City of Coronado

The Coronado City Council met on Tuesday, Jan. 4, to further discuss the Port Master Plan Update (PMPU) as it pertains to certain aspects of Coronado. City staff presented a recap on the process of these updates since 2019 and the direction staff had been given at the previous city council meeting.

Discussion pertaining to the letter that staff has been drafting to send to the Port of San Diego has focused on a few different areas to encapsulate Coronado’s stances on the following issues: new hotel rooms, mobility hubs, water-based transfer points and public docking, micromobility, and, as decided upon at the last meeting, working with the Cays HOA and residents pertaining to water-based transit in that section of Coronado.

In 2019, the Council addressed the 360 new rooms for Planning District 9 and 350 new rooms for Planning District 10 listed in the PMPU agreeing that there was no desire for any new hotels in Coronado. There had also been discussion around allowing modest potential room increases to existing hotels, however. City staff revised the PMPU comment letter to comply with the pre-existing agreement with the Port to cap the number of hotel rooms at one property to a maximum of 300.

In 2020, city staff heard feedback from representatives from the Marriott and Discover Coronado who felt the letter wasn’t accurately capturing what the council had agreed upon in regards to new hotel rooms and why the letter was placed back on the agenda for city council. As discussed at the previous city council meeting in 2021, councilmembers gave city staff further direction on that issue, clarifying continued opposition to any new hotels but an openness to allowing future redevelopment on existing properties given any increase to the amount of rooms or conference space would be modest, fall within the existing footprint of the property, and provide some kind of public benefit to the public such as recreation facilities, open space, or other public amenities.

The PMPU also addresses two proposed mobility hubs; a “local gateway” mobility hub at the Ferry Landing and a “connector” mobility hub at the Loews hotel. The main difference between these two hubs would be the presence of a parking lot and retail shops at the Ferry Landing which designate it as a “local gateway” hub in the Port’s plan. Their goal in these proposed hubs would be to improve connections between existing land and water-based transit. At the last city council meeting, the Council directed staff to make a revision stating an opposition to mobility hubs based on the City’s letter to SANDAG opposing mobility hubs (SANDAG’s plan had a focus on increasing population and employment growth).

Regarding water-based transfer point, the PMPU had identified existing and potential transfer sites. The Loews was listed as a potential site which would be incorporated into the water-based mobility hub proposed there. The City’s letter drafts have previously encouraged enhanced and expanded ferry services to and from Coronado. Upon direction from the Council at the last meeting, city staff coordinated with the Cays HOA and residents who were opposed to any water-based transfer point or public dock at Grand Caribe but have no objections to that at the Loews site. There was also a suggestion that if the Port wanted to pursue a new transfer point, that they could discuss and coordinate with the State Beach on property just north of the Cays where a public dock and parking lots already exist.

Micromobility in the PMPU proposes the integration of things such as bicycles, e-bikes, and scooters into proposed mobility hubs. While Coronado allows e-bike and scooter rentals from traditional storefront businesses, city staff revised the letter draft to request that the PMPU follow Coronado’s existing policy which prohibits untethered bike and scooter share services. Should the Port wish to propose micromobility services in the future, there would be a desire to do so via a storefront.

After the presentation, the Council invited public comment to which two Coronado residents voiced their arguments to the Council to provide language in the letter that would allow no room for any new hotel rooms in the city.

Following that, the Council further deliberated on each point of issue in the letter. Per Councilmember Bill Sandke’s request, the city attorney explained how the initial zoning code from 1980 regarding the 300 hotel room limit was also included in Coronado’s initial Local Coastal Plan (LCP) application per the Coastal Act. In 1983 the Coastal Commission omitted that when certifying the LCP on the basis that those terms included jurisdictions that were not within control of the city’s land use power (specifically in the tidelands regions), and were instead was in the Port District’s authority. That Memorandum of Understanding has signified a set of good-faith guidelines the Port and Coronado have operated on together for the past 41 years.

There was debate on the mobility hubs and water-based transit where Councilmember Casey Tanaka brought forth concerns that, based on the images provided for the mobility hubs, the Port is proposing a setup similar to downtown San Diego that works there, but wouldn’t make sense for Coronado. Councilmember Marvin Heinze agreed and was weary of the current language not clearly reflecting the desire for enhanced water-based transit options without adding those elements which would negatively affect Coronado. “To be specific,” Heinze added, “I would strike ‘proposed land-based’ and I would revise it to ‘eliminate mobility hubs which might be used to justify non-tidelands dependent uses.’ Those are words we have used previously; we don’t want mobility hubs to extend off the port.”

Sandke is in favor of encouraging water-based transit and mobility hubs to help alleviate heavy traffic on the island and wasn’t sure if those long-term goals were reflected in the current language of the letter. “Coronado continues to support robust water-based transit with specific transfer points cited to avoid negative impacts to existing residential uses,” he suggested as an addition to the letter to address that point.

Tanaka supported that addition to the Water-Based Transfer Points and Public Docking section, but cautioned against keeping the Mobility Hubs section of the letter. “Someone, if they want, might try to interpret our section on mobility hubs to mean that we want one and support it,” he stated. “We need to be careful about any comment we make there because we already dealt with this with SANDAG where we didn’t ask for it, they put it in their document, so we’re fighting that to try to at least get ourselves on the record in terms of what we want and what we don’t want.”

Tanaka didn’t have any changes to propose except to make sure if language about mobility hubs was being kept, it was being very precisely worded to avoid any potential future misconstruing of Coronado’s policy conclusions about them.

Councilmember Mike Donovan, in addressing some public sentiment the City has received about the future use of the open space at the Ferry Landing, suggested adding language that specify whatever is built there adhere to the spirit of the architecture around the Ferry Landing. He also brought up the language surrounding the Ferry Landing parking lots in the PMPU and that “single parking lot” should be taken out to avoid any future misunderstanding about the parking lots needing to be consolidated. In regards to the mobility hubs, Donovan also mentioned being comfortable with the language given that the Ferry Landing already has everything listed for the local gateway hub requirements per the PMPU except for the micromobility – which the letter addresses very specifically - and that the connector hub having significantly less requirements and being proposed for the Loews, which fall on Port property, he doesn’t see as an issue.

In the finally portion of the discussion, the topic of hotel rooms was debated by the Council. Donovan didn’t see a clear enough reason to change the pre-existing guidelines with the Port capping the number of hotel rooms at 300 and invite further negotiations on that. “Nothing, to me, that’s happened between 1979 and 2022 tells me that we need more hotel rooms,” he added.

Tanaka agreed to Donovan’s point, adding that the Port is already abiding by Coronado’s wishes to keep that cap and if Coronado is happy with that, as many residents have commented they are, why change it?

Sandke stated a belief that businesses need to be able to change and respond to challenges and opportunities with a caution that a document with guiding principles from over 40 years ago may not be the best way to approach future planning. That said, Sandke added that Coronado’s residents have made clear their desires on this issue and that should issues need to be addressed in the future they always can be at the appropriate time. “We’d seek to balance development and I think when you ask for 350 [rooms] and you get 300, that’s pretty good balance for us,” he added, saying he would also support removing the hotel room language from the letter.

Heinze stated he would support Donovan’s and Tanaka’s suggestions to remove mention of any potential new hotel rooms from the letter, though agrees with Sandke’s concerns for Coronado’s businesses as well, in particular the Loews and the Marriott. Mayor Bailey then spoke to his concerns that entities like the Ferry Landing, the Marriott, and the Loews would have less incentive to redevelop and work with the City to meet citizen’s desires for things like more open space and recreation without the City offering some way to work with them on that issue. About keeping that language in the letter, Mayor Richard Bailey said, “It would show we’re willing to play ball, here; willing to have those conversations. That’s why I would be supportive of a modest increase to the number of hotel rooms, provided there is a legitimate public benefit there.”

As a final note to the discussion, Sandke added that longer-term options, should an amendment or negotiation be needed to the Port Master Plan, are not gone forever. “I think at this juncture,” he said, “by recognizing that the port has already acquiesced to our 300 room limit not once, but twice – once in 1979 and once in 2020 – I think we owe it to our citizens to recognize that, thank the Port, and move on.

A motion was made and seconded to move the letter as written with the removal of the new hotel room section, the proposed language changes from Heinze in the Mobility Hub section, the proposed language addition from Sandke in the Water-Based Transfer Points and Docking section, and the additional direction from Donovan regarding reinforcing the spirit of architectural design at the Ferry Landing site and the clarification of three parking lots at the Ferry Landing versus a single lot as was currently stated. The motion passed unanimously.

After a brief announcement on Heinze’s re-appointment to the National League of Cities’ Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources Committee, the council meeting was adjourned. The next Coronado City Council meeting will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 18 at 4 p.m. For more information, visit https://www.coronado.ca.us/government/city_council.

(1) comment

CCG

The people who wrote those laws in the seventies were smart people. We don't gain real estate like some communities. Just because we don't have enough hotel rooms doesn't mean we need to create more. The Island is only so big. The residential area of Coronado should always be thought of first before creating and expanding more businesses.

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