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Terminal Expansion At Port Of San Diego Concerns Barrio Logan Residents

Video by Katie Schoolov

Terminal Expansion At Port Of San Diego Concerns Barrio Logan Residents

GUEST:

Erik Anderson, reporter, KPBS News

Port of San Diego officials are excited about the possibility of boosting business at the 10th Avenue Marine terminal. The port wants to redesign the facility but that has nearby residents concerned about the impact on their neighborhood.

The 96-acre facility has a home on the eastern side of San Diego Bay. The downtown San Diego skyline is nearby. Barrio Logan is just outside the gate.

"A ship comes in. They either load or unload cargo and then that cargo is delivered to its final destination," said Joel Valenzuela, the port's maritime manager.

On a recent day, a cargo ship used one of the terminal's eight berths to bring in fresh fruit. The product was lifted off the tethered vessel and then moved around a long warehouse to Dole's 300,000-square-foot refrigerated facility. There the fruit is processed and stored until trucks move it to market.

"We are a specialty port, which means we don't process container cargo in large volumes like the big ports of L.A., Long Beach and Oakland," Valenzuela said. "We process things that are not in containers."

But port officials think the facility can do more.

Valenzuela stood in front of two long warehouses that used to store cotton and animal skins. The buildings crowd the pier and have outlived their usefulness. Tear them down, said Valenzuela, and the terminal gets a lot more open space.

The warehouses that used to be needed, just get in the way.

Photo by Kris Arciaga

Trucks unload a ship carrying Dole fruit to the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal on Sept. 19, 2016.

"Right now, Dole needs to move those containers off that ship and then around one side or the other of this building in order to get it to the cold storage where they process the cargo. So, if the buildings were gone, they'd have a direct shot and they could conduct their operations faster," said Randa Coniglio, president and chief executive officer of the Port of San Diego.

And in the shipping industry, time is money. Opening up space and making the stops more efficient could boost the amount of cargo moving through the 10th Avenue Terminal. Port officials hope the renovation could quadruple deliveries over time and that means a lot more money.

"Increasing the throughput which increases the jobs and more economic impact for the region," Coniglio said.

But increasing the amount of cargo coming through the 10th Avenue terminal also increases the amount of truck traffic moving in and out of the facility.

Expansion brings more pollution

Barrio Logan resident Erick Ortega is not happy about the possibility of more trucks rumbling through his neighborhood.

"We expect more traffic and more pollution. People, they don't know how we live here in Barrio Logan, and how we are getting sick," Ortega said.

Ortega and his wife, Alexia, currently live in a modest home just a half-block away from Cesar E. Chavez Parkway. They were fixing breakfast on a recent morning before discussing their concerns. The neighborhood already suffers from pollution generated at the port and other industrial sites.

"I have lungs like if I had been smoking all my life," said Alexia Ortega.

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Alexia Ortega looks at the street from the front lawn of her home in Barrio Logan on Sept. 8, 2016.

There was one point where Alexia Ortega got so sick from pollution that it took six months of medical care for her congested lungs to recover.

"Finally, I got my lungs clean, but they told me when I'm gonna be old I'm going to be carrying the oxygen because that issue that I have on my health," Alexia Ortega said.

That's not the future she wants for her son who shares their Barrio Logan home.

Community activists reached out to the Port to make sure that the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal modernization will include protection for area residents and mitigation if there is additional pollution.

"We're talking about adding additional pollution and impacting a community that's already widely recognized as being at high risk," said Joy Williams of the Environmental Health Coalition.

Williams is hopeful the port will come up with solutions that allow for the expansion without any serious environmental impacts.

There are easy things like rerouting truck traffic and Williams said there are long-term solutions that will control or even reduce pollution at the terminal.

"Where we see terminals going into the future is increasingly electrified and away from diesel. And that's a good trend and we're pushing our port to go further and faster in that direction," Williams said.

Discussions are still underway on the renovation project's final details including any environmental mitigation.

Once officials feel they have a plan that meets their needs and the community's, the port will put the item on their agenda.

That could happen before the end of the year.

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