Shipyard Union Switches Sides on Barrio Logan Community Plan Update
The passage of the Barrio Logan Community Plan Update was five years in the making and more than 30 in the dreaming.
When the plan passed the San Diego City Council by a 5-4 vote this September, it was considered by many a win for the mostly low-income Latino neighborhood; Barrio Logan activists say residents have for too long taken the brunt of pollution caused by a lack of clear zoning.
But the maritime industry said the plan would come at the expense of a working waterfront: it would cost jobs, many of them jobs that are staffed by people who live in Barrio Logan, the industry said.
Maritime industry members and supporters argued the plan would do damage to businesses that supply the shipyards, businesses that would find themselves in a proposed buffer zone under the plan. That buffer, a lip between the docks and homes, would allow already existing businesses to stay and expand up to 20 percent.
New businesses could still set up shop, but they would have to get a conditional use permit. The maritime industry said that would be prohibitive, slowly drying up supply businesses, raising operating costs and eventually causing the Navy contracts to fade to dust.
Maritime interests founded a coalition, Protect Our Jobs, to defeat the plan through an aggressive referendum campaign. The goal from the outset was not to get the plan on a citywide ballot, but to have the City Council to overturn the plan and go back to the drawing board.
But the arguments that paid signature gatherers were using differed from what the maritime industry said to the press. Signature collectors, stationed in front of supermarkets city wide, were caught — sometimes on tape — lying and distorting the actual details of the plan to voters. They said the Navy would leave town and that the plan would allow for condominiums to be built in the buffer zone and replace the ports, neither of which is true.
Now, shipyard employees who previously stood with maritime industry against the plan are saying they were lied to as well.
Robert Godinez, president of the Shipyard Workers Union, said that he and other workers were misled by the upper management of National Steel and Shipbuilding Company—known to San Diegans as NASSCO. Godinez said he was called into the main office, shown maps of the new plan and told it would be bad for jobs.
Godinez said he was also told about a “1,000-feet high tide mark that they were measuring from, and beyond the 1,000 feet, there would be housing.”
He said management painted a picture of condominiums cropping up so that, “even right out the shipyard window, you would see complexes and apartments and that kind of stuff.” That would affect jobs, Godinez said.
“So that was a big concern of mine," he said.
But then Godinez started investigating.
"I found out that no, it’s not true," he said.
Godinez said he now supports the plan.
“I support this 110 percent and so will all the guys that are working in the shipyard that I represent,” Godinez said, adding that many of those workers are also residents of Barrio Logan.
The new support for the Barrio Logan Community Plan Update from unions and the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council comes at the same time as they are working to get Democratic Councilman David Alvarez elected to mayor.
Alvarez represents Barrio Logan and grew up in the neighborhood. He often traces his asthma back to growing up in a house sandwiched between two metal plating shops. Alvarez helped broker the final community plan and has been an ardent supporter of the Environmental Health Coalition, or EHC, an activist organization that is fighting for the rezoning.
His opponent, Republican Councilman Kevin Faulconer, has stood firmly on the side of the shipyards, joining them in claiming that the plan would cost the community 46,000 jobs.
Alvarez has taken both the shipyards and more indirectly, Faulconer, to task, saying they’ve both played loose with the facts.
“I’ve spoken to residents and I’ve witnessed to firsthand, how signature gathers have lied about the 46,000 jobs that will be lost," Alvarez said at a press conference Monday.
In a not-so-subtle nod to his political opponent, Alvarez added: “It is shameful that leaders of the city continue to spread that lie themselves.”
That claim is contradicted by a city report that said the plan would lead to the creation of jobs, rather than the loss of them.
Now the City Council will decide whether to rescind the plan or place it on a citywide ballot in early June. At the same meeting, council members will set the date for the mayoral runoff election, an election for which the fight over Barrio Logan has become a key issue, and a key way to gauge the differing politics of the two candidates vying to be mayor.