Garry Bonelli Installed As Port Of San Diego Chairman; Calls For Upgrade Of Ferry Landing - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado City News

Garry Bonelli Installed As Port Of San Diego Chairman; Calls For Upgrade Of Ferry Landing

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Posted: Friday, January 25, 2019 5:03 pm

One week ago, Rear Admiral Garry J. Bonelli (Ret.) was installed as the new Chairman of the Port of San Diego. Bonelli took over as Coronado’s Port Commissioner in January 2014, which allowed him to continue his career in public service. Bonelli background includes 13 years of active duty in the Navy SEALs, plus an additional 32 years in the SEAL Reserves. Bonelli rose to become SEAL Force Commander in 2008, in charge of the vision and leadership of the 9,000 member special operations force and a $1 billion budget.

Bonelli follows San Diego Commissioner Rafael Castellanos in the position of Port Chairman. The swearing-in ceremony included a summary from Castellanos of his year in that role, where his theme was ‘Ocean Optimism.’ Bonelli’s theme of office is ‘Renaissance on the Bay.’ Bonelli used the opportunity announce his goals for 2019, which included an anticipated re-imagining of the Ferry Landing, located on property controlled by the Port of San Diego.

Reached by phone the day after his inauguration, Bonelli discussed the possible start time and scope of the Ferry Landing project. “Hopefully we will start right away. We are spending $1.5 billion on Seaport Village and $45 million on the Symphony Marina Park. There is so much happening on the San Diego side, and Coronado should share in the Renaissance on the Bay. Ferry Landing Associates has been a very, very good tenant and they do a nice job. But we need to think grander, to make it a very special place. To do that, maybe with what we learned from the Chula Vista and Seaport Village, maybe we need to have a Joint Powers Agreement with the City of Coronado. The project could include land around the Ferry Landing, and we should really be creative in our thinking. It would benefit our residents and visitors, create a revenue stream for Coronado, the Port and the tenants who are there. We would start the conversation at the planning level at the Port and the City, to generate more creative ideas. We will ask the leaseholders what they think, talk to the stakeholders and percolate this up through the City Planning Commission and the City Council. In thinking about this, and knowing I wanted to announce it during the speech, I spoke with Mayor Richard Bailey and City Manager Blair King. They said, ‘Okay, we’ll work with you and see what is doable.’ They were happy to start talking about a grander vision, what I call ‘understated elegance.’ If we are really pushing, we could have an Arts Center down there, that would provide a venue for a variety of arts and cultural events.”

Bonelli continued, “I would just like to do more than redevelop what we have or just slap some paint on it. There are so many things we can do down there. I’m biased, but I think the Ferry Landing has one of the best views of the 51 miles of the Bayfront. We’ll put the technical experts together and see what the art of the possible might be. I’m a doer, not a visionary. We live in a small town and I want to be very transparent in my city and for the folks who live close to the Ferry Landing. If we do it right, the project will benefit all of our citizens and visitors from across the Bay.”

According to Bonelli, a project of this scope could place the entire current site of the Ferry Landing in play, and possibly some adjacent properties. Bonelli said, “It could include land on the other side of First Avenue and also the city-owned Public Works Center. We could either relocate it or do it better. There could be some development by it or on top of it. Again, if we do this right, the project would be a partnership of City land and the Port Tidelands.”

Bonelli elaborated on his three main goals for 2019.

• Championing the Bay– “We want to keep the Bay clean. As we look at the San Diego side, we want the ability for more people to get their toes in the water. If we can get more people in the water, that will help us keep the water clean. That way we have a team working for us.”

• Completion of the Port Master Plan– “We’re getting to the point after six years that it can be adopted by the Port Board and then we will get it to the State Coastal Commission. The Master Plan lays out our primary and secondary land and water uses around the 6,000 acres of Tidelands where we have jurisdiction. That will provide certainty to entrepreneurs and businesses around the Bay, which use the land and water we control. Hopefully as a result of this process, we will be able to say ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ faster and save everyone time and money. Also as part of the Port Master Plan, you will be able to use a web or Uber-like service on the Bay. A boat, skiff or ferry will pick you up and take you somewhere from the Ferry Landing to the South Bay and back. You will do that relatively easily without having to touch a car.”

• The Chula Vista Bayfront Park Project- “Essentially this project will change the dynamics of the South Bay, including the Coronado Cays. The project covers 535 acres and we have worked hand-in-glove with the City of Chula Vista. Half that acreage will be open space. There will be a Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center, plus restaurants, marinas and retail. We are still working on the financing and we hope to have shovels in the ground later this year. There is earth movement and soil work being done at the same time and we are raising the ground 14 feet above sea level to anticipate sea level rise and drainage. We have moved 225,000 cubic yards of soil and plan to move an additional 50,000 cubic yards of soil in the next three to six months.”

According to a study commissioned two years ago by the Port of San Diego, the agency has an annual economic impact estimated at $8.3 million. There are also an estimated 70,000 jobs directly on the Bay or tied to the Bay. Outgoing Chairman Castellanos and Bonelli combined to highlight a few of the Port’s activities:

• The Zephyr, a small boat that operates in the San Diego Bay pulled 15 tons of trash and debris from the water in 2018.

• An oyster nursery currently in operation in the Bay. “It’s located at Tuna Harbor, where the fishing fleet is,” Bonelli explained. “There are oysters in the water today. We take the oysters and grow them to juveniles. They are shipped to another area where they grow to become full-sized oysters. It’s an experiment to see if we can permit entrepreneurs to grow oysters in the Bay. The oysters act as a filter, cleaning the water. This has caught the attention of companies in the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast.”

• According to Castellanos, in 2018 the Port had the strongest cruise season in the past seven years. Bonelli explained, “At the height of the cruise industry before the recession, we had 900,000 passengers go through our cruise terminals. After the recession, it dropped to 200,000 passengers annually. This year we were about 350,000 passengers. The reason for the increase is twofold. There are a lot more ports to the south in Baja California and Mexico that have opened for visitors and there has been an increase in safety. Passengers can get off the boat and they have a much more enjoyable experience. Apparently worldwide, the cruise industry is experiencing a second boom, as the economy world-wide is strong. We are looking for more companies to start and end cruises here. If a cruise ship is in for a port-of-call, $330,000 is injected into the economy. If a cruise starts or finishes here, $2 million is injected into the economy. It’s nice we have Disney, Holland America, and Carnival looking to expand.”

As the interview concluded, Bonelli explained the background of ‘Renaissance on the Bay,’ which provides context for his plans going forward. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be here for 50 years. When I look back to 1968 when I first got here, you took the Ferry to Coronado because there was no bridge. The only thing visible on the San Diego side was the El Cortez Hotel. There were 600,000 people in the County and now there are 3.3 million and the area gets 90,000 visitors a day. A lot of them come to our Bay. The Bay had dead spots 50 years ago, where nothing lived. Swimming under the water wasn’t a pleasant experience. Today the Bay is cleaner than it was 50 years ago, and our legacy is in another 50 years for our children and their children to be able to continue to play in the Bay. The Port has to think globally, plan regionally and act locally. We have to do what is best for the five cities which comprise the Port. The Coronado Ferry Landing is better off working with the City of Coronado and the Port, than by itself. We want more quality things for our residents and our visitors.”

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1 comment:

  • tim posted at 2:10 pm on Fri, Jul 5, 2019.

    tim Posts: 5

    When is enough enough? After yesterday's 4th of July celebration, I really don't want another 200 room hotel in Coronado. As a comparison, the Coronado Marriott has 300 rooms.