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San Diego Voters Weigh Barrio Logan Zoning In Propositions B, C

Photo caption:

Photo by Angela Carone

A Chicano Park mural underneath the Coronado Bridge in Barrio Logan.

San Diegans can cast ballots to uphold or undo the City Council's update of Barrio Logan's community plan in the June 3 primary.

San Diego voters begin casting ballots by mail this week. One thing they'll be weighing in on is Barrio Logan's community plan update.

Two San Diego propositions, B and C, on the June 3 ballot have to do with changes to zoning in the Barrio Logan neighborhood. All San Diego residents, whether they live in Barrio Logan or not, can cast votes on the issue.

The City Council passed a resolution and two ordinances last year to install a five-block-long commercial buffer zone that separates residential and industrial zones. The plan allows "community and neighborhood commercial uses'' in the buffer area, but no houses, according to a city staff report.

After the council passed the plan update, business groups objected and gathered signatures to get two items on the ballot to overturn both the council resolution and ordinances. Proposition B asks voters to approve the council's resolution. Proposition C asks voters to approve the council's ordinances.

Opponents of the plan update say the council's actions would hurt the nearby shipbuilding industry. Ballot language backed by five retired Navy rear admirals calls the plan "a dangerous first step toward elimination of San Diego's shipyards."

Supporters of the plan update say it will ease health risks for Barrio Logan residents who live near shipbuilding facilities, but retired Navy Rear Adm. Len Hering said the health risks come instead from the nearby Interstate 5.

"The plan has housing within less than 1,000 feet of the highway," Hering said. "Studies clearly show that the environmental issues with health are related to the corridor. If you've identified what the risk is, why would you think that putting housing in that location is the right answer to the problem?"

Supporters of the plan update argue that the biggest health risks to Barrio Logan residents come from shops that mold plastic or paint auto parts, not the freeway.

Hering added that the plan update could leave "at risk billions of dollars of income and thousands of high-paying, good jobs." That's because he said having nearby housing could restrict the hours shipbuilders and ship maintenance facilities are allowed to operate.

"If you put housing in an urbanized community inside that same environment, you will create a caustic environment that will cause conflict," he said. "That conflict will be forever looking at reducing the work necessary to support that 24/7 operation."

City Councilman David Alvarez lives in and represents the Barrio Logan neighborhood. He said the area, which has not had a community plan update in 35 years, has become a "neglected dumping ground" for the rest of the city.

"This tries to correct a wrong that this city for many years allowed to go on, which is bad use of industrial uses next to homes," Alvarez said. "This is an attempt to correct that."

Alvarez argues that these propositions will affect the entire city, not just this one neighborhood.

"If this could happen in Barrio Logan, it can happen to anyone, where a strong, big moneyed interest can go in and collect signatures and overturn a community decision that was done with a lot of community input," he said.

"Really, as we move forward in this city with more plan updates for every single neighborhood, people in all neighborhoods need to understand this could have a future impact on them."

Propositions B and C will be on the June 3 ballot.

This story has been updated to reflect the retired status of the Navy rear admirals opposing the Barrio Logan community plan update.

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