The EnvironmentalHealth Coalition (EHC) has filed a lawsuit against the Port of San Diego Ship Repair Association for intentionally misrepresenting facts to illegally collect signatures for its industry-funded referendum to repeal the Barrio Logan Community Plan Update.

City clerk Elizabeth Maland and county registrar Michael Vu are also being sued, for to not validate the signatures obtained under false pretenses.

EHC will also seek a temporary restraining order against the City of San Diego to stop its validation of the illegally gathered signatures submitted by the industry association.

Georgette Gomez, a co-petitioner on the lawsuit, said it was necessary to take these measures because the City of San Diego does not pay attention to the misrepresentations being made twhen these signatures were collected. The elections official only verified whether the signatures were of actual San Diego residents.

Barrio Logan - Courtesy Environmental Health Co-alition
Barrio Logan – Courtesy Environmental Health Coalition

Though the Plan calls for a division of Barrio Logan into residential and industrial areas, existing non-conforming businesses and residences are grandfathered in. Nobody is being forced to move, in fact they can expand up to 20%. However new businesses will not be  allowed to move into residential areas and new homes can not be built in industrial areas. They also lose their right to be non-conforming if left vacant for two years. Thus over the course of years and decades to come, a separation of businesses and residences will gradually occur.

The Barrio Logan Community Plan is expected to increase employment by 47%, adding 4,800 jobs to the 10,000 already existing within the barrio. The industrial zone will centralize the maritime-industrial operations that support industries on the waterfront, such as welding shops, refinishers, ship repair support, and other port-related industries.

EHC filmed three petition gatherers erroneously stating that the Barrio Logan plan:

  • wants to eliminate the shipyards and Navy Fleet
  • calls for houses to be built in the industrial area
  • will cause a loss of 46,000 jobs
  • was drawn up because they “want the Navy out of here” so that they can build “a bunch of condos and apartments” right next to the Navy territory.
  • one pollster said he “did not know who is behind” the petition, he worked for a company that was paid to gather signatures.  Another said the petition was is support of the shipyard association

Chris Wahl of the Protect our Jobs Coalition claimed these misrepresentations were an isolated incident:

According to the San Diego Reader, the San Diego Ship Repair Association – composed of large shipping-related businesses like General Dynamics, BAE Systems and Continental Maritim – has given Wahl $295,000 to fight the Barrio Logan Plan.

“The out-of-state corporations couldn’t get voters to sign the petition by telling the truth, so they resorted to outright lies,” said Diane Takvorian, executive director of EHC, which fights toxic pollution in underserved communities like Barrio Logan. “These groups broke the law to silence our communities and derail five years and millions of dollars-worth of planning.”

“Everyone was at the table to put together the plan compromise, including residents, EHC and industry representatives,” Councilmember David Alvarez said. “It’s unfortunate that this effort to create jobs and a healthy community for children is being threatened.”

Barrio Logan - Courtesy Environmental Health Co-alition
Barrio Logan – Courtesy Environmental Health Coalition

Alvarez, who grew up in Barrio Logan and has brothers working in the maritime industry, says the shipyard jobs are important to his family and his community.

“I participated in the five-year stakeholder process and thought City Council’s approval of the plan meant Barrio Logan families will finally have a healthier community,” said Gomez. “It’s not fair that these corporate polluters can use their money and lies to overturn the process—it’s harming our health.”

Takvorian says that because the industry didn’t get what it wanted, it launched and funded a referendum process to scare voters and overturn the democratically created and approved plan.

“The industry’s paid petition gatherers spread preposterous lies to fool voters into signing the petition, and we caught them on tape breaking the law,” said Takvorian. “While we hold them accountable in the court of law, we’re asking all voters to say ‘no’ to the lies and not sign any more shipyard referendum petitions.”

Press conference announcing Lawsuit.- Courtesy Environmental Health Coalition
Press conference announcing Lawsuit.- Courtesy Environmental Health Coalition
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