Port of San Diego weighs in on potential arrival of Top Golf at Harbor Island

Commissioners are hopeful the golfing amusement venue, if approved, would add some diversity of use at East Harbor Island.

SAN DIEGO—East Harbor Island could soon be activated and become a draw for more than boaters. The Port of San Diego’s Board of Port Commissioners is looking into allowing a Top Golf venue to be built at East Harbor Island, where Sunroad Resort Marina is located.

Port commissioners, on Feb. 11, had a general discussion of having a Top Golf venue being built at East Harbor Island; no decisions were made at the meeting.

“Today we have a huge opportunity to begin the discussion of how we’re going to potentially modernize, redevelop and reinvigorate East Harbor Island,” Jason Giffen, the port district’s vice president of planning, environment and government affairs, told commissioners.

Commissioners seemed to generally support the idea of a Top Golf location at East Harbor Island.

“There are only so many hotels and restaurants we can do,” Commissioner Michael Zucchet said, adding Top Golf could be a revenue generator for the port. “It’s a diversity of something else.”

Commissioner Rafael Castellanos was the voice of caution and didn’t think Top Golf was the best use of space.

“I just feel like it’s a bunch of land, that, instead of being occupied by humans, by people, it’s not. It’s expensive,” Castellanos said. “I feel like you can put this anywhere.”

The Top Golf property is expected to occupy about 12 acres on East Harbor Island.

A Top Golf representative said the company could build as many as three Top Golfs in the San Diego area; the first one is planned for East Harbor Island. A second location could be built in Carlsbad; such plans, however, are merely in the idea phase.

Bringing Top Golf to East Harbor Island, ultimately, would draw people to this portion of the San Diego waterfront, between downtown and Point Loma.

The first phase of East Harbor Island’s redevelopment could bring online the following: Top Golf; two-lane vehicle access roadway; waterfront public park space; pedestrian accessways; and, a 500-room hotel.

A second phase could add another 360 hotel rooms to East Harbor Island. There is a contingency for a third phase of construction, should one of the attractions planned in phases one and two not be realized. The third phase would allow for the development of a 500-room hotel, as a replacement for one of the potentially unrealized attractions of phases one or two.

Public access, public outreach, view corridors and low-cost visitor lodging were also discussed on the dais.

Redeveloping East Harbor Island comes with a few constraints. Building heights, for example, must be restricted since the island is adjacent to San Diego International Airport. Port district staff added the need to preserve Harbor Police’s existing operation at East Harbor Island is also a restriction. Reconfiguring of the entrance to Harbor Island at Harbor Island Drive is also a limitation, according to port district staff.

“The limitations on the configuration of the entrance road are due to the curve that transitions the road from north-south orientation to the east-west orientation,” port district staff said in a report to commissioners.

Top Golf would have to come back with additional information, such as its revenue models and plans for on-site parking. The proposed Top Golf project at East Harbor Island would likely be on the board’s agenda for March.

Port district staff, in November 2019, was directed to enter into an exclusive negotiating agreement with Top Golf through Dec. 31.

Construction of Top Golf could begin as early as 2022 – assuming the project is approved by all the proper agencies and the environmental review is completed in a timely manner. Port district staff stated construction could take 12 months to complete, meaning the earliest Top Golf could be operational would be in early 2023.

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One thought on “Port of San Diego weighs in on potential arrival of Top Golf at Harbor Island

  • March 12, 2020 at 4:11 pm
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    This is a terrible idea, and an unbelievably poor utilization of premium waterfront real estate. San Diego enjoys a robust maritime economy: recreational boating, sportfishing, shipping, excursions, etc. Not another square foot of the disappearing shoreline should be utilized for anything that doesn’t contribute directly to these industries.

    While it would be nice to welcome Top Golf into the San Diego community, it is hard to believe that anyone would think that carving out prime acreage on the northern bay for folks to hit golf balls is a good idea. If the developers want to enhance an area with a trendy recreational facility, put it in the rundown Midway District, or carve out a piece of the Qualcomm stadium land – but leave the waterfront development to people with a vision for maritime best-use!

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