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The Port of San Diego

WHAT IS THE PORT?

The Port of San Diego manages the bay and is responsible for development and environmental protection of 33 miles of waterfront excluding tidelands administered by the United States Military. The port is made up of five cities: San Diego, National City, Chula Vista, Coronado and Imperial Beach. One of the port’s core missions is maritime trade.

WHEN WAS IT CREATED?

The California Legislature created the Port of San Diego in 1962 by passing the San Diego Unified Port District Act.

WHO GOVERNS THE PORT?

Seven commissioners preside over the Port of San Diego. They are appointed by the city councils of San Diego, National City, Chula Vista, Coronado and Imperial Beach. The seven commissioners are appointed to four-year terms. Port commissioners are allowed to serve a maximum of two terms. But in 2007 Commissioner Steve Cushman was appointed to a third term with the help of labor and waterfront businesses and over the objections of San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders.

WHO OVERSEES THE PORT COMMISSIONERS?

Port Commissioners are trustees of the State of California and are overseen by the State Lands Commission. Commissioners do meet with representatives from the cities they represent with varying regularity.

Some leaders within port cities complain that the agency flouts their will and they feel locked out of decision-making. In 1998, the San Diego County Grand Jury called for port commissioners to be elected rather than appointed to provide more accountability.

Audio

Aired 7/9/09

DeMaio: "It's an entity that has flown largely under the public radar screen and that is pretty bad. When you have groups like that, that are not in public view, it's all the more reason why you need to be even more vigilant about reviewing the financial and performance outcomes of those agencies to make sure that the taxpayer is truly benefiting."

San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio says, “It’s an entity that has flown largely under the public radar screen and that is pretty bad. When you have groups like that that are not in public view. It’s all the more reason why you need to be even more vigilant about reviewing the financial and performance outcomes of those agencies to make sure that the taxpayer is truly benefitting."

Audio

Aired 7/9/09

Cushman: "We certainly are accountable in my eyes. We do not represent the citizens of San Diego or the member cities. We are trustees of the State of California. We are overseen by the State Lands Commission. We are appointed by our respective city. We are obviously available to meet with any of the councilmembers, to meet with the mayor, to appear in public, in front of city councils if they have questions."

San Diego Port Commissioner Steve Cushman says, “We certainly are accountable in my eyes. We do not represent the citizens of San Diego or the member cities. We are trustees of the State of California. We are overseen by the State Lands Commission. We are appointed by our respective city. We are obviously available to meet with any of the councilmembers, to meet with the mayor, to appear in public…in front of city councils if they have questions.”

WHY IS THE PORT IMPORTANT?

The Port of San Diego is the gateway for goods and people to come to the region. The port is also one of 15 strategic military ports in the United States. The agency’s representatives say port-connected jobs and port-related business infuse hundreds of millions of dollars into the economy. But critics say those numbers are overstated and are used to justify the port’s existence.

Port Maritime Director Ron Popham says, “In 2005 or 6, the port contributed 10.5 billion in economic impacts to the region. Almost 70 to 75 percent of the jobs related to maritime produced most of that impact…only about 20 to 25 percent went to the service sector like tourism and that kind of business.

Former Port Commissioner Peter Q. Davis is critical of the port’s maritime business which has lost 80 million dollars over the past 15 years. He thinks the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal Property is underutilized.

PETER Q. DAVIS: "It just has never reached the kind of scale that I think was hoped for. It hasn’t run in a profitable way. It can’t keep up with Long beach or Los Angeles when it comes to maritime business. I just want to see the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal open to the public. It’s probably one of the prettiest places in our entire area especially at sunset…to be there down on the water at sunset at it sets below the Point Loma peninsula and it should be open to the public through promenades through parks and through public uses like restaurants and others.”

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