Draft of San Diego’s Port Master Plan Update could be ready by March 2020

Port district received quite a bit of feedback on the proposed policy guidance document; commissioners hope to see a draft of the plan in a few months.

SAN DIEGO—The Port of San Diego took one step closer to realizing its much anticipated Port Master Plan Update in September. Members of the Board of Port Commissioners received a presentation on the Port Master Plan Update and directed staff to draft a plan and environmental impact report. The public will have a chance to review the plan and report before they are presented to the California Coastal Commission.

The question now is what will the Port Master Plan Update look like by the time it’s ready for presentation to the Coastal Commission.

Port district staff outlined to commissioners where the plan update was as of September. Mobility, maritime uses, development intensity, height limits and environmental stewardship were among the top issues covered in the port district presentation.

Commissioner Dan Malcolm said the Port Master Plan Update should prioritize water mobility.

“[We should] set up a system around our bay, where we’ve got water mobility going to various areas around the bay, like so many other bays around the United States have done so successfully,” Malcolm said.

Malcolm said he’d like to see various water access elements – such as boating and dock-and-dine options – in the Port Master Plan Update.

Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey urged commissioners to focus the Port Master Plan Update on locals who live within the port district, as opposed to pursuing projects for the sake of increasing visitor traffic.

“We strongly believe the Port Master Plan Update should not solely focus on attracting visitors but rather focus on surrounding residential communities,” Bailey told commissioners.

Cheers and applause immediately met his comment.

Commissioner Rafael Castellanos tried to assure Bailey, and others who worried the Port Master Plan Update would not be San Diego centric, that the port district would factor in community character and personality when developing new development policies.

“Of course we’re going to take into account what the communities want. Coronado and Point Loma, in particular, are very unique communities. I don’t believe this district intends to do anything that would change the character of the community,” Castellanos said.

The future of La Playa Piers was another major topic and point of contention within the discussion of the Port Master Plan Update. Public access to the water was at the core of this concern.

La Playa Piers were part of a small network of piers built near Shelter Island Planning District prior to the formation of the port district. Five private recreational piers were built along a stretch of the bay’s waterfront, most of them adjacent to residences. The piers were built on public tidelands. The question is whether the port district should prevent new private or quasi-private piers in the Shelter Island Planning District.

The Port Master Plan Update has been a six-year process, starting with a vision. Commissioners and port district staff discussed a framework before spending the past few years shaping policy elements.

Port district staff stated the Port Master Plan Update is a tool to modernize water and land-use planning along and around San Diego Bay. The plan, once implemented, would specifically guide future uses and development of tidelands managed by the port district.

A draft Port Master Plan Update document should be ready by March 2020, according to port district staff.

The port district’s current port master plan has been in effect since 1981. It has been updated in bits and pieces since then, but the document never underwent a comprehensive update.

Port district staff stated they received feedback from multiple sources, with Coronado and Point Loma residents being the most vocal.

“The [Port Master Plan Update] Discussion Draft review period and companion public engagement events resulted in robust feedback on a broad suite of perspectives, opinions, and requests. The district received almost 4,000 pages of public comments from agencies, organizations, and individuals,” port district staff said in a report to commissioners. “Although the district received comments on virtually all aspects of the [Port Master Plan Update] Discussion Draft, the most voluminous comments received were from organizations and individuals representing perspectives from neighboring communities, notably Coronado and Point Loma.”

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