Barrio Logan Residents Frustrated at Outdated Community Plan

Barrio Logan, homes in Barrio Logan, Andrea Lopez-Villafaña

A house in Barrio Logan has a recycling company as a neighbor, something that is common in this community. Photo by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña | La Prensa San Diego

By Andrea Lopez-Villafaña

Frustrated of feeling that the City of San Diego is not listening to the needs of community members in Barrio Logan with respect to the community plan in effect, which dates to 1978, residents are demanding that the City stop asking what should be done and act.

To outsiders, Barrio Logan seems like a colorful neighborhood surrounded by murals and an up and coming spot for art galleries and coffee shops.

But for those who have lived in the neighborhood their whole lives, they see the mix of industrial companies and recycling centers with residential areas and schools, and worry about the health and future of their families.

Barrio Logan, a neighborhood in San Diego, is defined by the surrounding military facilities, shipbuilding industries, Interstate 5, which runs through the center of the community, the Coronado Bridge, and the homes that stand in the mix.

The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment and the California Environmental Protection Agency made a tool known as CalEnviroScreen 3.0 available in January, which identifies communities in California that are “disportionately burdened by multiple sources of pollution,” and has shown Barrio Logan is among those disadvantaged communities.

Photo by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña | La Prensa San Diego

On Sept. 20, City planners met with the Barrio Logan Planning Group to conduct a workshop related to a new approach to the current community plan and were seeking a possible compromise on the zoning for the Harbor Drive corridor, according to a city spokeswoman.

“If a compromise could be reached on this issue, staff could then quickly bring the comprehensive community plan update forward for City Council consideration since the balance of the plan was previously supported by the local residents and businesses,” Arian Collins, city spokeswoman, wrote in an email.

Maria Martinez and Philomena Marino, both community leaders and Barrio Logan residents who have lived in the neighborhood for over 20 years, said that they felt dismissed during the meeting with City planners.

“We expected a dialogue going back and forth with regards to, here’s the 2013 plan we like it but can we negotiate and have this are be industrial, that’s what I mean,” Marino said. “It was not like that at all.”

Instead of holding a workshop, Marino said they could have chosen to start with the 2013 plan draft as a starting point.

“We already gave them a plan, and 2017 (sic) they say, ‘are you interested in a plan and if so take a look at this draft’ and the draft head wasn’t the one that we gave them in 2013, at all,” Marino said.

In 2013, City Council approved a draft for a new plan that re-zoned Barrio Logan and established a “buffer zone” that would separate homes from industry and shipyards by encouraging building parking structures or other buildings.

Photo by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña | La Prensa San Diego

However, in 2014 San Diego voters voted against the 2013 plan and it was rescinded, therefore the community planning is currently defined by the 1978 plan.

Martinez said a lot of work and time was dedicated by individuals and organizations in Barrio Logan to gather the information for the 2013 plan, and that by the city planners not presenting that plan they felt it did not represent their needs.

“It was several years that we worked so that the plan that we chose reflected the needs of the community,” Martinez said.

Martinez said that if the city is going to update the plan, they should update the 2013 plan instead of trying to start the process over again.

Martinez and Marino wrote an opinion piece published in the Voice of San Diego, an online nonprofit news organization, on Dec. 7, to emphasize the city’s lack of action in updating the current community plan, they said.

“Children suffer in Barrio Logan because polluting business operate next to homes, schools and parks,” they wrote in the Voice of San Diego.

Martinez recalls that she felt frustrated at the meeting not only because the 2013 plan was not presented but because of the way the city planners presented their new draft.

“The presentation by the city seemed inexperienced,” Martinez said. “They showed up and said, ‘this is the plan that we chose’ they placed photos everywhere and said they were going to give us stickers and we would place them on what we liked and what we didn’t like. They didn’t even explain anything.”

Collins wrote that based on the outcome of the workshop it was clear a compromise could not be reached between the residents and business owners.

“Many stakeholders in attendance recommended that the entire community plan be reevaluated,” Collins wrote.

Martinez added that the city planners suggested that if the community members had any feedback that they should visit their website, something that Martinez points out is not what appeals to the community.

Marino said it was clear that there was a “heavy hitter” interested in Barrio Logan during the meeting.

“Because we don’t have that updated community plan right now unfortunately the (1978) plan it’s up for grabs,” Marino said. “Every single business, industrial business commercial business is trying to make sure that they put their stake down before the residents win.”

According to Collins, “the Planning Department is evaluating its work program and other priorities and does not plan to take any immediate action on the Barrio Logan Community Plan.”

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