More affordable recreational opportunities could be in store for Port of San Diego

SAN DIEGO — The cost to pursue recreational opportunities on and at San Diego Bay might become a little more affordable as the Board of Port Commissioners adopted a new policy direction on March 8.

A short-handed commission unanimously approved a resolution to provide general guidelines to assist the port in implementing the development of projects promoting low-cost access to recreational and visitor-serving activities on the San Diego waterfront.

Port staff will study what low-cost visitor and recreational venues could be included under the new policy.

Examples of low-cost visitor and recreational venues, according to port staff, include public fishing piers, floating docks, moorings or boat slips, dock-and-dine piers, parks and open spaces, water taxis, and hotels or hostels.

Commissioners added they did not want the policy resolution to manipulate the market and pre-determine where low-cost recreational opportunities should be located.

“I don’t think government is very good at dictating to the market. I don’t think we should be in the position of telling the market that this is what we need and this is where we need it,” said Commissioner Anne Moore. “The idea of having specific locations throughout the bay [for mandated low-cost projects] prohibits other types of development from occurring on those sites.”

Moore suggested the port district review an established list of criteria to determine whether to move forward with a low-cost visitor-serving or recreational development instead of mandating where such projects would be located.

She also questioned how the port district would institute a proposed in-lieu developer fee. Port staff suggested looking into assessing a fee on developments impacting low-cost overnight accommodations. Moore responded such a fee would only make sense if a direct benefit – building a free boat launch ramp in lieu of building a high-end hotel next to a marina, for example – were attached.

Commissioner Dan Malcolm said he was happy to see boat docks included among the possible low-cost recreational opportunities offered within San Diego Bay. Incorporating boat docks into any plans for affordable recreational activities at the port would further activate the water, Malcolm said.

Several low-cost recreational activities have already been provided to the general public through the port district’s leasehold revenues, according to a staff report to commissioners.

“The district and its tenants have developed and maintain an estimated 22 parks, six playgrounds, six fire rings, seven swim beaches, 22 miles of promenade, five fishing piers, four public viewing piers and platforms, three boat launch ramps, free mooring and docking and numerous public art displays. The revenues are also used to provide public infrastructure, such as streets, sidewalks, public restrooms and landscaping,” port staff stated.

Port staff is expected to return to the board with details of how the policy would be implemented within the next few months.

Commissioners Rafael Castellanos and Bob Nelson were not present for the agenda item.

In a separate agenda item the port’s board was given a presentation on Blue Economy opportunities. A Blue Economy capitalizes on marine-dependent businesses, primarily aquaculture and fisheries, eco-tourism, scientific research, security, and renewable energy.

“The Blue Economy focuses on nature-inspired technologies which generate multiple benefits to create economic incentives via job creation, reduced energy use, and more revenue streams at each step of the process, at the same time benefiting the communities involved and the environment,” port staff stated. 

Growing a sustainable aquaculture industry to help ramp up the domestic seafood supply is a major element of the port’s Blue Economy opportunities.

“Aquaculture is primarily being driven by the growing global demand for seafood and the lack of a domestic supply. Traditional harvest fisheries are fully exploited and cannot meet this increasing demand,” port staff stated, adding the United States imports most of its seafood.

Almost half of the seafood imported to the U.S. is sourced from aquaculture, port staff added.

“Demand will continue to increase with growing populations and an overall increased per capita consumption. While there is a clear food production component to this demand, aquaculture offers multiple co-benefits, such as fisheries enhancement, ecosystem restoration, mitigation banking, bio-fuel/medical purposes, bioremediation, and education and outreach,” port staff stated. “Staff will explore opportunities for the district to manage a business incubator to assist with the establishment, development, and initial scaling of aquaculture start-ups and early stage companies.”

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