San Diego Business Journal

When the San Diego City Council postponed a decision on JMI Realty's plan to build the $1.4 billion Ballpark Village, at least one San Diego Unified Port District official saw it as an opportunity to meet with the Downtown developer responsible for building the adjacent Petco Park and Omni San Diego Hotel to ensure the proposed mixed-use project wouldn't interfere with business as usual at the port.

Acting as a redevelopment agency on Sept. 20, the San Diego City Council delayed a decision on the proposed Ballpark Village , a 3.2 million-square-foot complex of offices, shops and condominiums on Park Boulevard , because of a last minute change in where an affordable housing component would be located.

In its original plan for the condos, JMI Realty, headed by San Diego Padres owner John Moores, included several that would be sold at below market rates. But revisions called for the affordable housing portion to be located apart from Ballpark Village , possibly on East Village property owned by a Roman Catholic charity. To give city staff members more time to review the revisions, the City Council set a date of Oct. 11 to revisit the JMI plan.

In the meantime, Bill Hall, the chairman of the seven-member Port Commission, wants to meet with JMI, community groups and the Working Waterfront Group, which includes 120 industrial and cargo companies, to ensure the proposed development won't hamper the businesses at the port.

Hall said he's aware of language in the Ballpark Village's property documents that could preclude owners from complaining to law enforcement agencies about environmental issues, such as noise, lights and air pollution. But he wants something stronger.

"I want to see an agreement that clearly protects the waterfront businesses and the industries," he said. "There needs to be a very specific easement or some similar instrument to ensure that those businesses have the right to maintain, repair and build ships and continue with cargo and freight operations.

"The waterfront is a wonderful and unique source of employment that allows people without college degrees to transition within a few years from entry-level jobs into positions that pay sustainable, living wages. And there's nothing else quite like it in San Diego that I am aware of."

Ed Plant, owner of Harborside Refrigerated Services at the Port District's Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal, agreed, saying that he thinks that the Ballpark Village site, which would be fronted on one side by a rail yard, is within a buffer zone intended to divide residential and industrial areas.

Charles Black, JMI's executive vice president, disagreed, saying that Harbor Drive constitutes a buffer zone.

Getting a wider, 1,000-foot buffer zone is part of a proposed master plan for property uses near the maritime ports, Hall said. But he admits that in "cases like Ballpark Village, we recognize we would not be able to maintain it in all instances."

At press time on Sept. 22, two days after the City Council meeting, Black said he'd not had a request from Hall, or any of the port's officials, for a meeting.