Port may spend $600K to promote new projects

Posted at 5:37 PM, Dec 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-12 21:45:09-05

SAN DIEGO - A series of projects that will transform the shoreline of San Diego Bay could end up costing taxpayers more than $500,000 before a shovel even goes into the ground.

San Diegan and taxpayer David Haworth has spent most of his life sailing San Diego's coastal waters. Now, he makes a living fishing for tuna, swordfish and lobster. His boats are two constants in a sea of change.

Haworth docks his boats north of Seaport Village, which the Port of San Diego is eyeing for a $1 billion redevelopment.

"There's just been some pictures put out of Ferris wheels and spires, and maybe an aquarium, different things like that," Haworth said.

He knows a lot about that project because he's worried how it will impact where he docks his two boats. The same can't be said when it comes to all other projects the Port of San Diego is planning -- from the Chula Vista Bayfront to the redevelopment of Harbor Island.

The Port wants to change that with a public relations blitz. It could spend up to $600,000 over the next three years on local firms to get the messages out.

"That's a lot of money to spend on that," Haworth said.

Others are not so enthusiastic about the possible plan. Taxpayer advocate Richard Ryder said it amounts to publicly funded propaganda.

Port spokeswoman Tanya Castaneda said the firms would support its in-house staff with outreach on all of the development projects and also for public education.

"By engaging the community, the Port strives to achieve consensus on the public benefits of projects, initiatives and issues," she said. "Like most public agencies, the Port augments the work of its in-house staff with public relations experts in order to reach these various constituencies in a timely and meaningful way."

Even so, Haworth said he likes Seaport Village the way it is -- so close to his two ships.

"Any change is scary for us," he said.

The Port's Board of Directors is scheduled to approve the expense at its meeting Tuesday.

The item is on its consent calendar, which means the board can approve it without public discussion.