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Port Expansion Approved After Community Input

December 15, 2016

By  Mario A. Cortez

Photo: Mario A. Cortez

Photo: Mario A. Cortez

Change is in the air at the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal and its surrounding neighborhoods.
This past Tuesday, December 13, the Port of San Diego’s Board of Commissioners unanimously approved to expand the capacity at the terminal through the removal of two obsolete warehouse structures currently blocking the way of multiple shipping berths.
Despite the proposal sailing into approval, there were concerns from community members in the Barrio Logan area and environmental groups when the project was announced.
According to estimates, the initial expansion proposal would have lead to an increase of 600 percent in cargo, leading to an increase in trucks, ships, and overall port activity. The close to 200 cargo trucks currently circulating the area every day would have increased up to an estimated 800 cargo trucks.
These estimates lead to great concern from nearby residents, who have been at the mercy of pollution for decades, and would have seen a significant pollution increase in their neighborhoods.
The port released an environmental impact report this past June 27 and opened up for public comments through August 18, in order to hear input from the community and other interest groups.
“We spoke with the community for approximately two months and collected 500 signatures from people who are attentive to this,” said Environmental Health Coalition member Jorge Gonzales prior to Tuesday’s meeting. “The air quality in this neighborhood is very bad and we need to find solutions to reduce the impact on the port.”
After the public comments period closed, the port evaluated options to mitigate pollution in the affected communities once more cargo begins to be processed. The expansion plan with the proposed changes was voted on during Tuesday’s meeting.
Among changes that the port agreed to make are installing solar powered systems, replacing current diesel powered cargo equipment new electric equipment, and the adoption of  “bonnet” air systems, which attach to cargo ships’ exhaust pipes to capture pollutants, among other changes to be implemented by specific dates. All of this in addition to a 25 percent reduction to the projected expansion.
“To be able to advance a project where we are promoting green technology, protecting our air, and creating jobs really means a lot. This is a very important day at the port,” said Port Commissioner Rafael Castellanos. “I am very proud of what we have accomplished.”
However, not all were completely satisfied by the changes to the plan.
“My community rarely catches a break from the powers that be, and the campaign to overturn our community plan proves this. Mitigating the environmental impact of the expansion is a step toward being good environmental stewards,” said Barrio Logan resident and neighborhood advocate Brent Beltran.
The plan is also not a certified zero-emissions plan, as pointed out by local activist Joy Williams.
“The terminal capacity will quadruple cargo throughout and impact a community where the cancer risk is already 38 per million people from the 10th Avenue terminal alone,” added Williams during Tuesday’s meeting.
Despite the improvements to the plan, there are still additional demands that residents of Barrio Logan and the neighboring communities would like to have met. Among these demands are air filters for residences and schools in the area, such as Perkins K-8 Elementary School, to protect children living in an already heavily contaminated zip code from the uptick in pollution.
Members of the nearby communities would also like to see the formation of an advisory board to oversee and approve port projects.
The renovation project for the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal  is being funded by a $10 million grant from the federal government and a $24 million investment from the port. The expansion is projected to eventually double, or even triple, the revenue that the terminal generates for the Port of San Diego; the terminal currently brings in about $8 million for the port.
The Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal is currently 96 acres in size, with nine ship berths that allow large ships to dock. The port currently has 300,000 square feet of cold storage facilities, to store fresh fruit and other perishable goods, and one million square feet of warehouse and transit sheds.
[Editor’s note: Marinee Zavala contributed to this story]

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