Port of San Diego’s Port Master Plan Update moves to phase four of five

The port held a public workshop Dec. 7 to present feedback received during a public review and comment period on the revised draft of the Port Master Plan Update, the port’s waterfront development planning document.

SAN DIEGO— The Port of San Diego has advanced its Port Master Plan Update (PMPU) to the next stage following a Dec. 7 public workshop. The PMPU now goes to the environmental review phase before the final step, permitting from the California Coastal Commission.

The 51-page document will serve as the primary tool for balancing environmental, economic, and community interests along the San Diego Bay waterfront for the next 30 years by guiding development. This is the plan’s first update since the Port Master Plan was created in 1981.

The PMPU draft was first released in April 2019 and received 4,000 pages of comments. At the Dec. 7 workshop, port staff presented feedback received on the revised draft during a second public review and comment period, which ran Oct. 20 through Nov. 17. The Port District received more than 400 letters, including comments from the California Coastal Commission, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, San Diego Port Tenants Association, Outboard Boating Club of San Diego, boaters and residential groups.

“We actually received about one-tenth of the comments on this go round, telling us that our staff really did a good job,” said Board of Port Commissioners Chair Ann Moore at the Dec. 7 meeting. “It means this revised second draft has really resolved most of the issues thoughtfully raised by the public last year.”

Port district staff did ask the board to give direction on two topics, policies related to residential piers and the North Embarcadero subdistrict.

The draft PMPU would prohibit the construction of any new quasi-public residential piers in all planning districts. Residential piers currently in existence would be allowed to remain with different standards set in each planning district regarding their maintenance. These type of piers currently exist in the La Playa and Coronado Cays residential areas.

Port staff received multiple comments requesting the deletion of these policies and asked the board for extra direction. Options outlined by staff included retaining policies and standards as they are in the revised PMPU draft, modifying the polices to allow for new residential piers if they are well-connected to public access to and from the shorelines or deleting the policies and creating different standards for each planning districts.

“I would not be supportive of any new private piers but I do acknowledge in San Diego Bay, these piers we’re talking about, both up in La Playa as well as down in Coronado Cays, this is part of the fabric and history of San Diego Bay, part of the boating community in the Bay, part of the imagery in the Bay,” said Commissioner Dan Malcom at the meeting. “I am supportive of existing piers that are existing now to be maintained.”

The other topic staff direction sought direction on was related to the North Embarcadero subdistrict, which is located between Ash street and Broadway. Under the current revised PMPU draft, new buildings in the area would be restricted to between 160 feet in height 200 feet. New hotel rooms would be limited to 950 new rooms. Comments received included requests to further reduce building heights and prohibit parking structures. Staff recommended reducing heights to match or be less than the requirements set in the North Embarcadero Alliance Visionary Plan, which would limit building heights to 120 feet, 150 feet, 175 feet and 200 feet in various areas. It was also recommended to further restrict hotel rooms to up to only 750 new rooms.

Other comments submitted during the public review period included opposition from the Outboard Boating Club to a proposed Shelter Island Boat Launch Ramp and Promenade/Bike Path behind the Outbound Boating Club Observation Building near the Shelter Island Boat Launch. The proposed pedestrian pathway would run through the launch ramp parking lots and cross the exit and entrances to the launching ramp, which the club argued would endanger the safety of pedestrians and boaters.

Environmental justice was another major topic of comments and was touched on at the Dec. 7 meeting.

“To see how it can be appropriately modified to make it clear that equity is as broad and as specific of a concept as possible and that’s its properly articulated into the document,” Commissioner Rafael Castellanos said at the meeting.

Port district staff assured the public there would be more opportunities in the future to provide input on the PMPU. In mid-2021, the port anticipates circulating the Draft Program Environmental Impact Report for public review. It will include analysis of impacts such as traffic, climate change, air quality, noise, and natural resources.

For more information on the PMPU and latest round of public comments visit portofsandiego.org/pmpu.

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