A process that began in 2013 will reach a penultimate moment in 2022 as Port of San Diego staff work to finalize a political settlement that will inform future plans in and around San Diego Bay.
The latest draft of the document, known as the Port Master Plan Update, is currently available for public review – along with a draft analysis of the plan’s environmental impacts – until January 10. Port planners will then consider the comments and prepare to seek approval in mid-2022 from their board of directors, or the seven appointed commissioners who oversee the 34 miles of tidelands that wind along Shelter Island Bay to Coronado.
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Finally, the master plan must be approved by the higher-ranking California Coast Commission.
The roadmap means days are numbered for physical changes to the 30-year master plan for San Diego Bay.
“We are in the final stages of this important process – a process that has been guided by and sensitive to strong contributions from the community and stakeholders. Our goal is to create a land and water use plan that is holistic, thoughtful and balanced, and reflects the changes in the needs and priorities of Californians, ”said Jason Giffen, vice president of planning. and the port environment. “When complete, the updated Harbor Master Plan will guide the future of San Diego Bay and how we all experience it for generations to come.”
Formed by the state legislature in 1962, the Unified Port District of San Diego includes the tidelands of San Diego, National City, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, and Coronado. The Special District consists of 2,400 acres of land and 3,500 acres of water, with the port holding coastal real estate in trust on behalf of the public.
As it stands, the port’s master plan update project creates legal space for, but does not guarantee, a total of 3,910 new hotel rooms, 340,000 square feet of retail stores and additional restaurants, an additional 14 acres of public access space and an expanded convention center. at the time of construction in 2050. The increased density, which extends into the water with room for 485 new boat holds and 65 more for commercial vessels, is spread over a limited planning area encompassing 1,009 acres of land and 1,454 acres of water in total.
The planning districts of National City and Chula Vista were excluded from the draft document, the latter being in the middle of a separate planning process and the former being covered by the Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan.
The numbers also don’t take into account planned changes to the port’s central Embarcadero sub-district, which includes Seaport Village and Embarcadero Marina Park North.
Currently, developer 1HWY1 is finalizing a plan, called Seaport San Diego, to remake the 70 acres of land and water with a 500-foot observation tower, thousands of hotel rooms, new public attractions, uses educational facilities and many stores. The port previously decided to exclude consideration of the redevelopment effort in the master plan, despite objections from the Coast Commission and other groups. The integration of the project which has not yet been approved would delay the completion of the planning document, agency officials said.
The controversial decision is now formally reflected in the draft policy document with wording stating that the central pier will remain as is – with the exception of the maintenance and possible redevelopment of the fish market restaurant on G Street Mole. .
“(We have) a long history of advocating for comprehensive and integrated planning on the San Diego Bay, and the omission of the Central Embarcadero and Seaport Village plans, which are well advanced, means that this plan and its analysis environmental cannot be properly analyzed. “said Ryan Karlsgodt, chairman of the civil rights group Citizens Coordinate for Century 3.” This piecemeal approach precludes a holistic examination of a master plan that will be in place for decades. “
The forward-looking document envisions sweeping changes to the North Embarcadero, or what the port sees as San Diego’s gateway because of its location near the airport and cruise terminals. The sub-district, which runs down West Laurel Street Bay to the USS Midway Museum, is being redesigned as part of the plan to emphasize public spaces rather than car lanes and parking spaces. surface parking.
While today’s waterfront promenade adjoins paid parking, tomorrow’s will expand to occupy the asphalt area and expand into a series of connected garden spaces and a multipurpose path. This means car access will be pushed east to a narrowed portion of the road from North Harbor Drive and waterfront parking will be eliminated, instead concentrated in a garage on land just north of the county administrative center. The structured car park is intended to be part of a regional mobility hub that includes access points to public transport, bicycle equipment and a few retail spaces.
The idea is to create a paradise for walkers or bikers by the water. Particular attention is paid to a special area that the port calls the “window to the bay”. This cross section of the Embarcadero, just across the county’s Waterfront Park, requires a new 30,000 square foot pier that also serves as a public plaza south of Grape Street and north of Ash Street. This would allow people to get into the water, temporarily moor a boat, or take a ferry.
The draft plan also calls for an additional 750 hotel rooms in the North Embarcadero area, presumably concentrated on the Navy-occupied blocks between the Wyndham San Diego Bayfront Hotel and the Lane Field hotels.
Additionally, the plan treats Navy Pier as a public park space, although it does not include details of a conversion plan. The pier is currently used as a parking lot for the adjacent Midway Museum, but is to be turned into a park to compensate for views blocked by the aircraft carrier, according to a decades-old legal agreement. Parking is a big source of money. From January to November 2021, Navy Pier generated $ 1.56 million in parking revenue, or 35% of the $ 4.4 million in parking revenue generated by the entire Embarcadero District.
In a previous letter, the Coast Commission asked the port to include a finalized Navy Pier park project in the updated port master plan – with specific timelines – to ensure the park is built as soon as possible. . However, the port maintains that it is on track to obtain a coastal development permit for the park project next year, before the master plan is certified, and therefore does not need to include the details of the project. project in its vision document. The park would be completed within five years of the permit being issued, said Lesley Nishihira, the port’s planning director.
Across the northern, central and southern sub-districts of Embarcadero, the port models a 2% growth in the total number of kilometers traveled by vehicles per day associated with an increase in commercial and recreational uses – or 10,643 kilometers more per day – at the time of construction. The increase is considered a significant impact, according to the draft environmental impact report.
Significant traffic impacts are also expected at Harbor Island, which absorbs the bulk of future hotel rooms in the area, or 3,060 net new rooms. At the time of construction, the average kilometers traveled by hotel employees are modeled at 20.3 kilometers per day, and the total number of kilometers traveled by vehicles associated with commercial uses will increase by 6% to 25,947 kilometers per day.
In addition to setting development parameters for planning districts, the plan includes new bay-wide policies that promote public access to the coast and protection of natural resources.
The port master plan update project introduces, for example, new standards for low cost accommodation. Luxury hotel developers will be required to supply 25% of their units as lower cost units or pay an unclear fee to build offsite facilities.
And developers who cannot mitigate the ecological impacts of their projects may have to purchase mitigation bank credits to compensate for any loss of wetland habitat. The port is already working to create a 76.5-acre mitigation bank in a former salt evaporation pond in South Bay. The draft master plan also identifies Grand Caribe Isle South in the Silver Strand sub-district as future wetland habitat.