This is the last of a three-part series. Previously: How Barrio Logan’s Fumes Pushed David Alvarez into Politics and On City Council, Alvarez Took Up Anti-Establishment Cause.

It was Christmastime and Rachael Ortiz’s Barrio Station nonprofit received a $100 donation for a needy family to buy gifts. Ortiz thought of the Alvarezes, a poor family from Mexico that had just moved in down the block from the community center she ran. A few weeks later, Ortiz knocked on Alvarez’s door again, this time with a job offer. Barrio Station needed a janitor, and the father, Jose Alvarez, had told Ortiz he was a hard worker.

Jose Alvarez took the job and for the next quarter-century he was a janitor and handyman at the Barrio Station community center. When he retired, Ortiz and Barrio Station gave him a gold-plated watch.

Barrio Station was part of the lives of Jose Alvarez’s kids. David Alvarez, now a Democratic City Councilman, spent much of his free time there growing up. A photo of it appears near the beginning of a video David Alvarez produced to introduce his mayoral candidacy.

Yet the fond feelings Ortiz has for David Alvarez’s father don’t extend to David.

“He sold us out totally,” Ortiz said.


We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

In September, Alvarez made a deal to resolve Barrio Logan’s most intractable problem, one he’s fought since he’s been a teenager. Tow yards and chrome plating shops reside next door to homes and apartment complexes, and the blueprint for the neighborhood’s future growth is supposed to slowly create a buffer between the two.

But the bargain Alvarez struck has now struck back.

Industrialists, backed by Republican mayoral candidate Kevin Faulconer, are collecting signatures to overturn the plan, which a divided City Council finalized this week. The shipbuilders say the deal, which amounts to a dispute over nine blocks in the middle of Barrio Logan, doesn’t do enough to protect their businesses. Ortiz, on the other hand, argues Alvarez already gave up too much residential land to the industry’s interests.

Alvarez’s life story, efforts at a compromise and ultimate stand against industry should have cemented his message that he can bridge the aisle while keeping neighborhood needs at heart. Instead, Alvarez has made multiple interest groups unhappy and could be left with nothing to show for his efforts.

The most direct threat to Alvarez comes from the shipbuilders. Organizers have touted that they already have half the signatures they need to force the issue to the ballot. If the plan is overturned, the old mix of industrial and residential zoning would remain intact.

Alvarez has said he’s given up enough already. Diane Takvorian, who heads the Environmental Health Coalition and is a longtime Alvarez ally, didn’t love the deal the councilman worked out but supported it because she thought it would resolve the issue. She understands why people like Ortiz might be upset at the loss of residential land, especially since it seems to have made no difference to the shipbuilders.

But Takvorian said she can’t imagine that the situation alone led Ortiz to spurn Alvarez and endorse one of his rivals, former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher.

Despite her longtime association with Alvarez’s family, Ortiz has never supported Alvarez’s during his political career. She backed Alvarez’s opponent, Felipe Hueso, in the 2010 Council race, and remains a big ally of Felipe’s younger brother Ben, a state senator and Alvarez’s predecessor on the Council. Ben Hueso has made no secret of his distaste for Alvarez, and has endorsed Fletcher, too. Alvarez sees Ortiz’s opposition in that context.

“She’s a very political individual,” Alvarez said. “She’s been around a long time and she’s very clever about how she states different positions.”

Indeed, the candidate Ortiz endorsed has been vague and evasive about his ideas for the future of Barrio Logan. Fletcher hasn’t come out in favor of either the industry or Ortiz’s vision.

At a recent debate in Barrio Logan, Fletcher suggested that not enough work went into the plan’s development, and that he could strike a deal that made everyone happy.

Alvarez got angry. He grew up here, Alvarez told the crowd. Barrio Logan, he said, had been left behind, neglected and mistreated, and just because shipbuilders have a lot of money doesn’t mean they know what’s best for the neighborhood. Alvarez said he’d spent endless hours trying to reach a compromise.

“Nobody,” Alvarez said, “knows this community better than I do.”

    This article relates to: Barrio Logan, Community Plans, David Alvarez, Mayoral Candidates 2014, Mayoral Election Issues 2014, News, Politics, Share, Special Mayoral Election 2014

    Written by Liam Dillon

    Liam Dillon is senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He leads VOSD’s investigations and writes about how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next? Please contact him directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.

    16 comments
    Glenn Younger
    Glenn Younger

    I believe that everyone involved in the Barrio Logan plan was trying to do what is best. Best for the city, or best for the neighborhood, best for the business community, best for the residential community. The problem is what is best for one group may not be best for the others. One of the skills of successful politicitions is that they can educate all involved about the issues. This requires them to be able to see and appriciate all sides of an issue. Once an educated decision is made, even those who may not like it, at least they understand why it was made. That is political skill practiced at a high level. Almost every decision that is made as a mayor will have these kinds of "you can't please everyone" elements. When everyone is unhappy, like in this case, it makes me wonder if this politicition is ready to sit at the big desk.

    Glenn Younger
    Glenn Younger subscribermember

    I believe that everyone involved in the Barrio Logan plan was trying to do what is best. Best for the city, or best for the neighborhood, best for the business community, best for the residential community. The problem is what is best for one group may not be best for the others. One of the skills of successful politicitions is that they can educate all involved about the issues. This requires them to be able to see and appriciate all sides of an issue. Once an educated decision is made, even those who may not like it, at least they understand why it was made. That is political skill practiced at a high level. Almost every decision that is made as a mayor will have these kinds of "you can't please everyone" elements. When everyone is unhappy, like in this case, it makes me wonder if this politicition is ready to sit at the big desk.

    john eisenhart
    john eisenhart

    My viewpoint: The idea that David "sold out" makes sense only in the context of "not playing the corporate sponsor game" others in the community(s) have adopted. aka "big daddy handout" Big corporations, wealthy individuals are behind Fletcher and Faulconer. David Alvarez is the best candidate for Mayor for all of San Diego citizens who value power to the people.

    john eisenhart
    john eisenhart subscriber

    My viewpoint: The idea that David "sold out" makes sense only in the context of "not playing the corporate sponsor game" others in the community(s) have adopted. aka "big daddy handout" Big corporations, wealthy individuals are behind Fletcher and Faulconer. David Alvarez is the best candidate for Mayor for all of San Diego citizens who value power to the people.

    Sara_K
    Sara_K

    It could be argued that Rachael Ortiz sold out a portion of the Barrio Logan community by accepting controversial Walmart bribery money for Barrio Station. I think it’s appropriate to highlight community members such as Ortiz in a story about Alvarez’s candidacy, but there is additional relevant tension and history. Given her proclivity to support David’s opponents, it doesn’t seem any Community Plan Update spearheaded by Alvarez would appease her. The Shipyards/Maritime Industry lobbyists are exacting and have contradicted their own statements about their zoning goals. There’s no appeasing them, either, short of zero restrictions, which is apparently their ultimate goal. Barrio Logan families with children suffering from industry pollution-caused asthma benefit from the compromise plan. Alvarez has maintained that priority in getting this plan approved.

    Randy Dotinga
    Randy Dotinga

    In theory, we'd want a leader who shows leadership by making decisions that don't make people happy but are the right thing to do. He may be handling this successfully by that measure. (Of course, everybody's desire for this kind of leadership tends to evaporate when they end up being one of the people made unhappy by a leadership-y decision.) Man, this stuff is complicated. I think my brain just exploded.

    Liam Dillon
    Liam Dillon

    I think regardless of the reason why the plan is being elevated to a citywide issue, Alvarez's ability to handle it, again successfully or not, will say a lot about how he might be able to handle big ticket items as mayor.

    Liam Dillon
    Liam Dillon

    Hi Sara- Totally fair to question why Ortiz is angry at Alvarez, and I tried to get into some of the motivations in the piece. The larger point I'm trying to make goes to whether Alvarez could get nothing out of a situation that's very important to him for lots of reasons. Good policy or not, his bargain clearly didn't satisfy the shipbuilders and also opened up a flank that Ortiz has now exploited. I think how this ultimately turns out is pretty good example of his ability to successfully, or not, navigate serious and contentious big issues.

    Sara_K
    Sara_K

    I think this is why Faulconer elevated the (expensive) referendum issue in his mayoral campaign – to potentially tank his opponent. While it’s wonderful that Barrio Logan is finally receiving San Diego’s attention, I believe opposition to the approved plan is fabricated and primarily politically motivated. The timing of this special election could be most extremely unfortunate for Barrio Logan residents, but I think you're right on the potential impact to Alvarez, as well. Related on the importance of the issue to the race: http://www.sdcitybeat.com/sandiego/article-12279-barrio-logan-and-the-race-for-mayor.htmlBarrio Logan and the race for mayorhttp://www.sdcitybeat.com/sandiego/article-12279-barrio-logan-and-the-race-for-mayor.htmlKevin Faulconer - Photo by David Rolland If you're looking for an indicator of how the candidates for mayor of San Diego would govern, and whose interests they'd serve, you might keep your eyes on Barrio Logan, the largely Latino community just south...

    Sara_K
    Sara_K subscribermember

    It could be argued that Rachael Ortiz sold out a portion of the Barrio Logan community by accepting controversial Walmart bribery money for Barrio Station. I think it’s appropriate to highlight community members such as Ortiz in a story about Alvarez’s candidacy, but there is additional relevant tension and history. Given her proclivity to support David’s opponents, it doesn’t seem any Community Plan Update spearheaded by Alvarez would appease her. The Shipyards/Maritime Industry lobbyists are exacting and have contradicted their own statements about their zoning goals. There’s no appeasing them, either, short of zero restrictions, which is apparently their ultimate goal. Barrio Logan families with children suffering from industry pollution-caused asthma benefit from the compromise plan. Alvarez has maintained that priority in getting this plan approved.

    Randy Dotinga
    Randy Dotinga memberauthor

    In theory, we'd want a leader who shows leadership by making decisions that don't make people happy but are the right thing to do. He may be handling this successfully by that measure. (Of course, everybody's desire for this kind of leadership tends to evaporate when they end up being one of the people made unhappy by a leadership-y decision.) Man, this stuff is complicated. I think my brain just exploded.

    Liam Dillon
    Liam Dillon memberadministrator

    I think regardless of the reason why the plan is being elevated to a citywide issue, Alvarez's ability to handle it, again successfully or not, will say a lot about how he might be able to handle big ticket items as mayor.

    Liam Dillon
    Liam Dillon memberadministrator

    Hi Sara- Totally fair to question why Ortiz is angry at Alvarez, and I tried to get into some of the motivations in the piece. The larger point I'm trying to make goes to whether Alvarez could get nothing out of a situation that's very important to him for lots of reasons. Good policy or not, his bargain clearly didn't satisfy the shipbuilders and also opened up a flank that Ortiz has now exploited. I think how this ultimately turns out is pretty good example of his ability to successfully, or not, navigate serious and contentious big issues.

    Sara_K
    Sara_K subscribermember

    I think this is why Faulconer elevated the (expensive) referendum issue in his mayoral campaign – to potentially tank his opponent. While it’s wonderful that Barrio Logan is finally receiving San Diego’s attention, I believe opposition to the approved plan is fabricated and primarily politically motivated. The timing of this special election could be most extremely unfortunate for Barrio Logan residents, but I think you're right on the potential impact to Alvarez, as well. Related on the importance of the issue to the race: http://www.sdcitybeat.com/sandiego/article-12279-barrio-logan-and-the-race-for-mayor.htmlBarrio Logan and the race for mayorhttp://www.sdcitybeat.com/sandiego/article-12279-barrio-logan-and-the-race-for-mayor.htmlKevin Faulconer - Photo by David Rolland If you're looking for an indicator of how the candidates for mayor of San Diego would govern, and whose interests they'd serve, you might keep your eyes on Barrio Logan, the largely Latino community just south...

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin

    Classic double bind for Alvarez. Both sides not happy with him and on top of it looks like the shipbuilders initiative will make the ballot......... as it should.

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    Classic double bind for Alvarez. Both sides not happy with him and on top of it looks like the shipbuilders initiative will make the ballot......... as it should.