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Solar Turbines gets buffer zone

The San Diego City Council on Tuesday unanimously established a nine-block buffer area around Solar Turbines to prevent residential developments in Little Italy from encroaching on the factory's industrial zone.

The buffer area -- bordered by Kettner Boulevard, Pacific Highway and Laurel and Hawthorn streets, as well as a one-block extension bordered by Pacific Highway and California and Grape streets -- would be open for commercial, industrial and mixed-used projects, including hotels, but it would not allow residential or other sensitive uses.

Representatives from the San Diego Unified Port District, Downtown San Diego Partnership, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and the San Diego Port Tenants Association spoke in favor of the buffer zone, saying it would help keep Solar Turbines on the waterfront, where it employs 4,200 workers and generates an estimated $1.5 billion per year in economic impact.

"These are good middle-class jobs that are important to this community," said Interim Mayor Todd Gloria. "I know that all of the members of this council, no matter what their political ideology, support that."

Councilmember David Alvarez said he "can't help look at this (zoning) map and be reminded of what we've attempted to do with Barrio Logan." Alvarez said the planned buffer zone was similar to the commercial buffer zone he proposed between the shipyards on the southern waterfront and the residential zone in Barrio Logan.

Although the City Council voted 5-4 to support that plan, the shipyards have opposed it, saying it is too restrictive, and have introduced a ballot referendum to overturn it.

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