The San Diego City Council on Monday voted to ask federal officials to include four pieces of property in a foreign trade zone proposed for Otay Mesa. The property is owned by the city and three private land owners.
Besides city property at Brown Field, council members submitted the private developments of Otay International Center, Brittania Commerce Park and San Diego Business Park for inclusion in the proposed trade zone. The application, which will be submitted in January or February, will be reviewed by the federal Foreign Trade Zone Board.
City approval of the three private developments was expected because the city manager had recommended their inclusion in the proposed zone, which gives favorable tax treatment to companies engaged in the import and export businesses. Monday's hearing also featured a confrontation between Mayor Maureen O'Connor and private developer Roque De La Fuente, an ally of former Mayor Roger Hedgecock.
In October, De La Fuente petitioned the city to include his family-owned De La Fuente Business Park in the foreign trade zone. The City Council's Rules Committee voted Oct. 6 to exclude the De La Fuente development because he failed to identify his prospective tenants. After the Rules Committee meeting, De La Fuente released the names of two tenants to city officials.
On Monday, Steve West, city deputy director for economic development, said De La Fuente had complied with the disclosure requirements, but O'Connor said she is not satisfied. The mayor asked De La Fuente to provide the council with the name of his major tenant, but De La Fuente said he could not reveal the tenant's name because he had promised the company confidentiality.
Several times during the council meeting, O'Connor said she would continue to oppose the De La Fuente development until he identified the Japanese company.
"All I ask is that we know who the city is doing business with . . . to make sure that the companies doing business with the city are of good standing in the community and with law enforcement," O'Connor said.
The mayor said she will ask the city manager to investigate every company that wants to settle in the zone to make certain they are reputable.
After the meeting, De La Fuente told reporters that he has three prospective tenants but identified them only as international corporations. He said his major tenant is a "very, very large Japanese corporation" that wants its name to be kept secret for now.
Although De La Fuente was rebuffed, he will still be eligible for consideration by releasing the Japanese company's name to city officials. De La Fuente said he is willing to release the tenant's name if the city promises to keep the name secret. A spokesman for O'Connor said the city keeps the names of all tenants confidential.
After submitting the application to the federal agency, the city has up to six months to amend the list of private property owners that it has chosen for inclusion in the trade zone. The number of applicants can increase or decrease.