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Election Dispute Is Another Setback For Barrio Logan’s Community Plan

One of the many murals at Barrio Logan's Chicano Park, April 27, 2014.

Photo by Brooke Binkowski

Above: One of the many murals at Barrio Logan's Chicano Park, April 27, 2014.

The Barrio Logan neighborhood community building plan has not been updated in 40 years. But now, the group that would have helped with that process has hit another setback.

Currently, there is no zoning in Barrio Logan, which means homes can be built right next to industrial facilities like welding shops that can emit toxic fumes. That was supposed to change when the City Council passed a community plan update in 2013, but the update was repealed by voters the following year.

After that repeal, a group of residents, business owners and other members of the community formed the Barrio Logan Planning Group to advise on the next attempt at a community plan update. The group has no official authority, but community planning groups in other neighborhoods can be influential, making recommendations to the City Council and city staff that are often followed.

The group just had their second election for new board members, and there is a dispute over how that election was run.

Mark Steele, the chair of the planning group, said the results of the election have been tallied, but he will not release them because he said the election was invalid.

The issue, he said, was that members of the nonprofit Environmental Health Coalition were handing out flyers telling people how to vote, and were standing less than 100 feet away from where voting took place.

"It's pretty simple, the rules were broken so we now have to go back and redo it within the rules," Steele said. "It is that simple. It's a shame, this is unnecessary and uncalled for."

There is no 100-foot rule in the group's bylaws or in City Council policy governing community planning groups.

But Brian Schoenfisch, a program manager with the city's planning department, said that does not matter, and that the group can vote to redo its election anyway.

"Community Planning Groups are self-governing private organizations and it is up to the Barrio Logan Community Planning Group to take a vote to decide whether to hold new elections," he wrote in an email.

Steele said he plans to do just that. He has called for a special meeting on April 4 to vote on whether to redo the election.

Diane Takvorian, the director of the Environmental Health Coalition, views the move as a "breach of democracy." She said it is important the election stands, because the community planning group is meant to represent the community.

"It appears to us to be discriminatory when these so called rules are being applied, especially when they were not applied in previous election," she said, referring to the 2016 election. "Representation has been a critical issue, and the community planning group is one of those very few places where Barrio Logan residents can express their perspective about the future of their community."

She said she plans to take the matter to the city attorney's office. A spokesman for the city attorney said his office does not get involved in planning group disputes.

The Barrio Logan neighborhood community building plan has not been updated in 40 years. But now, the group that would have helped with that process has hit another setback.

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