Port Of San Diego Master Plan Update Runs Into Strong Local Resistance At Community Center Meeting - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado City News

Port Of San Diego Master Plan Update Runs Into Strong Local Resistance At Community Center Meeting

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Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2019 5:04 pm

Monday evening, July 15, 2019, at 5 p.m., the Nautilus Room of the Community Center was full to overflowing with approximately 500 Coronado residents, many of whom expressed their displeasure with the Port of San Diego’s Master Plan Update (PMPU). The session began 13 minutes late at 5:13 p.m. to accommodate the large, late-arriving crowd.

City Manager Blair King opened the meeting by thanking the Port Staff for holding the meeting. King noted the City Council, during their meeting scheduled for the following evening (Tuesday, July 16), would receive public testimony on the Master Plan Update, which would assist in the preparation of the Council’s formal response to the PMPU. King pointed out that none of the seven Port of San Diego Commissioners, whose votes will ultimately decide the impact of the PMPU to the City of Coronado, were in attendance.

King also urged those present to get on record and write the Port of San Diego directly with their concerns. The 90-day review period for the Discussion Draft of the PMPU expires July 31, 2019, so correspondence needs to reach the Port prior to that deadline.

A 21-minute PowerPoint presentation by Port Planning Director Lesley Nishihira followed King’s opening remarks, which served as a reminder of the scope and reach of the Port District. Port members include the cities of Coronado, Imperial Beach, National City, Chula Vista and San Diego. The Port controls 34 miles of waterfront property; 2,403 acres of land; and 35 acres of water. Since its founding in 1963, more than $1.7 billion has been invested in projects created by the Port.

After the conclusion of Nishihira’s presentation, the floor was opened to questions from the public. This portion of the evening was originally scheduled to last 20 minutes, after which attendees were invited to either break into small groups, or as individuals ask questions of the several Port Staff members on hand. When the 20 minutes had elapsed, those in attendance expressed their displeasure with that concept and to their credit, the Port Staff continued with the public Question and Answer session for a total of an hour and three minutes.

Coronado has long had its share of contrarians. Heretofore, even on the most controversial community topics at city council meetings or forums like this one, there has always been someone present to take the opposing side. That was not the case Monday evening, as 35 questions were asked of the Port Staff, with a few citizens speaking more than once, all of which expressed the collective displeasure of the residents toward the PMPU, at least the local portion of the plan.

Planning Districts in the PMPU relating to Coronado include Planning District 9 Silver Strand and Planning District 10 Coronado Bayfront. The Coronado Bayfront is further broken down to the North Coronado Subdistrict, or the area north of the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge and the South Coronado Subdistrict, south of the same landmark.

The audience, which could be characterized as polite but firm in their opposition, directed their objections mainly but not exclusively, at plans for the North Coronado area in and around the Ferry Landing. Specifically the PMPU calls for the possible addition of 350 net, new hotel rooms; 10,000 square feet of office space with a mix of commercial uses; up to 60,000 square feet of non-water-oriented retail and/or non-water-oriented retail with restaurant space in association with a mix of commercial uses; and dock maintenance, vessel slip reconfiguration, and enhancement in the water basins, including up to 12 net new vessel slips. The total of 350 new hotel rooms could be created over two locations, including the current Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa, and the site of the Coronado Ferry Landing.

In addition, the plans for the Crowne Isle Subdistrict of the Silver Strand District call for up to 360 net new hotel rooms with associated meeting space. Taken together the PMPU could create the addition of 710 hotel rooms to the City of Coronado.

Port Staff made it clear that no formal drawings or plans had been submitted for a hotel to be constructed on the area leased by the Port to Coronado Ferry Landing, LLC, which controls the majority of the leasehold for seven more years. There is a second Port leasehold in the adjoining area, which includes the Il Fornaio Restaurant, also controlled by the Coronado Ferry Landing, LLC.

Many residents pointed out the potential traffic impacts that could be created by the additional hotel rooms, along with an added influx of tourists to Coronado. Several references were made by speakers to the impacts to the standard of living or quality of life in Coronado that might result from the proposed projects. Adverse impacts to the environment by the emissions from increased traffic was also mentioned.

Make no mistake, the Board of Port Commissioners and by extension the Port Staff, are charged with generating revenue for the Port. The Port’s published goals for the PMPU are:

Balance the needs of development with those of valuable natural resources

Prioritize key planning features and clearly define water and land use guidelines for development, with enough built-in flexibility to be able to quickly adjust to market demands

Protect opportunities for public access and parks on the waterfront for all Californians and visitors to enjoy

Streamline the permitting process for developers, investors, and Port Staff to more effectively and efficiently process projects.

Throughout the Q and A session, Port Planner Nishihira was consistently patient responding to the numerous queries, some of which dealt with the specifics of Environmental Impact Reports. As the meeting reached its conclusion, Nishihira noted the PMPU was, “Trying to cover three decades of future possibilities.” She added the Port was, “Targeting certification of the PMPU by the Board of Port Commissioners by the end of 2020.”

During the meeting, Port Staffers referred on several occasions to a portion of the PowerPoint presentation entitled, ‘Typical Project Review at the Port of San Diego.’ The outline included:

I.                    Pre-submittal to Staff

II.                 Project Submittal

III.               Project Review

Environmental Review (CEQA) - Public

Coastal Review – Public

Consistency with the Port Master Plan

Consistency with the California Coastal Act

IV.               Construction

V.                 Operation and Maintenance

The point made was the public would have future opportunities to weigh-in on any construction projects which might impact Coronado. The consensus of those in attendance seemed to be they didn’t want the projects outlined in PMPU to reach that point in the process.

As noted above, the City Council had on their meeting agenda for Tuesday, July 16, 2019, discussion of a four-page letter from the Council to the Port District which would serve as the city’s formal response to the PMPU. The letter, to be signed by Mayor Richard Bailey on behalf of the Council, raises 22 points the City would like to eliminate or modify in the PMPU Discussion Draft. The letter has the tone of a legal document and doesn’t capture the community’s determination to derail the Port’s major building projects expressed Monday evening.

The Port Master Plan Update is available online at www.portofsandiego.org/pmpu.   Comments on the Discussion Draft of the Port Master Plan Update will only be accepted in writing and should be E-mailed to PMPU@portofsnadiego.org or mailed to: Port of San Diego, Attn: Planning Department, 3165 Pacific Highway, San Diego, CA 92101.

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