Assemblyman and San Diego mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher has waded into the waters occupied by Congressman Bob Filner, releasing a plan to expand the Port of San Diego and the region’s maritime economy.
He’s folded the plan into his existing campaign theme by saying he seeks to make the port the most innovative in the world.
Previously, the port had been the central component of Filner’s economic plan. Filner has said he wants to exponentially increase shipping activity at the port to make San Diego a maritime center and replace the middle-class jobs that have been lost in the last two decades.
Much of Fletcher’s plan includes increasing the port’s relationship with the U.S. military. Fletcher's plan begins with ensuring the port retains its official "strategic port" designation as the next Base Realingment and Closure (BRAC) program approaches. The former Marine would then “utilize his relationships with naval and Marine leadership” to secure increased military activity through BRAC.
“My vision for the port’s future is one where we are committed to expanding the Navy/Marine Corps presence in our bay, with each ship and new command bringing millions of dollars for our economy and new job opportunities,” Fletcher’s plan says.
Another area of focus includes improving infrastructure near the port, using existing city and port funds. Funding improvements to address congestion problems on 28th and 32nd streets would increase accessibility to the Tenth Avenue Terminal, part of a broader plan to invest in Harbor Drive and the Barrio Logan neighborhood.
Fletcher would also compile a list of San Diego-based companies using maritime cargo services at other locations, and meet with them personally in hopes of pursuing them to keep their operations local. He’d pursue a similar path outside of San Diego, where he says he’d “reach out to cities nationally and globally” to bring in investment.
Part of that would include branding San Diego as a “niche container market.”
“As L.A. and Long Beach move toward larger and larger mega-boats for containers, some containing over 10,000 containers, there is an opportunity to attract more smaller container ships to San Diego,” his plan says.
Fletcher's plan also calls for reaching out to short sea operators to learn what issues have prevented the growth of maritime activities. His plan includes a land-use function, in which he’d create Maritime Industrial Overlay Districts to keep lands reserved for maritime use.
Fletcher would also “explore the possibility of creating” a maritime incubator, where startup companies in the field would be allowed to participate, and would incentivized to remain in San Diego when they complete the program.
Filner ran into controversy when a story by the Investigative Newsource showed many of the statistics he had used on the campaign trail to demonstrate the lack of commerce at the port were exaggerated. He had at various points said there were zero containers being unloaded at the port and that there were only a dozen longshoremen employed there. In actuality, the port brings in billions of dollars every year in shipments, and there were more than 100 registered San Diego longshoremen last year.
Filner defended himself by saying the particulars were less important than his overall point that the city would greatly benefit by a substantial increase in economic activity at the port.