The San Diego Unified Port District and National City declared a truce Wednesday, September 23rd, in the longstanding tug-of-war over how to rework the 303 acres of land on the bay between 24th Street and 32nd Street.
The port’s board of commissioners approved a plan meant to push the area toward greater revenue and productivity while resolving the issue of how to protect National City's interests in the “National City Maritime Terminal” area that is owned by the port.
But what about the Bayshore Bikeway? And, will the port keep its word that National City will be allowed into the project?
"We recognized National City's long-term desire to develop on Lot K," board chairman Dan Malcolm promised, telling National City mayor Ron Morrison it was a matter of "perception and trust," but that the board would keep its promise to include the city.
But Morrison wasn't entirely reassured the promise would be kept — though he supported the plan.
"If this comes before [the port board] in six years, none of you will be here," Morrison said.
The San Diego Association of Governments’ push to complete the 24-mile-long bike route all the way around the bay from Embarcadero South downtown to Coronado was the final push that got the jostling forces to the table.
"The interim bike path is what really got everybody going strong," Morrison said. "The [bike path] plans have been there since 1976 — the port tried to move it off the property."
While the port board voted to move forward on the plan, many worried that the vote committed to too little or too much.
The 303-acre area in the larger plan bound by San Diego Bay on the south and west includes Pasha Automotive Services — an enormous car-shipping operation worth $6 million in annual revenue to the port, Morrison says. Pasha imports new and used autos and auto parts and works on cars there.
Last year, owner John Pasha said, 400,000 autos moved through its San Diego facility. Touted by the port as the "Gateway to North America," where one of every eight cars in the U.S. has come in, Pasha unloads Mazda, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Audi, and Mitsubishi products and gets them onto trains and trucks that deliver all over the U.S., according to the port.
ProBuild's lumber operation, (that's Dixieline's parent corporation) is the second-largest cargo operation.
The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad runs through as part of the cargo infrastructure, and the plan includes adding a spur to get trains closer to cargo.
The south edge of the property is home to Pepper Park, a one-acre spot with views of the San Diego Wildlife Refuge to the south; and Pier 32 Marina.
Commissioners included a motion to try to add another acre to the park — prompted in part by requests from members of the Environmental Health Coalition.
But the big fight centered around the bikeway, which Morrison contends the port doesn't want. By not painting in the current route and classifying it as “interim,” advocates for the bikeway — including county supervisor Greg Cox — might have to start over on the segment when the final plan is approved.
"The port's plan puts the bikeway on a sidewalk," Morrison said. "Pasha's plan has the bike path going through a hotel parking lot between the hotel and the restaurant and coming out the driveway," he said. "Those are unsafe and unacceptable."
Much of the Bayshore Bikeway route is completed or well underway. But finding a safe and viable path across the long-established maritime and commercial zone southwest of Harbor Drive in National City has been a challenge. The Bike-the-Bay website http://bikethebay.net/routemap.html shows southbound riders pedaling into the area on Tidelands Avenue and heading back inland on 32nd Street to cut around the marina to go south just west of the I-5.
But the Port plan of reconfiguring the streets in the area includes closing Tidelands Avenue eventually, with uncertain plans for the new bikeway route. In the meantime, some commissioners didn't want to agree to leaving the interim bike route as part of the compromise. Tidelands Avenue is partly owned by the port and part by National City.
"I think the whole idea of going in and striping a bike lane that we know we are going to sandblast off is abusive and wasteful," said port commissioner Bob Nelson. "This is just not a nice area for people to have a bike ride in. We're talking about people who are trying to move these very large, bulky trucks within the margins of safety."
Pasha and Dixieline also don't want an interim route on Tidelands, their representatives said.
"Dixieline is very concerned about the safety of a bike path on Tidelands," said Jack Duncan, a consultant hired by Dixieline. He cited 170 truck trips a month on the street. "Tidelands is heavily parked and this creates visual issues."
The railroad also opposed the interim bike path — sending Sean Hower, the California director of port business development from Long Beach, to express their opposition.
And a curious appearance: Sandy Vissman, who explained that she is a U.S. Fish and Wildlife employee but was there on her own, reminded commissioners that their plan to move traffic — and the bikeway — to Marina Way might cause them problems.
"The project lies directly adjacent to Paradise Marsh," Vissman said. She raised questions about "direct and indirect effects" of traffic and said buffers might be necessary.
But with months of redevelopment and expansion negotiations hanging in the balance over the bike path, port chairman Dan Malcolm pressed hard for the interim bike path.
"We're going to have an interim bike path somewhere," Malcolm said. "It's going to facilitate a permanent bike path and it's going to give us impetus to get the permanent bike path done."