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The Unified Port of San Diego moved forward Wednesday with a new vision for Seaport Village.
Commissioners directed staff to begin advanced discussions with a development team led by local construction firm Gafcon. The commissioners stressed that they haven’t approved the project, and the other proposals are still backup options if things fall through with Gafcon. They hope to iron out details over the next few months and make a final decision in October.
Gafcon’s proposal includes a new public beach on the bay, a 500-foot spire envisioned as an iconic element of the city’s skyline, an aquarium, a public outdoor pool, nearly 30 acres of public open space, retail and other commercial development, a fish market and commercial fishing harbor, a school geared toward marine biology and a hostel and two other hotels. It proposed the largest annual lease payment to the Port of all the competing developers.
Gafcon’s proposal received far and away the most support from the public. Union reps came out to support the project after the team agreed to union-friendly labor agreements. Fishing industry reps said Gafcon had been most responsive to their needs. Seaport Village tenants said the team offered them space in the new project. Downtown residents said it was the most appealing to them.
Commissioners reiterated that they had no concerns over a promised legal challenge from attorney Cory Briggs over the Port’s decision to make major development decisions before it finishes a new, long-term plan for all of its property.
Going into the day, the Port had a lot of big decisions in front of it. As our Andrew Keatts reported before the Port made its decision, some big-name developers are vying for waterfront public space, including Oliver McMillan and Doug Manchester.
“Potential conflicts of interest and that fundamental question of how much say should one developer should have on public land are a couple of the many issues facing the Port as it sorts through the various proposals for the future of Seaport Village,” Keatts writes. “It also must consider questions over what’s suitable for public waterfront property in the first place, whether each plan is consistent with the Port’s vision of the future of its waterfront — which it’s still finalizing — and what’s best for its budget.”
• Vice President Joe Biden spoke about trade yesterday at the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal, telling an audience of waterfront workers and others that China is harming the U.S. on trade. “Although the latest trade complaint was the focus of Biden’s speech,” the U-T notes, “the port does not typically handle goods from China. Its major imports are cars and fruit.”
Biden also said he supported expanding ports in order to support middle-class jobs that allow people to buy homes and live in good neighborhoods.
Judge Tells Off City Attorney
A local judge is bashing the San Diego city attorney for asking for a city employee to pay tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees in her suit regarding alleged sexual harassment by former Mayor Bob Filner. “I saw you on television the evening after the verdict. There you were saying you were sorry what happened to her,” Judge Timothy Taylor told City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. “For you to turn around and say you’re sorry, but we want $47,000, is outrageous.”
In a tentative ruling, Taylor wrote that “rather than punishing her with a cost judgment, the city should actually thank plaintiff for helping to bring to light the former mayor’s unseemly and career-ending conduct.”
A jury found in favor of the employee, believing her story about harassment, but didn’t award her damages. She’ll have to pay for her own legal fees. (Courthouse News Service)
Crime Roundup: Mayor Vs. Prison Measure
Mayor Kevin Faulconer is often viewed as California’s most up-and-coming Republican politician. Now, he says he will lead the effort to fight November’s Prop. 57, a measure supported by Gov. Brown that would allow for some prison inmates to be released early.
Some law enforcement types are against the measure, saying it will let criminals out onto the streets without properly punishing them and keeping them from committing more crimes. But another Republican — District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis — supports it. (KPBS)
• Now it’s the U-T’s turn to wonder whether the famous hijacker D.B. Cooper is alive and living in San Diego, as claimed by a new documentary and book. But the FBI said this week that it’s halted the D.B. Cooper investigation. The man accused of being the hijacker didn’t talk to the U-T.
• The city has created a website that provides statistics about how well it’s doing in areas like street repairs, library hours and water use. Many of the numbers suggest the city is doing well, but some are based on outdated numbers from the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
The crime rate, for example, has gone up slightly since then, although it’s far from its heights in previous decades. Property crimes also went up; the website report again used 2014-2015 numbers. (City News Service, U-T)
• Another homeless man has been attacked, this time in the East Village area. He was hit in the head and is expected to survive; cops don’t think the attack is connected to the recent killings of three homeless men and an attack that left another in critical condition. (NBC 7)
When the Power Died
“Dozens of break-ins examined by The Wall Street Journal show how orders to secure the power grid have still left tens of thousands of utility substations vulnerable to terrorist saboteurs,” the newspaper reports. The story mentions San Diego’s stunning region-wide blackout in 2011 that upended the sewage treatment system and threatened patients at hospitals where generators sputtered.
North County Report: Questions on Supe Sacking
VOSD’s North County Report leads off with the big news out of the Poway school district: Superintendent John Collins has been sacked “for allegedly taking at least $345,000 from the district, much of it through improper vacation cash-outs and longevity pay.”
Some questions remain, the North County Report says: Why did he need the money? (Check the district’s audit here, which includes private texts to and from the superintendent, for hints.) Will the district ever jettison its prominent attorney? And will Collins get prosecuted?
Sports Podcast: All Starry-Eyed After Big Game
On the latest Kept Faith sports podcast, part of the VOSD network, we hear from Nick, Dallas, Padres Haiku, Nick’s dad and Liz McCann about their memories of this week’s All-Star Star game. From a baseball discussion series hosted by Steve Garvey to Fanfest to watching Wil Myers come up short at the Home Run Derby, they talk about what a blast it was seeing San Diego showcase itself on the national stage.
• A USA Today writer says San Diego is home to “is the best ballpark in baseball.” Wait, what? Better than the big names like Fenway and Wrigley Field? Yup. “This place rules…,” he writes. “It’s everything. Aesthetically, it’s spectacular, one of few contemporary parks that opted for a contemporary look over the nostalgic nonsense typical of too many stadiums.”
OK, he lost me here as an aficionado of nostalgic nonsense, but go on. “The spread-out concourses sort of weave their way around the seating sections, up and down levels and even under some hanging plant life. And the relative newness of the park means modern amenities, and plenty of bathrooms and beer stands.”
And, he writes, the ballpark smells nice: “There are far worse places to watch lousy baseball.” Hmm. Maybe we can get fewer compliments like that.
But the writer admits he hasn’t been to 2 of the 28 pro ballparks. Here’s hoping we don’t lose this most-excellent title to Tropicana Field. C’mon, San Diego ballpark. Give it to the juicers!
Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. He is also a board member and ex-national president of the 1,200-member American Society of Journalists and Authors (asja.org). Please contact him directly at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.