Friday, March 8, 2013

San Diego Mayor Reveals Major Port Development Plan

In a March 6 speech to the city’s economic development committee, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner presented a plan to add 6,000 waterfront jobs by the year 2020, while reducing waterfront pollution by 20 percent during the same timeframe.

“My vision for the port, which I intend to develop as a regional asset, with the help of my fellow mayors from National City, Chula Vista, Coronado and Imperial Beach, contemplates an economy that combines our region’s ‘green’ sectors – alternative energy, efficiency technology – with the ‘blue’ sectors – maritime trade, ship building, defense, ocean research – into an ‘aqua’ economy,” he said.

The ‘aqua’ jobs, Filner said, would span blue-collar, white-collar and green-collar jobs; would be well-paying; oriented toward the water; and include “innovations for sustainability.”

The plan focuses on five strategic areas: increasing global trade; strengthening ties with the US Navy, which has a strong presence in and around the San Diego Harbor; investment in roads, rails, bridges and other forms of infrastructure; develop a “marine highway” for short sea shipping; and revitalize the area’s fisheries by building a San Diego version of Pike Place Market, which overlooks the waterfront in Seattle.

Filner also said he would like to see several marine-based technology and intellectual pursuits started, including a “PortTechSD,” which would be created in the mold of the PortTechLA technology incubator system; a partnership between the city’s Youth Development Office and the maritime industry to expand economic opportunities for young San Diegans; and the establishment of a Clean Water Technology Center and a Maritime Robotics Center.

“I have identified a multi-faceted approach that focuses on targeted strategic objectives, by working with many of our best regional leaders at all levels of government and by embracing and growing one of our finest assets: the Port of San Diego,” Filner said.

For his plan to come to fruition, the mayor would need the support of the seven-member Board of Port Commissioners. San Diego appoints three members of the panel, but the other four are chosen by the neighboring cities of National City, Chula Vista, Coronado and Imperial Beach.

In his speech, Filner said San Diego should set minimum qualifications for its appointees to the board and that representatives should at least have several years of professional experience in the maritime, real estate, hospitality, cruise, sustainability or diplomatic fields.

In January, Filner vetoed two City Council appointments to the board; the positions remain unfilled.