February 2, 2007

Centre City Approves $1.5 Million for Barrio Logan

By Raymond R. Beltran

Barrio Logan — This Wednesday, the Centre City Development Corporation approved $1.5 million for the redevelopment process in Barrio Logan, where, for years, activists and residents have raised awareness about the health affects of living next to industrial businesses.

“I’m very happy that CCDC has finally given the funds for a new plan so that we can have a clean, toxic-free neighborhood with more affordable housing,” said local resident Maria Martinez in a public letter from the Environmental Health Coalition.

The money will be available to the city’s planning department for the next two years to conduct economic feasibility and environmental studies of the area, says Jean Cameron of the San Diego Planning Department.

Cameron says the city will focus on rezoning and expanding the current redevelopment area from a small piece of the barrio to the entire neighborhood.

Currently, the redevelopment area is confined to a third of Barrio Logan, just west of the Interstate 5 Freeway, paralleling the 32nd Street Naval Base and the Port District. In 1993, the northern boundaries were drawn at 16th, Sigsbee and Beardsley Streets.

“The idea is to include as much as possible,” Cameron said. “It gives the city greater ability to revitalize the area and it would [provide] a larger tax increment.”

She also says that the city has an additional $500,000 in grants, half from CalTrans, to work on Barrio Logan. In the agreement with the CCDC, $200,000 will be allocated to hire consultants to head a majority of the workload, Cameron said.

The first step, she says, is to select the consultants and establish a group of stakeholders. Then, they will create a “steering committee” of people from the business and residential communities to begin conducting community forums. The committee will be advisory only.

Since 1978, the community has held onto the Barrio Logan/Harbor 101 Plan, a report that documents the barrio’s environmental, socio-economic and land use compatibility issues, including solutions and visionary maps constructed by the city, community residents and the naval base.

The Environmental Health Coalition conducted meetings at Perkins Elementary in May 2004 with Barrio Logan residents, the city’s planning department and development group Estrada Land Planning to begin updating the 29 year old plan.

Main concerns among residents were found to be air toxicity due to neighboring industrial business, minimal affordable housing, not enough parks and recreational services, and gentrification.

“The residents didn’t want an extension of downtown,” said Maria Moya, an EHC representative. “They want to conserve the art, they want to keep the barrio.”

She says the EHC wants to work directly with the city to continue with the process they started years ago and she adds that more community meetings are unnecessary.

“It’s already been done, we don’t need one to three more years,” Moya says. “We have a series of suggestions to take into account … suggestions that have been done by the residents of the community.”

The EHC’s Barrio Logan Vision map, a map that reflects community suggestions mentioned, shows that there are 138 industrial and maritime acres of land, an area they would like to see separated from homes and diminished to 72 acres. The map also exhibits an additional 37 acres of residential and retail land use and 45 additional acres for parks and recreation.

The 2004 meetings and studies were conducted with a $270,000 Environmental Justice Grant from CalTrans.

But Cameron says the previous information didn’t include issues dealing with the auto circulation elements and the Port District’s “fly over study,” a part of the Working Waterfront Conceptual Access Study, to consider industrial access to the freeway.

“We’re not going to take what’s already been done, and rubber stamp it,” Cameron said. “We’re going to be holding new meetings with stakeholders and residents to talk about the various issues.”

She says the project has a two year time limit, and when asked if the Barrio Logan Vision map is a possibility, she says “everything takes time” and that the study is to steer the direction of barrio development for the next twenty years.

The city and the EHC are both in agreement that progress has already begun with the 89-unit affordable housing complex, Los Vientos, up for a hearing with the city on March 1. The complex will replace two neighborhood blocks once labeled as a blighted industrial area.

“We’re going to keep on working with the city staff,” Moya said. “But we want to see the vision.”

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