San Diego County supervisors on Tuesday supported construction of California 252 through Southeast San Diego, despite warnings that the highway would destroy ambitious plans to redevelop the blighted community.
The supervisors voted 3-2, with Leon Williams and Susan Golding opposed, to urge the California Transportation Commission to retain a now-vacant strip of land through the area in hopes that the freeway might someday be built.
The action came at the urging of Supervisor Brian Bilbray and the mayors of National City, Imperial Beach and Chula Vista, who argued that the proposed highway would relieve traffic congestion that is choking South Bay surface streets.
“Route 252 is a regional issue, and if it’s not built it will become National City’s problem,” said National City Councilman Michael Dalla.
He said traffic from East San Diego to downtown and the 32nd Street Naval Station now goes through National City and will grow worse without the proposed highway, which would link Interstates 5 and 805.
But Southeast San Diego residents said their community, already split by four state and federal highways, will not accept another.
“We have served our time,” said Verna Quinn. “We are ready and able to stand in front of the bulldozers now or in 1995. We will not tolerate Highway 252.”
San Diego City Councilman William Jones said the highway, if built, would destroy the city’s plans for redeveloping the area with a $17-million public subsidy and as much as $78 million in private investment. He said the program depends on the city’s ability to acquire the mile-long corridor that was bought and cleared by the state 14 years ago.
But Bilbray said San Diego has reneged on an agreement to support construction of the freeway. He called the vacant and blighted corridor a “monument to a political boondoggle.”
The board agreed to send Bilbray to a state Transportation Commission meeting in Ontario April 24 to urge the state not to sell the highway right-of-way and to reverse earlier decisions deleting the route from the area’s transportation plan.