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National City – thorn in the side of Port Commission

City council votes 3-2 to hesitate on state assembly bill

Sandy Naranjo, port commissioner censured unanimously by the rest of the port commission, seen in a Channel 8 news story
Sandy Naranjo, port commissioner censured unanimously by the rest of the port commission, seen in a Channel 8 news story

Of the five port cities, only National City has no access to the bayfront.

That issue, along with ethics reform, are part of a bill introduced in February by Assemblymember David Alvarez, D-San Diego. Assembly bill 2783 passed the local government committee 5-1. 

In National City, the topics are so fraught the city council last week voted 3-2 against holding a special meeting to discuss the bill before it goes to the judiciary committee on April 24.

"Either improve Pepper Park or maybe get access to that sliver of beach somehow."


"I think we need to make a stand," said councilmember Marcus Bush, who criticized the sit-back and "hope the Port works with us" approach.

The failure to act is the reason the city doesn't have its fair share of public safety dollars or beachfront access, he said, "and why there's still the highest rate of cancer and asthma."

Anger at being slighted by the Port for years was made worse last fall by the Port's allegations of conflicts of interest and retaliation and censure of National City Port Commissioner Sandy Naranjo.

"I want to change our approach to how we deal with the Port, how we deal with hostile entities that threaten us, that try to kick off our commissioner," Bush said.

Others leaned towards working with the Port, which has voiced strong objections to the bill. "If you are not at the table you're on the menu," said councilmember Ditas Yamane, citing a business adage.

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"I talked to the leadership of the Port Commission; they're willing to sit down" with the city to talk.

Jennifer Blackwell, a local who supports the bill, called the city's share of outdoor space unfair. "We definitely don't have a lot of recreational activities or opportunities as the other cities on our Port lands."

The city's Balance Plan, 20 years in the making, proposes the expansion of Pepper Park — an approximately 5-acre park located on the National City Bayfront adjacent to Pier 32 Marina — by 2.5 acres. 

"Either improve Pepper Park or maybe get access to that sliver of beach somehow."

The Port views the bill as harmful to maritime jobs and businesses. Port tenants such as Point Loma Marina, Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern, San Diego Mooring Company, and others are against it.

Amendments to the bill will be presented on April 24 that would "explicitly eliminate any potential risk for the Gaylord Pacific Project," a 1,600-room resort hotel and convention center that will be an economic boom for the Chula Vista bayfront, and is set to open in the summer of 2025.

The bill would dedicate one percent of the Port’s “nontax revenue,” which includes income from tenant rents, to convert industrial Port properties in poor communities into “parks, plazas and promenades.” 

The neighborhoods, from Barrio Logan to National City, are burdened by shipyard air pollution and other environmental hazards — but environmental groups aren't satisfied the bill will do much for them.

Kyle Heiskala, policy co-director of  the Environmental Health Coalition, said the bill currently "does not address air quality or improve quality of life" for environmental justice communities.

"We told Alvarez's staff directly the transition to electric trucks is our biggest challenge we see ahead and this bill remains silent on this."

The coalition also opposed the censure of Commissioner Naranjo. "We don't think this bill is strong enough to prevent something like that from happening again." 

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Sandy Naranjo, port commissioner censured unanimously by the rest of the port commission, seen in a Channel 8 news story
Sandy Naranjo, port commissioner censured unanimously by the rest of the port commission, seen in a Channel 8 news story

Of the five port cities, only National City has no access to the bayfront.

That issue, along with ethics reform, are part of a bill introduced in February by Assemblymember David Alvarez, D-San Diego. Assembly bill 2783 passed the local government committee 5-1. 

In National City, the topics are so fraught the city council last week voted 3-2 against holding a special meeting to discuss the bill before it goes to the judiciary committee on April 24.

"Either improve Pepper Park or maybe get access to that sliver of beach somehow."


"I think we need to make a stand," said councilmember Marcus Bush, who criticized the sit-back and "hope the Port works with us" approach.

The failure to act is the reason the city doesn't have its fair share of public safety dollars or beachfront access, he said, "and why there's still the highest rate of cancer and asthma."

Anger at being slighted by the Port for years was made worse last fall by the Port's allegations of conflicts of interest and retaliation and censure of National City Port Commissioner Sandy Naranjo.

"I want to change our approach to how we deal with the Port, how we deal with hostile entities that threaten us, that try to kick off our commissioner," Bush said.

Others leaned towards working with the Port, which has voiced strong objections to the bill. "If you are not at the table you're on the menu," said councilmember Ditas Yamane, citing a business adage.

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"I talked to the leadership of the Port Commission; they're willing to sit down" with the city to talk.

Jennifer Blackwell, a local who supports the bill, called the city's share of outdoor space unfair. "We definitely don't have a lot of recreational activities or opportunities as the other cities on our Port lands."

The city's Balance Plan, 20 years in the making, proposes the expansion of Pepper Park — an approximately 5-acre park located on the National City Bayfront adjacent to Pier 32 Marina — by 2.5 acres. 

"Either improve Pepper Park or maybe get access to that sliver of beach somehow."

The Port views the bill as harmful to maritime jobs and businesses. Port tenants such as Point Loma Marina, Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern, San Diego Mooring Company, and others are against it.

Amendments to the bill will be presented on April 24 that would "explicitly eliminate any potential risk for the Gaylord Pacific Project," a 1,600-room resort hotel and convention center that will be an economic boom for the Chula Vista bayfront, and is set to open in the summer of 2025.

The bill would dedicate one percent of the Port’s “nontax revenue,” which includes income from tenant rents, to convert industrial Port properties in poor communities into “parks, plazas and promenades.” 

The neighborhoods, from Barrio Logan to National City, are burdened by shipyard air pollution and other environmental hazards — but environmental groups aren't satisfied the bill will do much for them.

Kyle Heiskala, policy co-director of  the Environmental Health Coalition, said the bill currently "does not address air quality or improve quality of life" for environmental justice communities.

"We told Alvarez's staff directly the transition to electric trucks is our biggest challenge we see ahead and this bill remains silent on this."

The coalition also opposed the censure of Commissioner Naranjo. "We don't think this bill is strong enough to prevent something like that from happening again." 

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