72.9 F
San Diego
Thursday, Sep 28, 2023

Port Tenants Association Changes Name

Since finishing up his military service, Ricky Ontiveros has spent the last 17 years working at Marine Group Boat Works along the bay on G Street in Chula Vista.

Ontiveros oversees eight company electricians who work on the electrical needs of coastal and commercial boats, ferries, luxury yachts and military ships at the company.

“I love working on the waterfront,” he said. “Our owners are awesome and being on the water is awesome. You can’t ask for anything more than that. And if I’m having a bad day? I walk out to the docks and thank the Lord right there. Wakes me right up and I see that nothing’s that bad.”

Jeff Ring can relate. Although only 16, the Serra Mesa resident and student at St. Augustine said he loves being on the water. He said he comes down to the bay “at least twice a week, and sometimes the whole week… sailing, fishing, working.”

Ring will start in June working as a deckhand for Pacific Tugboat Service, part of the Pacific Maritime Group on Cesar Chavez Parkway in San Diego. Ring said he is thinking about attending California State University Maritime Academy in Vallejo to get a degree in Marine Transportation.

- Advertisement -

“San Diego Bay and the jobs here are so important,” Ring said. “This is where people make their living.”

Ontiveros and Ring are just two of thousands who work near or on the bay in the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, Coronado, Imperial Beach and National City. Those who work in the area include hotel and restaurant workers, commercial fisherman, people in aerospace and airport industries, and shipbuilders and ship repair personnel.

Second-Largest Employer in County

The San Diego Unified Port District reports that the 70,000 jobs at businesses located within the Port District make the Port the second largest employer in San Diego County, collectively contributing more than $9 billion to the local economy.

Seaport workers employed at about 800 business and industries were the impetus for a change by the San Diego Port Tenants Association, a nonprofit group with 40 board members that since 1989 has been enhancing trade, commerce and tourism on San Diego Bay’s tidelands while protecting the area’s environment.

The tenants association works with the Port of San Diego to represent and advocate on policy issues for businesses and industries and in partnerships with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard, so their interests are known in political and social circles.

Late last month, the association changed its name to San Diego Working Waterfront, and on April 21 unveiled a new logo that “honors its roots,” board president Sharon Bernie-Cloward told a group of about 200 members gathered at the Bali Hai on Shelter Island to celebrate the switch.

San Diego Working Waterfront Board Chairman John Laun told those at the Bali Hai that the group “hit the reset button on our organization” and explained why.

Name Puts Employees in Spotlight

“We changed the name to focus on workers and jobs and redesigned the logo to be more inclusive of the industries we represent,” he said. “We updated our mission and vision statement to clarify, to clearly tell the world we are standing up for jobs, competitiveness, trust and civic pride.”

Bernie-Cloward said the four-fold design of the new logo keeps part of the original logo of buildings at the water’s edge, but added art of its other interests, including maritime ventures, marine recreation and the people who work at the jobs at all those sites.

“The most important is the people,” Cloward said at the event. “All of you that make our waterfront. It gives me such pride when I just talk to you about your jobs.”

Bernie-Cloward said that the tenants group enlisted the help of outside consultants as it pivoted to its new name, and credited Jen Lebron of Lebron Strategic Consulting as the designer of the new logo.

Lebron, press secretary and policy advisor in Kevin Faulconer’s office when he was San Diego mayor from 2014-20, and former director of communications for current San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, said she worked for the Port for a short time in 2014 and was happy to take on the project.

“San Diego is all about the bay in so many ways,” Lebron said. “Part of what went into the logo design was to represent the diverse industries and people who are out here. San Diego Working Waterfront is centered on people, lifting up the voices of the people who make it happen, the men and women coming out here every day doing what they love.”

Faulconer said the port area was in his district when he was a member of the San Diego City Council from 2006-14, so it has always been on his radar.

“This is a working waterfront with small businesses, medium businesses and large businesses,” he said. “This is an economic competitive advantage for us in the region, and over the years I pressed very hard to grow it. The Port represents the best of when everyone works together, all five cities. I’m very proud of what the Port’s been doing over the last several years. There’s been a tremendous amount of momentum.”

Faulconer applauded the new name for the tenants’ group, saying that “it gets to the truth of what it is here – a working waterfront.”

San Diego Working Waterfront leaders say the name change and logo update only reinforces its being focused on giving members a strong voice in the future of the Port.

An Advocate for Port Tenants

San Diego Working Waterfront interfaces regularly with the Port District, its leaders meeting with San Diego Port Commissioners to discuss issues facing the businesses in the bay.

“We advocate for the Port tenants and by association, all of their employees to create jobs around the bay,” Laun said. “We advocate policies with the Port that are economically viable to maintain the Port’s competitive leadership. The Port is a big enterprise and about 800 businesses are part of San Diego Working Waterfront. Those businesses employ about 44,000 workers.

“It’s a big thing and we have to advocate for policies that are favorable to maintaining the competitive edge of our Port and our jobs,” Laun said. “But we also have to be environmentally sensitive as well, and sensitive to the communities around the Port. It’s a hard job to blend all those together.”

Rafael Castellanos, a San Diego Port commissioner for nearly a decade, said people should take great pride in San Diego’s seaport. He said the Port has specific and multi-faceted qualities, including being “a national strategic asset as a deep-water port.”

Economic Engine

“The Port of San Diego is an economic engine for the region, and we are a very unique port,” Castellanos said. “We are a maritime port and a hospitality port and we are one of 17 strategic ports in the country. We can mobilize our cargo terminals to support the Navy on 48 hours’ notice.”

Castellanos said he was happy to see the Working Waterfront group “highlighting what the Port really is, what makes it work.”

“It’s the people. It’s the businesses. It’s the employees,” he said. “Without the people, the Port would still be beautiful, but it wouldn’t be a working waterfront.”

Castellanos called the San Diego seaport “the unifying geographical feature of the region” and that looking at what is going on in other parts of the world shows just how important it is to keep San Diego Bay protected.

“Given what is happening in Ukraine with the Russian military forces trying to take port cities, you can see how important the port is,” Castellanos said. “Without ports, there is no commerce, there are no goods, there is no equipment. You can get choked off.”

Bernie-Cloward, who has been president of the group since 2004, encouraged those who work in port-based jobs to share their stories on the group’s new social media platforms at https://www.sdworkingwaterfront.com/.

“We’re nothing unless the public knows who we are,” Bernie-Cloward said. “We need your stories. I started washing boats as a nurse when I moved to San Diego. Everybody has a story and the public needs to know it.”

San Diego Working Waterfront


PRESIDENT: Sharon Bernie-Cloward

HEADQUARTERS: Shelter Island, San Diego

BUSINESS: Nonprofit tenants group


WEBSITE: sdworkingwaterfront.com

CONTACT: (619) 226-6546

NOTABLE: Formerly known as the San Diego Port Tenants Association, the group produces an event called “Operation Clean Sweep,’ a bay-wide cleanup that partners military and civilian divers along with shoreside volunteers.


Featured Articles


Related Articles