San Diego Business Journal

Two former adversaries , the industrial and cargo companies at the San Diego Unified Port District and residents of the adjacent community of Barrio Logan , who had long battled over issues such as traffic and air pollution, have joined forces to forge a plan that may benefit both interests.

Ed Plant, the owner of Harborside Refrigerated Services and a key member of the Working Waterfront Group, said steps are being taken to redraft a long-overdue master plan for the San Diego Bay area adjacent to the National City Marine Terminal, the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal , where his business is located , and neighboring residential communities.

The current master plan for the area, which dates back to 1978, Plant said, has fostered such problems as noise and air pollution that have resulted from the encroachment of residential housing, particularly in Barrio Logan, into areas devoted to industrial, shipbuilding and cargo uses.

"It's chaos," he said. "But for the longest time everyone, including business, political and environmental interests, were doing their own thing. Nobody was talking.

"Then, about a year and a half ago, we began to have community workshops and dialogues, and now everyone is sitting down at the same table and talking, including business and environmental interests. That's the biggest thing."

The Working Waterfront, which sprang from the Port Tenants Association, includes representatives from about 120 cargo and industrial companies.

By joining forces with such groups as the local Environmental Health Coalition, Plant said the Working Waterfront's proposal for a new master plan has the support of the port district's seven-member board of directors. He is confident that the San Diego City Council and the councils in National City and Chula Vista also will approve a new plan.

As far as the port businesses are concerned, Plant said a new master plan should include restrictions for housing and industrial areas, and a buffer zone of at least 1,000 feet between the companies and the homes. Such a plan would allow the firms to continue operating on full schedules without fear of harming the health of people living in residential areas.

Randa Baramki, co-director of the Toxic Free Neighborhood Campaign at the Environmental Health Coalition, which has offices in Barrio Logan, said her group has been pushing for a buffer zone for more than three years.

"We advocate a buffer zone because of the ill effect of industrial emissions and pollutants," Baramki said. "So we see this (proposal) as a huge step forward and a big victory for the residents and the industries as well.

"We hope the city councils will adopt such a measure."

The case for a new master plan, both Plant and Baramki said, is strengthened by the fact that the California Air Resources Board in March published the "Air Quality and Land Use Handbook."

"In that they recommend 1,000-foot buffers between any seaport and residential area, so we second that," Baramki said.

Plant said the San Diego Association of Governments is also working with the groups to develop new plans for traffic patterns near the port cargo terminals.

Of Barrio Logan's approximately 4,000 residents, Baramki said that 40 percent are under the age of 18, and 17 percent of those are afflicted with asthma, adding that both the heavy flow of diesel truck traffic and emissions from industrial companies contribute to the problem. Countywide, 7 percent of children suffer from asthma, while nationwide the statistic is 5 percent, she added.

Installing a buffer zone between the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal and Barrio Logan would also make it possible, she said, to relocate roughly 21 "major polluters" to an area southeast of the community.

According to the Economic Research Bureau of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, the value of trade passing through the Port of San Diego posted a 10.9 percent increase to reach $39.6 billion in 2004, compared with the year before. Exports alone were valued at $14 billion, up 10.4 percent from 2003.

The industry and trade sectors at the port employed nearly 9,500 people who earned $490 million in wages.

The chamber's statistics were released earlier this month.