62.2 F
San Diego
Sunday, Oct 1, 2023

Is City Hall a Slumlord? At Brown Field, Yes

For several years the small-business owners of Otay Mesa have complained to Mayor Susan Golding, Councilman Juan Vargas, and the city staff about the Brown Field airport. These complaints center on the fact that Otay Mesa has very stringent zoning for businesses located outside the airport and no zoning for businesses located on the airport.

So far the city seems content with no zoning, describing Brown Field as “an 886-acre World War II relic in a remote location.” Unfortunately, the result has been the creation of a 1990’s airport industrial slum for which the city of San Diego is the slumlord. Business owners outside the airport are increasingly angry because city zoning inspectors issue notices of violation to them while their business competitors on the airport have no inspections. Some business owners outside the airport have even been put out of business by the city for noncompliance, while the same noncompliance on airport property goes unnoticed.

In fact city zoning inspectors have been told to stay off the airport by the city!

City-Subsidized Rents?

To make matters worse, the city charges very reduced rents to airport tenants which unfairly compete with businesses outside the airport. In fact, the city loses large amounts of rent because it only charges its auto/truck parking tenants $400 a month per acre while the fair market month-to-month lease rate is $2,500 a month per acre. Multiply this $2,100 difference times 30 acres over 12 months and the city loses a staggering $756,000 per year in rent.

- Advertisement -

This is but one example of poor management by the same city that complains Brown Field airport is just barely profitable. Better property managers could collect higher rents and use the money to clean up the airport.

Even more astonishing is the fact that 65-foot tractor trailers weighing as much as 80,000 pounds are operating on narrow airport roads designed for 7,500-pound vehicles. The roads get damaged by these severely overweight vehicles and city taxpayers pay for repairs!

Better Property Management

Again, better property managers would charge these truck tenants for the damage and save the city an estimated $100,000 per year in road repairs. These oversize truck and the road problems they produce at the airport also create an issue of public safety liability.

Brown Field has tremendous economic potential, but poor property management by city staff has resulted in the creation of an industrial slum. How do we fix it?

As recently as April 1999, the Otay Mesa Planning Group, an advisory board to the city, has recommended these immediate specific actions:

– Immediately cease all leasing efforts for new leases of non-aviation uses until Brown Field adopts a zoning code, preferably the Otay Mesa Development District (OMDD).

– Do not renew or extend any existing tenant’s lease that does not fully comply with the existing city zoning codes and guidelines that apply to all other businesses in Otay Mesa and the city of San Diego.

– Form a new task force with city officials and members of the Otay Mesa community to create an “official” Brown Field policy to be taken to City Council for approval.

Simple Recommendations

These are simple recommendations that will create a better neighborhood and level playing field for small businesses in Otay Mesa. Unfortunately, the City Council is still only in the stage of “Let’s begin the process,” with no specific immediate action discussed.

Otay Mesa is part of San Diego, and we have waited years for the city to clean up its act. The city should set the example, not simply create the rules and follow a policy of “do as I say, not as I do.” The mayor and the City Council would not allow this slum to exist at Montgomery Field, so why does it exist at Brown Field?

It’s time for the city to just do the right thing. Otay Mesa looks forward to the city of San Diego being a good neighbor immediately and without any more years of waiting.

Jolliffe is a small-business owner and a board member of the Otay Mesa Chamber of Commerce and Otay Mesa Plann

Next article

Featured Articles


Related Articles