San Diego’s Mayor Resists Blackwater Training Center

San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders and Blackwater Worldwide, a security contractor whose armed personnel in Iraq have been involved in several controversial incidents, are embroiled in a skirmish over what perhaps should have been a very routine matter: a building permit in an industrial area. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Wednesday that Sanders has decided that a training center Blackwater wants to develop inside a leased 61,600-square-foot warehouse in a business park near the Mexican border will require a full public review by the city council and the planning commission. The permit application had already passed a review by city staff. The site is currently zoned for a vocational school. The training facility, to include a shooting range, a simulated Navy ship and classrooms, will reportedly be used to train Navy and law enforcement personnel in anti-terrorism tactics. A subsequent statement from Blackwater noted that “Blackwater has been training Navy sailors in rented facilities in San Diego for five years,” that a privately operated state-certified police academy is less than a quarter of a mile from the proposed Blackwater facility, and that San Diego County is home to at least 16 other shooting ranges. In addition, the Blackwater statement emphasized that throughout the permit application process, the company has been upfront about its involvement in the project and about the facility’s purpose, which the company maintains is within the scope of the zoning. The Union-Tribune noted that local opposition to the facility has included petitions, rallies and testimony at city council meetings.