Once again, Councilman David Alvarez has negotiated a compromise on a contentious land use decision in his district.

The City Council on Tuesday approved a new community plan for Otay Mesa. Alvarez orchestrated a last-minute change to address the biggest outstanding dispute over the plan.

Six months ago, he navigated a compromise on a new plan for another community in his district, Barrio Logan, when it was facing opposition.

This time around, the Otay Mesa compromise produced a unanimous vote from the Council.

For Barrio Logan, Alvarez helped orchestrate a change that met the shipbuilding industry halfway on its concerns – but that didn’t ultimately mean much in the end. The compromise plan passed 5-4, but the Council’s Republicans were united against it, and the shipbuilding industry’s effort to overturn the plan is moving forward.

Alvarez’s change to the Otay Mesa plan involved a 33-acre property owned by Torrey Pines Bank. When the bank bought the vacant land, bisected by I-905, the zoning allowed it to be developed as a retail project. City planners wanted it to be saved for industrial uses that would strengthen the city’s cross-border economy.

That would have cost Torrey Pines a lot of money. It hired lobbyist  Southwest Strategies (the same one that led the charge against the Barrio Logan plan) to make its case to the City Council that the rules shouldn’t be changed. The community’s planning group agreed with the bank.

And ultimately, so did Alvarez and his colleagues. In a memo last week, Alvarez asked the Council to approve a plan that would mark the property for “heavy commercial” use, which allows for a range of options, including retail.

He also instructed city staff to work out traffic issues if the property is used for retail.

“I am confident that the concerns that gave rise to the zoning designation could be more appropriately dealt with at the project review stage,” Alvarez wrote to the rest of the Council.

The two plans— Otay Mesa and Barrio Logan— both lie in Alvarez’s Council district, and represent the first community plan updates the city’s approved since 2008, when it adopted its new general plan, a citywide blueprint for growth.

In theory, the plans are meant to ensure individual neighborhoods have a clear set of rules for future development, and that those rules align with the city’s broad goals to build more housing, and to put those homes near transit and jobs.

I'm Andrew Keatts, a managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org...

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