Today, Environmental Health Coalition (EHC) filed a lawsuit against the Port of San Diego Ship Repair Association for intentionally misrepresenting facts to illegally collect signatures for its industry-funded referendum to repeal the Barrio Logan Community Plan Update. Citing the Elections Code that prohibits petition signature gatherers from misrepresenting the facts to potential signers.
"The out-of-state corporations couldn’t get voters to sign the petition by telling the truth, so they resorted to outright lies,” said Diane Takvorian, executive director of EHC, which fights toxic pollution in underserved communities like Barrio Logan. “These groups broke the law to silence our communities and derail five years and millions of dollars-worth of planning.”
Barrio Logan’s community-developed plan, approved by City Council on September 17, breaks a 30-year history of toxic land-use planning that allowed houses, parks and schools to intermingle with polluting industrial properties. The newly approved plan—which the City developed through a five-year, facilitated community input process—will finally separate industrial polluters from homes and schools in the interest of breathable air, affordable community housing and support for the maritime workforce.
"Everyone was at the table to put together the plan compromise, including residents, EHC and industry representatives," Councilmember David Alvarez said. "It’s unfortunate that this effort to create jobs and a healthy community for children is being threatened."
Alvarez, who grew up in Barrio Logan and has brothers working in the maritime industry, says the shipyard jobs are important to his family and his community.
The Barrio Logan Community Plan will increase employment by 47 percent from just over 10,000 jobs to nearly 15,000, according to the environmental impact report for the plan. The industrial park will centralize the maritime-industrial operations that support industries on the waterfront, such as welding shops, refinishers, ship repair support, and other port-related industries, while allowing such existing businesses to remain elsewhere in the community.
"I participated in the five-year stakeholder process and thought City Council’s approval of the plan meant Barrio Logan families will finally have a healthier community," said Georgette Gomez, a co-petitioner on the lawsuit. "It’s not fair that these corporate polluters can use their money and lies to overturn the process—it’s harming our health."
Takvorian says that because the industry didn’t get what it wanted, it launched and funded a referendum process to scare voters and overturn the democratically created and approved plan.
"The industry’s paid petition gatherers spread preposterous lies to fool voters into signing the petition, and we caught them on tape breaking the law," said Takvorian. "While we hold them accountable in the court of law, we’re asking all voters to say ‘no’ to the lies and not sign any more shipyard referendum petitions."
Following this lawsuit against the Ship Repair Association for breaking the Elections Code, EHC will also seek a temporary restraining order against the City of San Diego to stop its validation of the illegally gathered signatures submitted by the industry association.