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Judge OKs shipyard referendum

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In a move that will please local shipyards and dock workers' unions, a San Diego judge has given a green light to a referendum to overturn the City Council's rezoning plans for Barrio Logan.

The Environmental Health Coalition had sued to stop the referendum, arguing that the petition gatherers had misled the public by claiming that the rezoning would cost thousands of jobs and lead the Navy to leave the waterfront.

But San Diego Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Barton ruled that 300-word summary of the referendum provided on the petitions "was not objectively false."

The petition drive, spearheaded by the San Diego Ship Repair Association, circulated two referendums over the past 60 days. The first one garnered nearly 53,000 signatures, and the second one nearly 52,000 signatures.

Barton's decision allows the San Diego City Clerk to verify whether there are enough valid signatures to qualify the referendum for the ballot. If the clerk approves the signatures, the City Council will have to decide whether to alter the zoning plan or to approve a referendum for the June 2014 ballot.

The referendum would overturn a zoning plan that would establish a five-block commercial buffer zone between the residential areas of Barrio Logan and the industrial area around the shipyards.

The Environmental Health Coalition and other community groups say the buffer zone is necessary to put a distance between homes and factories.

But the shipyards have charged that the permits and other regulations in the commercial zone would make it too expensive or restrictive for their suppliers to do business there.

Derry Pence, president of the Ship Repair Association, called the plan "a dangerous first step toward the elimination of the shipyards.” Republican mayoral candidate Kevin Faulconer took time from his recent campaign to gather signatures for the referendum.

But the plan's supporters, including Interim Mayor Todd Gloria and Democratic mayoral candidate David Alvarez, who pushed the plan through the City Council, say the plan will protect the turf that the shipyards and their suppliers currently occupy by ensuring that residential developments do not encroach on them.

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