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The Unified Port of San Diego is Responsible for Economic Vitality and Environmental Stewardship

By S. Mathur

The Mission statement of the San Diego Unified Port District states its purpose to "protect the Tidelands Trust resources by providing economic vitality and community benefit through a balanced approach to maritime industry, tourism, water and land recreation, environmental stewardship and public safety."

Overseeing a range of activities - such as maritime, real estate, environmental stewardship and commercial uses - on the state lands comprising San Diego Bay and the surrounding tidelands, the agency manages a staggering diversity of environments and resources.

Tanya Castaneda, Principal/Public Information Officer explains that agency was created in 1962 by the state legislature: "to develop and manage the coast of San Diego Bay. We oversee 34 miles of land and water spanning five cities, and are the environmental steward of the bay. The Port is both a regulator and a landlord for maritime industrial businesses (like cargo handlers and shipyards), and tourism businesses (like hotels and charter boats)."

The Port provides community services such as public access and police and fire services. It operates 22 public parks along the waterfront; covers five cities: Chula Vista, Coronado, Imperial Beach, National City and San Diego; and manages two maritime cargo terminals and two cruise ship terminals as well as the leases of hundreds of tenant and sub tenant businesses around San Diego Bay.

Castaneda says that the significance of the agency's work lies on the fact that the San Diego waterfront is some of the most valuable real estate in California. This is why, she says, "We view land-use planning as one of the most important things we do. The Port is to administer the public trust lands and manage tidelands consistent with the Public Trust Doctrine (the common law principles that govern use of these lands). Accordingly, any uses within the Port's jurisdiction must comply with the Doctrine."

Since the area managed by the Port is state public trust land, it must serve statewide public purposes. These can include commerce, fisheries, navigation, environmental preservation and recreation.

Both the agency and its tenants take their environmental stewardship responsibilities seriously. For the past twenty-six years, the San Diego Port Tenants Association has organized the annual Operation Clean Sweep.

This, says Castaneda, is "a unique concept based on the idea of each waterfront business cleaning up their own backyard. Each year, hundreds of volunteers, including civilian, military and Harbor Police divers and Port of San Diego employees, scour San Diego Bay from both the land and water to remove trash and debris in the event. Last year, eight tons of trash filling ten 40-cubic-yard dumpsters was collected by volunteers." Debris recovered by Operation Clean Sweep includes junk like shopping carts, mattresses, car batteries and dozens of tires.

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