Community Leaders Support Maritime Focus At Port of San Diego

Nearly two dozen community leaders, elected officials, labor leaders and environmental representatives voiced their support of the Port of San Diego’s maritime cargo operations during a board of port commissioners hearing on Feb. 14 in response to a proposal that the Tenth Avenue (cargo) Terminal be turned into a football stadium. Supporters of the port said it creates jobs, supports national defense and plays a key role in the California and national system of ports.

“Tell the developers, the hoteliers, the sports team owners and the newspaper owners that Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal is not for sale,” said Chester Mordasini, President of Teamster’s Local 911, which represents clerks, wharfingers, police dispatchers and other Port of San Diego employees along with more than 12,000 employees throughout Southern California and beyond.

“We are unified in the belief that this deepwater asset is irreplaceable – it’s integral in the very definition of Port,” said Jim Unger, the Chairman of the Board of the San Diego Ports Tenants Association, which represents hotels, the hospitality industry, restaurants and attractions and maritime-related businesses.

After hearing from speakers, the port commissioners reaffirmed a position taken by their predecessors in 2004 in which commissioners pledged to preserve the Tenth Avenue and National City marine terminals solely for maritime operations. This is the second time in four years that a developer has sought to put a stadium on the terminal. In 2008, San Diego voters defeated a developer-led initiative to double-deck the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal with a stadium by a 70 to 30 percent margin. Former Port Commissioner Stephen Cushman, who is a special assistant to Mayor Jerry Sanders, said the mayor believes strongly in preserving a balanced port.

“It’s wonderful to have hotels, restaurants, lots of great tenants, 17 parks and the like,” Cushman said. “Let us remember, we work for the citizens of California. They have asked us to give them a balanced port to all member cities. That is why I moved in 2004 as a member of this board that Tenth Avenue must be retained and not used as a football stadium.”

Ray Leyba, president of Local 29 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union that represents employees at the Port of San Diego, expressed gratitude to the Port. “The ILWU is in solidarity with you,” he told the Port Commissioners. “We’re proud to be a part of something that is bigger than ourselves. The maritime industry is alive and well.” Added Diane Takvorian of the Environmental Health Coalition: “We support maritime at the Tenth Avenue Marine terminal. We believe a healthy economy equates to a healthy environment.”

Cindy Gompper-Graves, Chief Executive Officer of the South County Economic Development Council, questioned the value of a football stadium. “Where is the multiplier for jobs?” she asked. “Yours is four-for-one. For every job you create there are four jobs outside.”

“Our rail yard is adjacent to the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal,” said Jennifer Klein, Director of Business Development of BNSF Railway. “BNSF is committed to facilitating goods movement here and in the region. Our position has not changed. Our property is not for sale.” Joel Valenzuela, the Director of Maritime Operations for the Port of San Diego, explained the importance of the Port District’s role. “The significance of the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal is plain and simple: jobs, national security and the role it plays in California and U.S. System of ports,” Valenzuela said. Wayne Darbeau, the Port District President and CEO, spoke of the Port’s value on the national and world stage. Darbeau said that the leadership of the Board of Port Commissioners has enabled the growth and development of maritime in regional, national and global markets.

“Along with the importance of our Port as one of only 17 strategic commercial ports, I urge the board to stand resolute for an undiminished and vibrant maritime business at Tenth Avenue and the National City Marine Terminal and our cruise ship terminals,” he said.

“The only reason there is a San Diego is because of the port,” Board Chairman Lou Smith said. “The use of public land is a scared trust; it’s about balance, not rate of return. We all have something to do, to do our part to get this message out to our neighbors… that anybody can build condos, but only God can make a Port.”

The Port of San Diego was created by the state legislature in 1962. Since then, it has invested $1.7 billion in public improvements in its five member cities – Chula Vista, Coronado, Imperial Beach, National City, and San Diego. It is the fourth-largest of 11 deep water ports in California and the top port in the state for the movement of breakbulk cargo. The Port District oversees two maritime cargo terminals, two cruise ship terminals, 17 public parks, the Harbor Police Department, and the leases of more than 600 tenant and sub tenant businesses around San Diego Bay.

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