National City to Receive Money from Port

The National City Marine Terminal is in line to receive money from the Port of San Diego for upgrades to the city outside the port boundaries.

National City Mayor Ron Morrison is trying to get more money from the Port of San Diego for its tidelands areas.

Last year, the terminal generated $15.4 million in revenue for the Unified Port of San Diego. After decades of watching neighboring cities get seaside resorts, cruise ship terminals and major plans for redeveloping their bayfronts, National City will soon receive funding that could attract big hotels, restaurants and retail shops to its own coast.

The infusion of money comes after National City, one of the poorest cities in the county, challenged the Unified Port of San Diego’s payment formula. It accused the port of shortchanging funds by focusing only on maintaining tidelands, which are largely inaccessible to the public in National City because of Navy, marine-terminal and other industrial operations there. City officials want the port to also pay for maintenance and redevelopment projects away from the immediate shoreline.

National City’s good news — that the port district has agreed to establish a Marine Terminal Impact Improvement Fund — may be bad news for at least three of the port’s other member cities. Chula Vista, Coronado and Imperial Beach had expressed reluctance about creating the fund because they feared losing money for their own projects.

Cities near the port suffer from the negative impacts of maritime development -air pollution, wear and tear on roads; but do not reap the benefits from the considerable revenue they contribute to the port district’s bottom line.

Commissioners agreed to place into the fund half a percent of gross revenues earned from the Tenth Avenue and National City marine terminals. That’s estimated to be $113,000 this year.

During the next four years, the port also will put a combined $500,000 from a previously approved capital-improvement program into the fund.

Last year, the National City Marine Terminal generated $15.4 million in revenue for the port; that was 11.4 percent of the port’s total operating revenue. For the same year, the port spent nearly $18 million, or 12.5 percent, in National City.

National City received less than it contributed during the four previous years, on average 9.4 percent annually.

Last year, Coronado put in nearly $2 million but received $4.3 million. Imperial Beach contributed $72,825 last year but was given 70 times that much, or nearly $10 million.

It invested $8 million to dredge the Sweetwater River for the $10 million, 250-slip Pier 32 Marina built on National City tidelands by a developer. The district also recently approved a bayfront plan that will allow the city to carve out more tidelands space for commercial use, parks and perhaps a hotel.