San Ysidro Smart Border Coalition opposes GSA with petition

By Charlotte Turner |

The San Ysidro Smart Border Coalition, comprised of residents, small business owners and business leaders, delivered 5,104 petition signatures to the federal government this week, urging it to include space for a ‘mixed-use facility’ – including duty free retail and restaurants – proposed by Duty Free Americas (DFA)/UETA.


DFA-operated retail brand, UETA, which has operated in San Ysidro for 30 years, will see its flagship store eliminated in the current GSA (Government Services Administration) plan, along with 100 current jobs in a community already experiencing high unemployment.


In the final phase of the ongoing border project, the GSA plans to connect the Interstate’s five freeway lanes to Mexico’s El Chaparral border crossing.


The Coalition’s proposal envisions 1,000 parking spots, retail space for restaurants, and a rooftop heliport for emergency crews and Customs and Border Protection officers.



“San Ysidro and San Diego deserve better than to be virtually ignored by the Feds in Washington,” says the Coalition. “With these 5,104 signatures, we are sending a clear message that we want a smarter border that promotes long-term job creation and economic development.”


The proposal would inject $30 to $50 Million of private investment into San Ysidro and the City of San Diego, create 100 short-term construction jobs and create 300 long-term jobs. However, the proposal cannot move forward because GSA has been unwilling to discuss allowing the private project to coincide with theirs, says the Coalition.


“The DFA proposal is the perfect opportunity for a private project to fill some of the voids Phase 3, on its own, will leave – such as a 1,000 space parking deficit, insufficient pick-up facilities for pedestrian crossers and lack of economic development,” said Jason M-B Wells, Executive Director, San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce and Founder of the San Ysidro Smart Border Coalition, est. 2007.


Andrea Skorepa, CEO of Casa Familiar, adds: “San Ysidro has an unemployment rate of 18% which is higher than the rest of the City of San Diego. If the feds take the land owned by Duty Free Americas, they will also eliminate 100 jobs and further drive up unemployment in an urban community of many working class people.


“Destroying local businesses is economic injustice targeting the Latino community and another example of how Washington is hurting local communities instead of helping them. Over 5,000 San Diego taxpayers have voiced their support on a petition and it’s time for the Feds to get on board with the plan and support San Ysidro.”


According to the Coalition, besides creating 300 news jobs, the DFA proposal would provide 25,000 – 30,000 pedestrians, according to the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), with convenient shopping and restaurants and a designated location for pick up by waiting vehicles on Virginia Avenue, as well as bathrooms and shaded waiting areas for children and senior citizens.

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