City Council committee backs mayor's plan for Port of San Diego

Plan is for port to be center of job creation

SAN DIEGO - Mayor Bob Filner's plan to use the Port of San Diego as a center of job creation received support from three City Council members at its first public airing Wednesday.

Click here to read Filner's Port vision report

Filner told the council's Rules and Economic Development Committee that by 2020, he wants to add 6,000 high-paying jobs along San Diego's waterfront; reduce air, water and greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent; increase exports by one-third; and build infrastructure to move cargo from ships to ground transportation lines.

"We are the biggest city on the East or West Coast that is not a maritime center. We can become one and really create thousands of jobs," said Filner.

Among his strategies are to make sure San Diego companies use local facilities for imports and exports, lead trade delegations overseas and welcome representatives of other countries, get manufacturers in Mexico to use San Diego's port, and make more effective use of port real estate.

The mayor, who frequently touted the port's potential as an engine for generating higher employment during last year's mayoral campaign, also called for revitalization of the area's fishing industry and continued support for the military.

Edward Plant, who has lived in San Diego his whole life, listened to Filner deliver his vision to the committee. The 73-year-old Plant said he was encouraged by what he heard.

"I'm glad it's being brought to the forefront because the only way we're going to get it done is to talk about it," Plant said.

Plant has been a port tenant for 17 years because his business Harborside Refrigerated Services.

"I think it's really the first time that the port has been the focus," said Plant.

Councilman Mark Kersey said Filner's plan builds upon a strategic planning effort the port district completed last year, and which included input from San Diego and other member cities.

"The mayor's priorities seem to be right in line with the regional vision for the port, which includes creating well-paying jobs, investing in infrastructure, and creating a healthy and sustainable bay and waterfront," Kersey said.

"I'd like to see it spelled out so that we know, so that the tenants know what to do and can buy into the vision," said Plant.

"The port has been working on this for years. Together we will get those implementation steps that are needed to achieve this vision," Filner said.

Plant said he hopes that vision translates into a brighter future for the port and, in turn, for his son.

"Isn't that what it's all about? That's the American dream," Plant said.

The plan also received support from committee Chairwoman Sherri Lightner and Councilman David Alvarez. Committee members Marti Emerald and Kevin Faulconer were absent.

Lightner asked city staff to incorporate the mayor's suggestions into the city's economic development outline.

Filner also wants to set minimum qualifications for appointees to San Diego's three positions on the port's board of commissioners. The city's representatives should at least have several years of professional experience in the maritime, real estate, hospitality, cruise, sustainability or diplomatic fields, according to his presentation.

Kersey suggested that finance, international trade and public service be added to the list of categories.

In January, Filner vetoed two City Council appointments to the board -- positions that remain unfilled. He said the city's representatives should be selected after port policy and qualifications are determined.

Prospective commissioners should be prepared to address public policy concerns in a way that is beneficial to the city and the region, according to Filner.

San Diego's lone representative on the board at the moment, Bob Nelson, said the commissioner job is not for "rookies."

"I think you should look for people who have demonstrated through their prior activity that you have been able to observe or research, that they are capable of dealing in the public environment -- with all that implies," Nelson said. "Because if I do something crazy tomorrow, I'm not really the one that's going to held accountable -- you are."

He added leadership of nonprofits or academia to potential qualification categories.

The committee voted to forward the appointment recommendations to the full City Council.

On Monday, the city's Independent Budget Analyst said no other ports in California have codified qualifications for port commissioners.

Print this article Back to Top