In the end, it took a last-minute compromise to solve a decades-old problem.
Barrio Logan has a new community plan. Its new outline for future growth sets a course to finally segregate homes and the industrial activities at the nearby shipyard.
And the guy who put the compromise together also happens to have grown up living under the conditions the plan attempts to solve.
He’s also in the midst of a mayoral run.
The San Diego City Council voted late Tuesday night, with five Democrats in support and four Republicans opposed, to approve the plan written by city planning staff, along with one major change initiated by David Alvarez.
The night before the vote, Alvarez said, he stopped at the pharmacy to pick up medication for the asthma he’s had since childhood. Asthma hospitalization rates in Barrio Logan are more than double the county as a whole.
“This city has done this community wrong for a long, long time, and it needs to change, and it changes today,” he said.
City planners put together two versions of the plan to create a buffer in between the industrial shipyard and Barrio Logan’s residential community, in a handful of blocks north of Harbor Drive.
One favored by many residents would put commercial businesses in the southern part of those blocks, and a mix of commercial and residential uses in the northern area.
The other proposal, favored by the shipbuilding industry, would also reserve the area for commercial properties, but would also allow companies supplying products to the shipyard to open there.
In the industry’s plan, no homes would be built in the buffer.
In the community’s favored plan, maritime suppliers trying to open in the buffer would need to get an additional permit, one that would have been subject to community opposition. Securing one would likely be timely, expensive and not a sure bet.
With the vote approaching, industry representatives emerged with two requests: Get homes out of the buffer, and let new suppliers open in the southern portion of the buffer without any additional permit.
That’s when Alvarez floated his compromise, granting one of the industry’s two final requests.
In a letter to the city’s planning director, Bill Fulton, and the other council offices, Alvarez agreed to stop homes from being built in the buffer.
But maritime suppliers would still need a discretionary permit if they wanted to open there, he said.
That’s the plan the Council passed Tuesday.
During public comment, some speakers told Alvarez any vote that changed the community-favored plan was a slap in the face. He took exception to the accusation, but reiterated that the plan wouldn’t have passed without the change.
Councilwoman Sherri Lightner voted in favor of the plan, and said she would not have done so if not for the agreement to remove homes and other sensitive use — schools, nursing homes, etc. — from the buffer.
“They needed to be removed,” she said. “Is that clear enough?”
Council President Todd Gloria, who also voted for Alvarez’s version, said his vote was informed by staff, public input and “the will of the representative of the neighborhood in question.”
Councilman Kevin Faulconer, who’s running against Alvarez to be the city’s next mayor, last week joined industry representatives to urge the Council to support both of the industry’s requests. He said then a compromise was closer than ever, thanks in part to Alvarez’s willingness to meet one request. Faulconer voted against the final proposal.
Fulton, whose staff signed off on the compromise ahead of the meeting, said the process got to the point where everyone agreed on all but one item, and someone needed to find a path forward.
“I thought (Alvarez) tried really hard to find a path,” he said. “He made it really clear what he supported, and what he couldn’t.”