Prop. B: Platform for Political Battle over Cargo Shipping Terminal

Backers see stadium, development; critics see maritime, security nightmares

Could a new stadium for the Chargers materialize 'up in the air'?

Backers of Proposition B visualize the Bolts' field of dreams and other structures on a platform over the 96-acre Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal on Harbor Drive across from Petco Park.

They face a wall of opposition.

Voters in the five cities that surround San Diego Bay -- San Diego, National City, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach and Coronado -- will call the signals on this game plan.

It's a pricey, ambitious undertaking that's raised a lot of suspicions -- and fears that it could scuttle cargo shipping operations, possibly even national security.

The 'Yes on B' forces say the terminal is an under-performing asset that could yield far more benefits to the region if a deck were built over it, and on top of that, a stadium, hotels and myriad other income-producing uses.

"The facts are that this terminal is in cardiac arrest," says Frank Gallagher, one of the developers involved in the ballot measure.  "This terminal was built and designed over 50 years ago.  The (maritime operators) have lost 55 percent of their tonnage in the last three years.  They're on track in 2008 to do 35 percent less than in 2004.

Critics warn that a vital shipping industry would be disrupted, if not destroyed, by the platform construction process and finished product.

"Fifty percent of the maritime operations -- heavy-lift support -- for military operations come out of the Port of San Diego and Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal," says Ray Gallagher, a marine construction firm president active in the 'No on B' campaign.  "There is no compatibility (between the platform and national security) ... on this terminal."

Prop. B backers call those arguments scare tactics, because the measure requires the preservation of marine freight operations as a condition of the platform's construction.

Bottom-line financial issues also are a bone of contention.

"This is not like a Petco Park where the city of San Diego put up a $450 million bond," Gallagher said, in a debate appearance on an edition of "Politically Speaking" that airs Sunday, October 26 at 10:30 a.m.

"This isn't the Convention Center, where another bond was put up," Gallagher added.  "This has to be privately financed; no money from any (public) general fund can finance this."

"Whether it's privately financed or publicly financed, it still has to be financed," Carpenter responded in the "Politically Speaking" debate. "And it's just not cost-effective to build an $800 million deck, and then foundations for structures on top of that."

It took Gallagher and his cohorts a trip through the legal system to get the measure on the ballot.

If it passes, there figures to be another legal battle over whether local voters have authority to make land-use decisions on what are state tidelands.

A gauntlet of regulatory agencies also looms.

For their part, the Chargers watching this political matchup from the sidelines -- still looking to develop a stadium complex on the South Bay Power Plant site on Chula Vista's bayfront.   

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