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Parish opposes project’s air contamination

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SAN DIEGO — As the new year begins, the fate of a proposed cement warehouse that would significantly increase diesel truck traffic through Barrio Logan is uncertain.

What is certain is that a coalition of neighborhood residents, people of faith and health activists will have their voices heard by the corporation that wants to build the facility and the public agency that has to approve it, the San Diego Port Commission.

“No decisions about us without us!” declared Jesuit Father Scott Santarosa, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish.

He was the last speaker at a prayer vigil the parish organized on the night of Dec. 12, the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, outside the port’s headquarters on Pacific Highway. About 75 people attended the candlelit event, held on a damp night with temperatures in the high 40s, including parishioners and Jesuit Fathers Brad Mills and Neal José Wilkinson, and members of the diocese’s Creation Care Team Network.

“Our Lady of Guadalupe is not just a beautiful woman whose picture we hang on our wall,” Father Santarosa said. “She sends us forth, like she did with Juan Diego, to put our faith in action. That is why we’re here tonight. We’re not finished.”

A group of parishioners attended the Port Commission’s meeting the following day, when a public hearing on the warehouse had been scheduled. The company that wants to build it, however, asked for the hearing to be postponed to “take additional time to engage with the community more directly and in a more substantive way.”

The company, Mitsubishi Corp., is proposing to build the warehouse at the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal. The warehouse would create about 24,000 new diesel truck trips per year rumbling through Barrio Logan.

Neighborhood residents already suffer some of the highest rates of asthma and cancer in the state, according to health authorities.

Father Santarosa acknowledged that the new warehouse would bring permanent jobs, a welcome development in the city. His parish, however, is urging the Port Commissioners to vote “no” on the warehouse until the company is required to use zero-emission trucks.

At the prayer vigil, the pastor said that between 1,400 and 1,800 people attend Mass on Sunday at his parish, which includes people who live in the neighborhood and those who come to the area to go to church.

“Everyone who passes our doors is breathing our air,” which is already contaminated, he said. “And that is not acceptable. We want cleaner air.

“That is what we’re praying for, that is why we’re putting our faith in action.”

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