By Raymond R. Beltrán
For the past 26 years, the Barrio Logan community has held onto the Barrio Logan/Harbor 101 Plan, which was developed by the City of San Diego Planning Department. This is, at best, a report that documents the barrio’s environmental, socio-economic and land use compatibility issues, including solutions and visionary maps constructed by the city’s planning department, some community residents and the U.S. 32nd Street Naval Base.
According to City of San Diego Planning Department’s Associate Planner, Theresa Millette, the Barrio Logan/Harbor 101 Plan still remains the “living document” today. Because the plans are so outdated, the city is currently working with the Environmental Health Coalition and some barrio residents, much like in the past, to introduce new land use maps for the “planning area” with a $270,000 Environmental Justice Grant from CalTrans.
The maps currently being developed will be introduced to the community next week. The feedback from residents will generate ideas to produce the final land use plan as a reference for the city if they ever decide to begin redeveloping Barrio Logan in the future.
In 1978, eight maps were drawn up, somewhat unique in their dissimilarities and diverse in their intentions. Where the city’s planning department envisioned 550 to 900 acres of industrial business, the community plotted out approximately 150 to 550 acres of residential area, with a 110 acre “commercial” and “mixed use” land, separating them from the industrial and naval businesses they share the neighborhood with.
Out of eight maps constructed then, the community residents’ Map 6 ranked highest when considering health, economic and compatibility issues, but the “Existing Conditions” map of Barrio Logan today doesn’t exhibit the implementation of that map at all. Instead, there are no divisions between the industrial and residential and it seems that there is an enormous imbalance between the two, with industrial businesses covering the majority of the land.
The planning area is basically a third of the Barrio Logan community west of the Interstate 5 Freeway, paralleling the 32nd Street Naval Base and the Port District, originally from Commercial Street down to the border of National City. In 1993, the plan was amended to cut the northern boundaries down to 16th Street, Sigsbee Street and Beardsley Street.
The current mapping process began on February 19, after 1,100 mailers were sent out to barrio residents about community workshops called El Futuro del Barrio. The city and environmental agencies took note of residents’ concerns, which included grievances with diesel truck trafficking, industrial businesses, lack of affordable housing and health issues due to the extreme mix of land use, issues that rose 26 years ago.
“The main concern of the residents is that [they] want to get rid of toxic businesses and replace them with a commercial space . mostly on Main Street,” says Maria Moye, EHC community organizer.
The recommendations made are then submitted to Estrada Land Planning, a planning agency in Downtown San Diego. Steve Estrada has been unavailable for comment, but Millette states that the agency calculates the data with a planning system called PLACES (Planning for Community Energy, Economic and Environmental Sustainability).
PLACES is a real estate calculating computer program that takes the collected data and estimates scenarios pertaining to development issues, such as price per square foot in any given area. For instance, if the community wanted more commercial zoning instead of industrial businesses, PLACES would calculate compatibility of land use verse a developer’s return in any investments made in that particular area.
Community concerns are evident but the new maps remain to be seen, although, the important question to residents is when will actual revitalization begin in the barrio?
Kevin Sullivan from the City of San Diego’s Planning Department notes that just because the maps are drawn for revitalization doesn’t make the process a plan of action. He notes that the city and community organizations move on with the project in hopes that developers will one day find interest in the Barrio Logan area, but the barrio doesn’t attract businesses like the Gaslamp District or North Park areas do yet.
Up to now, Sullivan and Millette calculate that the city, with the CalTrans grant, has spent an approximate $260,000 on traffic studies, community outreach by the EHC and Parsons Brinkerhoff, an international planning and engineering consultation firm from Portland, Oregon who provided the GIS (geographic information system). The GIS is a system that maps out the geography of any given development area, in this case Barrio Logan, that color codes various land use, making it easier for developers and community members to understand the layout of their neighborhood.
Millette, along with EHC’s Maria Moye, says that the El Futuro del Barrio workshops are more of a “visioning process” and noted that it would take over $1 million to begin the actual construction of a revitalized barrio. With the city’s current deficit, the hopes of that are slim.
“With all the budget cuts, they’re saying there’s no money,” says Moye. “But if they wanted to, they’d find funds like they will with the Charger Stadium and like they did with the ballpark.”
The Barrio Logan/Harbor 101 Plan, completed in 1978, admits that with the industrial boom in the 1930s, the city itself assumed that the residential community would slowly deter from homes in the area and that Barrio Logan would become an exclusive industrial area, but to their dismay, this was far from reality. The report states that “[d]ue to complicated, and little [understanding of] economic, physical, and social considerations, the residents in this western area, did not move, but remained anchored to the Barrio.”
Kevin Sullivan attributes the imbalance to the lack of regulations back then that in turn caused so many industrial businesses to flourish, something that is supposed to have been remedied with the city’s Planned District Ordinance (PDO) in 1983, which “tailored zoning regulations for Barrio Logan.”
The City of San Diego’s Planning Department will be releasing the four or five new Barrio Logan maps to the community Tuesday, May 11 at Perkins Elementary School from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The city planners say that the next step will take input from the community on what they think about the development visions on these maps, which will then result in a final vision to be released on June 17, this summer.