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Port Commissioners agree to language change for November ballot measure

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At the request of a coalition of waterfront businesses, environment and labor, the Board of Port Commissioners agreed to change the ballot language it approved earlier this month for a November ballot measure that would amend the Port District's master plan to allow hotels, restaurants and a sports venue at the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal.

The coalition that includes the association representing hundreds of businesses and thousands of workers associated with the waterfront asked for the change to comply with the state Elections Code, which requires that questions submitted to voters be fair and impartial.

Ray Carpenter, who spoke on behalf of the coalition, said the language throughout the initiative, "The Port of San Diego Marine Freight Preservation and Bayfront Redevelopment Initiative," is misleading.

"It provides almost no information with regard to the initiative," he said.

The Board voted 5-to-0 to change the language, with Commissioners Stephen Cushman and Sylvia Rios absent.

On Aug. 5, when the board agreed to place the initiative on the ballot, the ballot question it approved read: "Shall the San Diego Unified Port District's Master Plan be Amended by the Adoption of 'The Port of San Diego Marine Freight Preservation and Bayfront Redevelopment Initiative?'"

The new language, which was proposed by the coalition, reads: "Shall the San Diego Unified Port District Master Plan be amended to require commercial development of the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal on an approximately 96-acre maritime cargo complex located on the waterfront near downtown San Diego, south of the Convention Center and north of the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge?"

The initiative was proposed by San Diego Community Solutions and the measure qualified for the ballot after it gathered the required number of valid voter signatures. Although invited to the board meeting, the three prime backers of the initiative did not attend, although an aide to one did attend the session but did not speak.

Commissioner Robert "Rocky" Spane said the proposed language is clearer than the one the board approved earlier, but he noted that with or without the change, a lawsuit is a possibility.

"But I'll take my lumps where they are," Spane said.

Aug. 21 was the deadline for submitting the ballot language to the county Registrar of Voters. To place the measure on the Nov. 4 ballot, the Port, based on Elections Code requirements, is required to pay the $435,000 cost.

The Port has filed a Superior Court lawsuit challenging the initiative. A Sept. 4 hearing has been set to hear arguments on both sides.

The Port contends that rather than preserve maritime uses at the Tenth Avenue Terminal, the initiative -- which requires the Port to change its Master Plan to allow such uses as hotels, a cruise ship terminal and possibly a football stadium -- would drive maritime business away.

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