The San Diego Unified Port District commissioners voted Tuesday to allocate $8 million to the Metropolitan Transit Development Board to help pay for placing trolley tracks underground in a proposed route through Harbor View and Little Italy.
The issue had been hotly contested for months, with residents and property owners in two of the city's oldest neighborhoods claiming their bayfront views and businesses would be irrevocably harmed by the intrusion of an elevated trolley line, as proposed by the MTDB.
Former State Sen. James R. Mills, chairman of the transit board, had adamantly opposed putting the tracks "at grade"--that is, running them at street level along the existing Santa Fe railroad right of way--which neighborhood groups had advocated.
Mills had argued that putting the tracks at street level near Lindbergh Field--which the Port District oversees--would threaten to create traffic snarls of "nightmare" proportions. He favored elevating the tracks throughout the area.
The transit board had previously allocated $16 million for elevating the tracks through Harbor View and Little Italy in a route that will eventually run from the Santa Fe Depot to Old Town.
Transit engineers had determined that placing the tracks underground at Grape and Hawthorn streets and elevating them at Laurel Street would cost an additional $16 million, for a total of $32 million.
Tuesday's 4-1 vote by port commissioners allows the transit board to match the Port District's commitment of $8 million with its own $16 million.
The remaining $8 million will come from the city's hotel-room tax, pending approval by the San Diego City Council at its Jan. 6 meeting. Members of the council and the transit board have said the hotel-room tax will probably be approved.