of the year, except on rare occasions when there is overflow traffic from the cruise ship terminal on the B Street Pier.

The original vision foresaw cruise ships tying up at the Broadway Pier only a few days a year, leaving the remaining days open to public use of the pier. In 2005 the port signed a contract with Carnival Cruise Lines for a loan to build a new cruise ship terminal on the B Street Pier, which is already zoned to serve cruise ship traffic under the Port Master Plan, and which has been approved for cruises ship operations by the California Coastal Commission.

Then, without any notice to the public, the port decided to amend that contract in 2007, with Carnival increasing its loan in order to fund the new cruise ship terminal on the Broadway Pier, which was not zoned for cruise ship operations, in return for priority berthing rights from the port.

Under the California Coastal Act, this action should have triggered a new Environmental Impact Report process and required a Port Master Plan Amendment. This process, under the law requires multiple public meetings to alert the public to what is being planned and to get their feedback on the proposed changes being considered.

Building a new cruise ship terminal on Broadway Pier would destroy the planned Broadway Landing Park, since the port would have to use the park site as a paved intersection serving heavy diesel trucks and busses servicing Carnival cruise ships berthed at the terminal.

The port knew this and understood that the public would not stand for this kind of fundamental change to the NEVP. So, instead they conspired with the Centre City Development Corporation (CCDC) to keep the impact of this change from the public. I have read emails between CCDC and port staff citing the need to avoid mentioning the negative impacts that building a new structure on Broadway Pier would have on the planned Broadway Landing Park.

Instead of initiating a new Environmental Impact Report and Port Master Plan Amendment and complying with the California Coastal Act and the California Environmental Quality Act, the port board voted after no public input, to adopt a what they called a “de minimis port master plan amendment”, when they fully understood that the impacts of their action would be anything but de minimis.

This action was appealed to the Coastal Commission, and port staff covered up the impact of the action in discussions with Coastal Commission staff. In fact, the documents provided by port staff to the commission asserted that construction of a cruise ship terminal on the Broadway Pier will have no impacts on other planned land uses on the north embarcadero.

At a Coastal Commission meeting held outside San Diego, the commission, having been mislead by the port, approved the de minimis PMPA, but has since learned the extent of the port’s duplicity.

At the April Coastal Commission meeting, several commission members remarked that if they had understood what was really being proposed by the port, they would have never voted to allow the project to move forward.

Scott Peters knows all this, having voted for the change to the NEVP and worked with allies to mislead the Coastal Commission. Instead of waiting for a response from the C-3 board, he has chosen to mount a full blown PR campaign to mislead VOSD readers as well.

Don’t be fooled. The port is in very hot water and is trying to force things to go their way. Scott Peters knows that the Department of Homeland Security rules will require that Harbor Drive and the foot of Broadway be closed to the public on days that cruise ships are tied up at the Broadway Pier, due to a 100 yard exclusionary zone that must be enforced around each cruise ship.

If Peters were really serious about trying to solve this problem, he would use his influence as a port board member to stop construction of the partial structure on the Broadway Pier and convince his fellow board members to dismantle it and move it to the B Street Pier or a more secure site on the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal. Instead, all we’re getting is more PR spin from a political spinmeister. As a former three term president of C-3, I expected a lot more from Scott Peters and am very disappointed in him.

— DON WOOD

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