Shifty shacks have been popping up around the Intermodal Transportation Center as the federal government opened the updated Ped East border crossing at the San Ysidro port of entry, and San Ysidrans aren’t happy about that.
On Monday, the San Ysidro Planning Group voted to send a letter to San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliot asking for her to review the building code violations found by city inspectors in December 2017.
The fight over the dozen kiosks (that look like prefab sheds) seems to be the next phase of a fight between residents, businesses and landowners who see the San Ysidro port of entry as an opportunity to welcome visitors, and MTS, which is focused on moving people efficiently through and out of the area.
“When it comes down to it, we have a higher vision as to what we see and it’s not what’s there now,” said Antonio Martinez. “It should be a jewel not just to San Diego but to the world.”
The transport center is directly north of the border by the old port of entry where the trolley tracks end, and it’s a stop on several bus lines. It’s where long-haul bus and shuttles can be found, including Greyhound. The kiosks are mostly for those transportation companies.
In a deposition last year, MTS Chief Executive Officer Paul Jablonski said that the San Ysidro center is MTS’s busiest location; between 15,000 and 20,000 riders board there.
The area has a lively cohort of unlicensed shuttle operators – wildcatters – and residents say the way MTS has arranged the plaza makes it easier for wildcatters to operate. San Diego Police officer Carlos Lacarra confirmed that wildcatters are operating to the east of the main plaza, noting the illegal services have long functioned on the fringes of the port of entry.
In December 2017, city code enforcers inspected the plaza and opened a code enforcement case1 against MTS for unpermitted construction. That case, prompted by a citizen complaint, remains open and is under review by the city attorney’s office, city officials confirmed.
The transportation agency responded to the enforcement action with a letter that says as an agency created by the state legislature, it isn’t subject to local code enforcement.
“They basically said up yours,” Steve Padilla told the planning group.
Michael Aguirre, whose company owns the McDonald’s building just east of the trolley tracks, hired Padilla to help with the kiosk fight. But he has been fighting with MTS for years. Most recently, Aguirre was sued by MTS over the addition of a back door to his building – a suit MTS lost at the Superior Court.
MTS used eminent domain to take privately owned land to build the $30 million transit center, and the San Ysidro community participated in a long process to come up with a plan for the bus and trolley center – one that the planning group believes the transportation agency isn’t following.
“We know they are not doing things they said they would do,” said Michael Freedman.
The area is affected by the border, from poor air quality because of idling vehicles to the development of businesses like the shopping malls that specifically target cross-border shoppers. The federal government’s reconfiguration of the port of entry has caused ill feeling.
The regional transportation agency has largely ignored community concerns, they say.
“They’re acting like they exist in thin air and we don’t exist, it’s unbelievable,” said David Flores, of Casa Familiar.
San Ysidro business owner Bertha Gonzales said the San Ysidro is owed something
“When the people of San Ysidro, especially when they are small business owners stand up and speak to (government agencies), they don’t listen. They just don’t listen,” she said.