The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved annexation of 3,956 acres on Otay Mesa, where a building boom in the next two decades is expected generate housing for 47,000 people and jobs for 70,000 in the economically blighted South Bay.
"This is going to be the start of something big," Mayor Roger Hedgecock said after the vote, which was the culmination of about five years of negotiations between the city and the county. "A lot of people have been working very hard to bring this moment about."
Hedgecock added that the area, slightly larger than the City of Coronado, will bring "thousands of jobs and an incredible new base of wealth to San Diego."
Development plans for the annexation, the largest since expansions in the 1960s brought Rancho Penasquitos and San Ysidro into the city, should be complete in about a month, after the city receives approval from the state.
Councilman Uvaldo Martinez, who along with Hedgecock and Councilman Bill Cleator spearheaded the annexation drive, said Otay Mesa "is going to be the next growth area of San Diego." Martinez said that growth could spread to Chula Vista, National City and other South Bay cities. "If we're careful, we can make it a real showplace," he said.
The area, which nearly surrounds Brown Field near the new international border crossing, would be zoned industrial. Residential development is planned for other parts of the mesa.
Martinez said approximately 47,000 people are expected to move to the area during the next 20 years, the time officials estimate it will take for total residential, commercial and industrial development.
Businesses in the area are expected to create about 70,000 jobs, said Jack Van Cleave, director of city planning.
Officials plan to market the area's advantages to international manufacturing firms. Spain, Germany and Holland have already set up manufacturing plants on the Mexican side of the mesa, Martinez said. He said, however, that a Swedish firm plans to visit San Diego during the next few months to discuss building a plant north of the border.
One of the problems facing the city in its development plans is the task of providing such necessary services as water and sewage at reasonable cost. Customers of the Otay Mesa Water District say the agency charges the highest water rates and connection fees of any district in the state.
Martinez said, "We expect Otay (Mesa) Water District to provide water services until we can come to some agreement" on how the city will provide the services. "The city will eventually provide the service on the mesa," he said.
Van Cleave said that initially the area will be served by California 117 and Otay Mesa Road. But the city is planning to build California 125 to help ease the expected traffic congestion. This route will not be completed for "some years," he said. "It's a road that's needed, and we're planning for it." Negotiations are under way with Chula Vista and National City to get the area needed for right of way.
The city is also looking at the possibilility of freight and rail service to the area.
Under the annexation agreement, city project administrator Walt Hauschildt said, the city would receive 30% and the county 70% of property taxes from the mesa. The city, however, would receive all retail taxes and franchise fees (costs that utilities pay for rights of way, for example).
Martinez said that because labor is already available nearby, he thinks manufacturing industries will locate in the area, instead of high-tech industries.
"I'm not talking about Mexico," he said. "I'm talking about the South Bay. We have a large labor force in the South Bay that would welcome a chance to work in the mesa."