City, Community Leaders Assist Port of San Diego on Future Development

A cross-section of community leaders and groups, including elected officials, along with military and industry representatives, has advised the Port of San Diego that job creation and economic development, safety and security and environmental stewardship are among the major challenges and opportunities facing the port as it charts its course for the next several years.

The observations were among the dozens that were heard Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011, at a strategic planning forum, which was convened by the Port of San Diego to help update its strategic plan, a blue print for guiding the port’s development over the next five years and beyond.

The many comments made at the planning session will be posted to the port’s web site in about a week. Port staff, meanwhile, will review the many comments and concerns and factor them into its five-year strategic plan. Additional public sessions, including one in the South Bay area, are planned.

Among the more than 100 people attending the three-hour planning session were Congressman Bob Filner, San Diego City Councilman Todd Gloria and many of the port’s partner agencies, including the Downtown San Diego Partnership, the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, the San Diego Convention Center, educational institutions and the military.

“Our accomplishments are many and not without cost – over $2 billion has been invested since the Port’s inception in 1962 and there has been controversy, challenges and some heartache along the way,” Board of Port Commissioners Chairman Scott Peters said in welcoming remarks.

Peters cited some accomplishments: bringing more than 3.7 million cruise passengers to the city between 2006 and 2010; generating $205 million in maritime revenue in that same five-year period; pumping $10 billion in tourism dollars to the regional economy and creating 38,000 jobs.

“The next 50 years will bring about remarkable projects and initiatives that will leave a legacy for generations of San Diegans,” Peters said. “And we need your help in shaping the bay and the waterfront.”

Following the introductory remarks, the attendees began the working session in which they catalogued what in their view are the major regional priorities, the challenges and barriers to success, the safety and security issues and key partnerships.

Regional priorities included job creation and tourism, infrastructure development, public safety and security, environmental restoration with an emphasis in the South Bay area of San Diego Bay, expansion of the Convention Center and airport as well as development of cross-border partnerships.

Challenges and barriers cited were lack of funding, state budget concerns, job creation, reinvigorating the cruise business, excessive bureaucracy and balancing economic and environmental interests. Political, legal and regulatory constraints and environmental concerns also were cited.

The group agreed partnerships should be forged with other ports, labor, and the military, educational institutions, along with the five cities that are port members – San Diego, National City, Chula Vista, Coronado and Imperial Beach.

Opportunities including partnering with community organizations and port member cities, enhancing security, improving maritime and commerce, environmental restoration throughout San Diego Bay, increasing job opportunities and creating special events to promote tourism.

“I appreciate this outreach and I’m delighted to see the beginning of the outreach and input from stakeholders,” Jim Unger, president of the San Diego Port Tenants Association, told the group during the question and comment portion of the program.

Kris Michell, president of the San Diego Downtown Partnership, complimented the port for bringing together such a diverse group to provide strategic ideas.

“I hope we can create a path for the future,” Michell said.

Gloria, who represents the city of San Diego’s 3rd City Council District, said job creation is among the region’s top priorities.

He emphasized the port’s role as an economic catalyst for the region, saying: “We want to make sure the port remains an economic asset.”

The Port’s President and Chief Executive Officer Wayne Darbeau thanked the participants for their input, saying this is the start of an ongoing dialogue.

“This is a journey with many many destinations and all along the way we would want your input,” Darbeau said.

The timing for regional dialogue and collaboration is perfect because the port will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, Darbeau said.

“We have great potential for the next 50 years,” he said. “We are well on our way to making a model region and a model port.”

He also spoke of the need for the leaders to continue their dialogue with the port.

“We want you to stay engaged with us as we develop our plans. “This is the start of an ongoing dialogue. We cannot do it alone.”

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