The Unified Port of San Diego occupies a crucial place in the county’s economy. It is jointly run by five cities (Coronado, San Diego, Imperial Beach, Chula Vista, and National City) that border the lucrative San Diego Bay.

Its seven commissioners, three of whom are appointed by the city of San Diego, also have the task of balancing their every action against many competing interests, including environmentalists, developers, businesses and the maritime sector.

These interests have advocated for different uses of the waterfront to be emphasized. While some want more concentration on maritime usage, others are clamoring for a more people centered usage.

The port engages in yearly battles to avoid changes in usage to its valuable real estate properties in the San Diego Bay area. The organization generates more than 60 percent of its revenue from its real estate.

How the commission deploys its $140 million budget and other resources are also hot areas of contention in the San Diego Bay.

The port is in the process of rolling out its North Embarcadero Visionary Plan. Construction on the stretch of Harbor Drive is slated to commence in January 2012.

The Port Commission has been asked to provide financial support for a new Chargers stadium, but the commission turned down the request on grounds that it currently lacks the financial muscle. It also categorically rejected the idea of a stadium on its terminal at Tenth Avenue.

The commission however recently agreed to provide about $3 million a year for up to 20 years for the San Diego Convention Center expansion project. It had initially said it lacked the capacity do so.

In continuation of our mayoral poll, VOSD asked San Diego’s declared mayoral candidates to have a say on the Port Commission. The following questions were put to them:

“In your vision for San Diego, what’s the proper role of the Unified Port of San Diego? What kind of people would you support being on the Port Commission? What kind of backgrounds would they have? Should the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal remain a maritime outlet or should its use be reconsidered?”

See their responses here:

Carl DeMaio, city councilman:

San Diego’s harbor and surrounding Port lands are integral to our economy — and if properly managed can help create thousands more jobs for San Diegans.

I recently met with Port executives and outlined my job creation goals for them.

First, our shipping facilities are currently underutilized. To fill them with cargo, we must aggressively pursue new business in partnership with the Pacific-Rim economies. Continued operation of the 10th Avenue Terminal must go hand-in-hand with the business development strategy I’m proposing.

Second, we must use the Port to expand our local Tourism economy — with greater Port financial support for the Convention Center at the top of the list.

Third, we must cut red tape and regulation on our existing Port Tenants. When they succeed, the Port and our economy as a whole succeeds.

Finally, a great city requires great destinations and public spaces. The Port must do more to achieve completion of a number of key projects — including the North Embarcadero Visionary Plan — so we can give San Diego a waterfront we can be proud of again.

To implement these changes, my administration will take a very hands-on approach to Port issues — and will insist that city-appointed Commissioners faithfully and completely carryout our proposals.

Bonnie Dumanis, district attorney:

San Diego’s waterfront is one of its most important economic, recreational, environmental and visitor assets. The city needs to work closely with the Port of San Diego to maintain and further improve upon all of our waterfront resources.

The reality is in California accomplishing anything on the waterfront involves multiple layers of government, including the Coastal Commission, local government agencies, and often the State Lands Commission. In San Diego, it also means working with the Port, the coastal cities in the Port District, the military, and in some cases the Airport Authority. This places a premium on having Commissioners who can bring a diverse array of parties to the table to achieve a common vision. We’ve created a culture of doing precisely this in the District Attorney’s office, and Port Commissioners should have an appreciation and skill set for bringing people together, in addition to the professional skill set and experience needed to help lead an organization as large and diverse as the Port.

I would encourage all stakeholders to come to the table to discuss the best options and uses for the 10th Ave Terminal moving forward. We need to ensure we are maximizing the potential of that site.

Bob Filner, congressman:

The congressman did not respond.

Nathan Fletcher, assemblyman:

The Port is an economic engine and a cornerstone of a dynamic, innovative global economy. It is currently responsible for approximately 42,000 jobs and has the potential to grow. With the right focus and leadership, growth can come through increased international trade, expanded maritime technology and innovation along with increasing defense spending. That must all be accompanied by a real commitment to comprehensive infrastructure upgrades that tie in our highway, rail, air cargo, and transit systems into one regional system. As Mayor, I’ll work with the Port to help facilitate these goals.

Port commissioners are trustees for the tidelands and representatives of their member cities. To be effective, they need to not only be bold thinkers, but also be able to build consensus with their fellow commissioners and with the stakeholders from business, labor, and environmental and neighboring communities. I will work to appoint commissioners who have these consensus-building skills.

The Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal is one of only two maritime terminals for our region, and additionally has been designated a strategic seaport by the US Department of Defense and is a part of the Maritime Highways Corridor system. As Mayor, I’ll work with stakeholders and federal officials to increase the economic activity of TAMT and the entire port system.

David Cardon, real estate broker:

I believe that the proper role of the Unified Port of San Diego is stated clearly in both the current Vision & Mission Statements of the Port. The kind of people I would support for being on the Port Commission would be the kind who put a strong emphasis on the Environment & Safety and who will represent the City in an Ethical & Professional manner…The backgrounds of these people should be very diverse and should have an emphasis in Environmental & Maritime Law, Commerce & Economic Principals, Naval & Civilian Maritime Operations, Global Economic Relations, Commercial Property Management and Leadership. At this time, I believe that the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal should remain a Maritime Outlet, however with that being said, I feel that any ideas that promote more economic growth while preserving environmental integrity should always be considered as long as the question always remains, “How is this going to benefit the City of San Diego?” San Diego has 3 Positions out of a 7 member board giving it the largest imprint on the Board. We must ensure that our representatives are looking out for the City’s best interest while maintaining a balanced operation for the region.

Hud Collins, trial attorney:

The proper role for the Unified Port is in fact the one they have now; to foster a world class port through excellence and public service. The mission, while protecting tidelands trust resources, the port balances the economic benefits, community services, environmental stewardship and public safety on behalf of the citizens of California. This mission is correct at this time. The kind of commissioner appointed to be on the port commission — all the complete opposite of the current chairman Scott Peters. Peters and 4 other councilmembers brought shame and financial ruin on the city since 2002. No particular background is necessary; at the same time we do want the citizen who is up on current affairs within the city and the region. We do not want a politician! Selection should come from a panel of retired judges/pillars of the community. The 10th Ave Marine Terminal, as voted on in November 2008, was voted down as a proposition when it tried to amend the San Diego Unified Port District’s master plan. Brought by pro-developers, it had the intention, in the end to be for the San Diego Charger Stadium. If proper financing (which does not include public money) were detailed and discussed openly; then the use should be reconsidered.

Sunny O. Enyoghwerho, businessman:

The proper role of the unified port of San Diego is to ship goods in and out of San Diego. The port can also be used to transport people to and fro San Diego to other parts of the world. The port needs to be redeveloped to meet this challenge. If the port is properly developed, people can travel by sea to China, Japan, Mexico and other parts of the world. In a short distance, people can travel to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Mexico. The commercial use of the port will bring revenue for the city. It will also create jobs for the people of San Diego. This is one of the ways the city can reduce the unemployment rates. To manage the port effectively, the city needs to have people with sound business backgrounds, marine engineers, immigration officers, custom officers, and navy officers on the port commission. The type of people we have to manage it will determine the success of the operation. As for the venue, I see no reason why we should change it. It is close to downtown, and it is very easy to get to. People can walk to the bus stop from there.

Steve Greenwald, compassionate physician, businessman, and civic activist:

My vision as mayor is to take advantage of the proximity of the city/convention center to the San Diego Bay/Pacific Ocean. The tenth avenue marine terminal must be expanded as a passenger terminal in that it is longer than the Broadway pier. Newer cruise ships are 30 feet longer than the Broadway pier AND THUS IT CANNOT ACCOMADATE THE LONGER SHIPS. As mayor I would choose people who are geared to marketing the cruise terminal along with the convention center, Qualcomm and the county tourism centers to western CANADA particularly to the cities of ALBERTA, Calgary, Edmonton and Fort Murry!!!! Oil country!!

Tobiah Pettus, manager, commercial construction:

The proper role for the Unified Port of San Diego is to foster a world class port. The Port manages San Diego Bay. It oversees 2 Cargo terminals, a cruise ship terminal, 17 public parks, wildlife reserves, environmental initiatives, the Harbor Police Department and 600 businesses. The Port has operated since 1970 with tax dollars and has been responsible for $1.5 billion in improvements. That deserves a round of applause! San Diego Bay is gorgeous; the beauty of “America’s Finest City”!

The Port is governed by a 7 member board of commissioners, 3 of whom are appointed by the San Diego City Council. I would support individuals who promote maritime industries to stimulate regional economic vitality, safety, and the environmental protection of our beautiful natural resource, San Diego Bay.

I would consider individuals with backgrounds as former council members, naval officers, lawyers, business owners, politicians, and others devoted to public service, with a record of loving San Diego.

The Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal should remain a maritime outlet because import/export is vital to our economy. For example, it is our source of perishable cargo, bringing in 33 million bananas monthly. I would like to see San Diego’s trade increased.

Scott Wilson, businessman:

This issue, while of interest to many, is not the primary focus of my campaign. My campaign is solely focused on raising awareness about the ramifications and repercussions of lifting the Alcohol Ban on beaches in San Diego. To learn more please visit

Lamii Kpargoi is an international fellow working with He will be working on elections issues and media best practices in community relations. You can reach him directly at and 619.550.5671.

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