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San Diego Chargers Stadium: Q&A with Barrios Against Stadiums

Bolts from the Blue recently reached out to Barrios Against Stadiums to determine why they were opposed to the Chargers downtown stadium proposal.

BASTA - No Downtown Stadium logo
BASTA - No Downtown Stadium logo

Note: Big thanks are extended to Brent E. Beltran, who responded on behalf or Barrios Against Stadiums. You can read his work at the San Diego Free Press, and you can follow him on Twitter @desdelalogan.

Please provide a little background on the group Barrios Against Stadiums (B.A.STA!). Who is involved, and what are the aims of the group?

B.A.STA! is a grassroots, barrio based, loose knit formation of residents, artists, activists, small business owners and allies creating a movement. The sole purpose of this movement is to prevent a football stadium/convention center from being built in the East Village of San Diego, just a few short blocks from our historic barrios.

Is B.A.STA! affiliated or coordinated with any other anti-stadium group (such as No Downtown Stadium)?

B.A.STA! is not affiliated with the No Downtown Stadium Coalition. There are a couple of our members who have signed on to that coalition (I am not one of them). But B.A.STA! is not a part. I was approached to be a part but in good conscience I could not join a coalition that includes the Republican Party of San Diego County and political operatives like Tony Manolatos and April Boling.

The Republicans have been historically antagonistic in general to the needs of barrio residents but specifically against my community of Barrio Logan most recently through their attacks against our community plan update and Propositions B & C. And how could I collaborate with any organization that has Donald Trump as their presidential candidate? So I made a conscious decision when starting B.A.STA! to not work with the No Downtown Stadium Coalition. Though we did jack their No Downtown Stadium slogan.

A lot of people in the San Diego region commute through Barrio Logan, dismissing it as a poor neighborhood overrun with crime which could only be helped by the presence of a new stadium and entertainment district nearby. What would B.A.STA! like to convey to the greater San Diego community about Barrio Logan which challenges the stereotypical assertions about your community?

People who don't know Barrio Logan, don't KNOW Barrio Logan. They know of a stereotype of a long gone era. We know what's going on here. We see and participate in the active arts renaissance that is taking place. People from this community have opened up art spaces and small shops. There's a burgeoning craft beer scene with Border X Brewing, Iron Fist Brewing and the soon to open Thorn Brewing within walking distance of each other. Friday night summer concerts in the Mercado plaza, an enhanced pier at Cesar Chavez Park, a skate lane in Chicano Park that on any given day features some of the world's top professional skaters doing tricks side by side with barrio youth. Barrio Logan is becoming a foodie hot spot with Salud, Strozzi's, MishMash and soon Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles. Las Cuatro freaking Milpas! Coffee is king here with Ryan Bros, Café Virtuoso, Café Moto and the Barrio Logancentric Por Vida. We are Chicano Park where it's now ok to walk after dark. Chicano-Con and VillainFest because Comic-Con ignores us (except when attendees need parking). But most of all we are families just trying to get by. Hoping we don't get pushed out because the rent is going up.

This article in the San Diego Free Press announcing B.A.STA! indicates land speculation and gentrification is already a problem in Barrio Logan. Why is this happening, and why would a stadium or entertainment district make it worse?

Over the past two years a vibrant arts scene has flourished through community members opening up arts related spaces. Former vacant buildings, specifically on Logan Ave but in other parts of the neighborhood as well, have become art galleries and studios, a taco shop and brewery, performance venues and small retailers of artesania and other culturally relevant goods. Unfortunately this beautiful effort by artists and well-minded people has created value for real estate speculators (who I derisively call land pirates). Which in turn has driven up land values in Barrio Logan. Thus, pricing many people out.

A stadium/convention center built one block from the Barrio Logan border (Commercial Ave), with an entertainment district around it featuring bars, clubs, restaurants, sports bars, market rate condo developments and more, will drive property values even higher and accelerate the gentrification process. Which in turn will not only force out renting residents (Barrio Logan is predominantly a community of renters) but also small businesses, most of who don't own the property they do business out of. And the arts scene that has changed how people view Barrio Logan would vanish with most gallery owners unable to afford the cost of a new lease. The vast majority of maritime industry/shipyard suppliers on Main St. lease their property as well. Not only would a stadium push out residents, the arts, and small businesses but also potentially the maritime industry that is part of this region's economic engine. The encroachment of stadium development is a bigger threat to maritime industry and the shipyards than the Barrio Logan community plan update ever was. Affluent, new condo owning folks won't tolerate what Barrio Logan's historically working class residents have.

In your opinion, did the the construction of Petco Park and the expansion of apartments/condos and businesses in East Village have an adverse impact on Barrio logan over the last 10-20 years? If so, what were those impacts?

The construction of Petco Park has had an adverse affect on the renting residents of Barrio Logan. Prior to the construction of Petco nobody was even looking at Barrio Logan. It was just the barrio where people didn't want to go unless to lunch at Las Cuatro Milpas or Chuey's. Petco Park began the encroachment on our community. Land pirates started seeing the value in being so close to downtown and the waterfront. Petco also introduced more homeless people into the area. Barrio Logan has always had homeless people. But they were our homeless. They were junkies and mentally disturbed folks that were known because they were from here. They were "so and so's brother". Or "what's her name's tia". They were recognized. With Petco that all changed. Now there are tents up on National Ave between 16th and Commercial. People living under the I-5 on Chavez. Chicano Park sleepers and barrio alley creepers.

What will happen to the homeless in the East Village during the construction of the convadium? One doesn't need a crystal ball to figure out that the communities of Barrio Logan, Sherman Heights and Logan Heights will feel the brunt of the exodus. And the city and the Chargers have no plans to address the issue.

Your tweet on July 21 during/after the Chargers meeting at the Barrio Logan Community Planning Group meeting said "Chargers don't even realize how insulting their presentation to the Barrio Logan planning group was. They came woefully unprepared for us." Would you be willing to elaborate on why you, B.A.STA!, or members of the community felt insulted?

Barrio Logan isn't a community that is afraid to step up and use its voice. History has proven that when action is necessary we take it. We have a park here to prove it. Knowing that, the Chargers still came to the Barrio Logan Community Planning Group meeting unprepared for the response they received. And we were pretty cordial, as far as Barrio Logan goes. I was told that Fred Maas even had a meeting with the chair of the planning group and was notified ahead of time the concerns we had. Yet they still came woefully unprepared, which in itself is an insult. At the meeting on behalf of the Chargers was Dean Spanos, Fred Maas, and some other stadium guy (Editor's Note: this may be Chargers' Special Advisor Jeff Pollack). They also had their Latina public relations person there that went out of her way to apologize afterwards for some of Maas' comments (specifically when he told labor organizer Beatriz Garcia that she doesn't represent the community, who a week prior organized a thousand janitors, many from the community Maas said she didn't speak for).

Over and over again Maas brought up the need to get rid of the MTS bus yard and how that would help Barrio Logan. Little did he know that we could not care less if the bus yard stays or goes. It has no effect on us, nor is it even in our community. Plus, we use those buses. They're what gets us to work and school. Allows people to put food on their tables. Yet he kept bringing it up. Community members brought up the issues of homelessness, parking, being pushed out, corporate welfare and more. Yet the Chargers had no answers. It seemed as though they thought they were doing us a favor by coming to our meeting. They should have come prepared for our concerns, especially since they were already briefed. Yet they weren't. Or maybe they just didn't care.

In this story in the SD Reader you indicated that the probability of jobs going to members of the Barrio Logan community is very low. Why do you feel this is the case?

If the initiative passes, by the time the stadium gets built (on the low end five years but likely longer because there's always litigation) the property values in Barrio Logan will have risen so high that most renters will be pushed out and more affluent people will have moved in. People who can afford to live at market rate aren't going to want to scan tickets, pour beer, hawk souvenirs and clean toilets in a stadium at minimum wage. Those low end, road to nowhere service industry jobs will be for other communities.

Is there anything the Chargers could do in future meetings to mitigate B.A.STA! concerns (or even obtain community support), or is the current position regarding the Chargers' stadium proposal absolute?

Absolutely. There is one thing they can do. Push for it in another location. BASTA! is opposed to a stadium that close to our historic barrios. If the Chargers pushed an initiative to locate the stadium anywhere else BASTA! would have never been formed. And I wouldn't have to put any effort into this. There's a thousand other things I'd rather be doing than fight against the team I grew up rooting for.

Many people may assume you (or the others involved with B.A.STA!) are not a sports fan, or maybe a fan of a team other than the Chargers. Does fandom (or lack thereof) have any impact on your views, or the views of B.A.STA!?

I can't speak for all of the people that have become part of this movement. I can assume there are a few nonsports fans. Maybe even a few Chargers haters. But BASTA! itself is not anti-Chargers. I'm not anti-Chargers. I grew up a Chargers fan during the Air Coryell years. And learned to be a hater of the Raiders (and the Dodgers as well) at the same time. My parents had season tickets during those glory years and I was present for that unholy roll in 1978. My brother had season tickets up until last year. Hanging in my closet is a Charlie Joiner throwback jersey and one of Philip Rivers. I've been in the same fantast football league since 1991 (yup, 1991!). It's a full defense keeper league for die hard football junkies only and I'm the proud owner of five championships. I drafted LT coming out of TCU and nobody else in my league had him the entire time he played for the Chargers. I'm a sport fan (big on mixed martial arts, all that kung fu theatre I watched as a youth). A football fan. A Chargers and Padres fan (I was there for Garvey's home run too). I enjoy watching the Chargers play. I really enjoy it. But I love my neighborhood. I love my barrio. And this community is more important to myself and my fellow residents than a football team.

Some people may slap a NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) label on B.A.STA! as a way to dismiss your arguments without actually engaging them. What would be your reply to anyone who played the NIMBY card?

Damn straight I'm a NIMBY on this issue. But a little context is needed because Barrio Logan has a lot of stuff in our backyard that most communities won't want.

Our backyard includes a freeway and bridge that bulldozed hundreds of families. Our backyard includes one of the most polluted zipcodes (92113) in the state. Our backyard has maritime industry polluting and making noise 24 hours a day. Our backyard has dozens and dozens of semitrucks driving in and out of the 10th Ave Terminal seven days a week. Our backyard is a parking lot for Comic-Con, Padres game sellouts, and Navy/shipyard personel. Our backyard has polluting industry next door to residences and churches because the voters of San Diego denied us our community plan update. Our backyard is full of homeless people urinating and defecating on our doorsteps and parks as the city continues to ignore the issue.

Our backyard has historically been neglected. People can call BASTA! NIMBY as much as they want but our backyard is full. Start storing stuff in yours.

Is there anything else not covered in the questions above you feel is important and should be communicated to the greater San Diego community?

Barrio Logan has had to deal with so much over the years. The city has neglected this community for far too long. Over the last couple years a beautiful change has taken place at the grassroots level. I'm scared that a stadium in the East Village will not only stop it but change the working class, cultural character of this historic barrio forever.

Thank you for allowing me to share the viewpoint of BASTA! and why we want to prevent an East Village stadium. Most of your readers probably won't care. And I'm cool with that. But hopefully a few will read this and recognize that we have legitimate concerns about the future of our renting residents, galleries, small businesses, and the community as a whole.