By Raymond R. Beltrán
Tuesday night, May 11, Barrio Logan residents were given an hour to evaluate three maps, produced by the City of San Diego, that will act as future references if investors ever begin the redevelopment process of their neighborhood.
The target “redevelopment area,” stretches along the 32nd Street Naval Base and the port community to the I-5 freeway, from the boundary of National City to 16th Street, Sigsbee Street and Beardsley Street.
The alternative maps were constructed by Estrada Land Planning and were supposed to have reflected numerous concerns that Barrio Logan residents addressed in two previous community development workshops titled El Futuro del Barrio. The primary issues dealt with diesel truck trafficking, the mixed use of industrial and residential neighborhoods and affordable housing.
The three maps, Options A, B and C, differed somewhat in the arrangement of parks, mixed use of land and the commercial and residential zoning, although, they equally reflect a character similar to the Gaslamp District and suggest a connection between Logan and Downtown San Diego, the crux of the connection being, of course, Petco Park.
With the vision of commercial zoning and condominiums placed in the northern region of the development area, all of the options exhibited industrial businesses being pushed further south, encroaching on National City limits.
After a planning development presentation by Steve Estrada, from Estrada Land Planning, residents were broken up into Groups 1 through 6 to discuss the alternatives, and three out of six favored Option B, which reflected more housing developments closer to Downtown San Diego, mainly on Imperial Avenue. The map suggested an extension of the Mercado Apartments and parking facilities along César E. Chávez Parkway.
Group 3 favored Option C, which introduced somewhat of a character change in the barrio with taller structures and multiple usages of buildings that would provide housing and commercial offices all in one, but what was supposed to be an hour of choosing one of three alternative visions turned into an hour and a half of trying to understand the economic dynamics involved in redevelopment, something San Diego’s Planning Department and Steve Estrada circumvented with promising photos of luxurious condominiums.
In Group 3, issues that weren’t formally addressed, were how many housing units were going to provide affordable housing for the barrio residents today.
Paul Morris of Parsons Brinkerhoff, a Portland based development consultant agency, projected to residents that the standard low income family of four makes $54,800 a year and that under these conditions could afford a three bedroom apartment for $1,231 per month.
The figures were alarming to many who attended the meeting because the majority of families in the Barrio Logan area fall under the “extremely low income” family bracket, with annual incomes of $24,000 a year and below, according to SANDAG and U.S. Census Bureau estimations from December 2003.
Under the extremely low income bracket, families are estimated to be able to afford rents at $717 per month. This, developers and consultants say, would cause a gap in cost of up to $1,039 per unit, which they would in turn have to subsidize $100,000 to $135,000 to fill the gap.
Residents from Group 1 relayed that they knew of some households juggling $5,000 a year.
“We want to make this area affordable for people in the community, not people outside of the community,” said Stephanie Romero, an Environmental Health Coalition advocate who recently moved with her family out of the Sherman Heights community, where she grew up, due to rent raises.
“We can say we’re going to do this, but is it going to make sense?” asked Steve Estrada. “A builder has to make some profit … some maps don’t make as much sense as others.”
Estrada stressed in his presentation that it would be the revenue in tax dollars from standard housing that would subsidize affordable housing units, so, residents were only offered the options of having either ten, fifteen or twenty-five percent of affordable housing in all three optional maps. Hence, the present low income community may be outnumbered by the influx of affluent San Diego home owners, who today know that the land value is increasing exponentially around the Petco Park area.
This has stricken the fear of gentrification and displacement in the Barrio Logan community. But what does this mean, ultimately?
For instance, the favored Option B, among residents, placed housing units in the northern region of the redevelopment area, like the others, but the option of where standard and affordable homes will go was never discussed.
Option B would provide a total of 1,670 new homes, totaling 2,620 homes in the community. In the event that, at best, 25% of these units were “affordable,” that would only make up 1,368 units of affordable housing, under the City of San Diego’s standard of what low income families make. Although, standard homes, for all the community, members know right now, could still be placed in that northern region surrounding Petco Park while the majority of destitute residents could still be placed within undesirable living conditions, i.e. next to toxic, industrial businesses.
Group workshops began to close while local business owners in Group 3 began to question whether or not they may be displaced if the area surrounding Petco Park becomes redeveloped. They were assured by various city planners and developers present that if developing condominiums becomes an issue, any present home or business owner would receive a letter in the mail and would have the right to propose an alternative, competing plan for the property. There would be thirty days of negotiations between the city, developers and land owners, but ultimately owners could be forced out due to the market value.
Nonetheless, as Steve Estrada and Associate Planner Theresa Millette of San Diego’s Planning Department were pressed for time, they hastened the decision making process, which may have left many questions unanswered relating to the possible relocation of affordable housing units and the displacement of current Barrio Logan residents.
In the event that developers remove affordable housing units, they would be obligated, by the City of San Diego, to replace them elsewhere.
One last meeting will be held at Perkins Elementary on June 8, and it will provide one last map, by Estrada Land Planning, reflecting Tuesday meeting’s community concerns.