Divided council approves Barrio Logan zoning changes

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SAN DIEGO – The San Diego City Council voted 5-4 Tuesday night to approve the first update to the Barrio Logan Community Plan in 35 years, including a five-block-long commercial buffer zone separating residential and industrial zones.

Barrio Logan Recycling CenterThe neighborhood south of downtown includes low-income residential and major industrial uses by shipyards, Naval Base San Diego and the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal.

“Barrio Logan’s residents and businesses, the Navy and the shipbuilding industry are all critical to San Diego’s regional economy,” Councilwoman Sherri Lightner said. “Historically, the neighborhood has seen incompatible uses develop side by side that have made it challenging for both industry and residents.”

According to a city staff report, the mix of uses is incompatible in some areas and has led activists to raise environmental justice concerns over the years on behalf of the more than 4,000 area residents.

“Where else in the city do we allow for residential, commercial and industrial — we don’t. This is unique to Barrio Logan and needs to be fixed,” Lara Gates of the city’s Development Services Department said.

City staff presented two options for changes in Barrio Logan. The main difference is the nature of a “transition zone” between homes in the east part of the neighborhood and the industrial area to the west.

“Change is very difficult. We are untangling a mess in this neighborhood that has been there for literally decades,” Council President Todd Gloria said.

The approved version of the plan called for “community and neighborhood commercial uses” in the buffer area but no houses. Maritime interests could be included if coastal development and conditional use permits are obtained.

Councilman David Alvarez added to it a provision that the buffer zone, which he said consisted of a roadway, be expanded from Evans to 28th. Street between Newton Avenue and Main Street. The update was approved with a 5-4 party-line vote. Democrats supported the plan and Republicans opposed it.

“This city has really done this community wrong for a long, long time and that has to change,” said Alvarez, who represents the area and grew up there.

Homes and enterprises in the area that have their zoning changed would continue to exist under a grandfather clause, according to Alvarez and city staff.

The other scenario would have allowed “heavy commercial” and “maritime-oriented commercial” uses without the condition use permit requirement.

Councilman Kevin Faulconer was one of four council members who dissented.

“This industry and what it means to this community, what it means to national defense — it’s critically important that we do everything we can to preserve that and moving forward for years to come, just as we’re trying to do everything we can to update a badly outdated Barrio Logan plan,” Faulconer said.

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