San Diego port district continues to refine master plan

Redeveloping downtown waterfront into a visitor-serving destination while maintaining boating and fishing interests appears to be a goal of Port Master Plan.

SAN DIEGO—The San Diego waterfront could look significantly different as the next few years play out – assuming the local port district develops and executes its developing but ambitions Port Master Plan.

Members of the Port of San Diego’s Board of Port Commissioners met on Feb. 25 to discuss the latest update on the developing master plan. Commercial fishing opportunities and configuration concepts of the North Embarcadero section of the port were casually vetted out during the Feb. 25 meeting, which was labeled as a Port Master Plan workshop.

Some of the elements of the Port Master Plan include concepts for a commercial fishing pier, recreation open space and water connectivity, a waterfront park and visitor-serving uses on the North Embarcadero.

Port district staff ultimately hopes the Port Master Plan would establish the San Diego waterfront as a destination, a “singular waterfront experience, with distinct places and experiences.”

The plan’s focus on the North Embarcadero, which includes portions of Downtown San Diego’s waterfront, stems from an April 2017 workshop. A Port Master Plan update held at that time identified the Embarcadero Planning District as San Diego’s “front door,” particularly for visitors who arrive to the city by air, land and sea, according to port district staff. Both the city’s international airport and cruise terminals are adjacent or a short distance away from the North Embarcadero, for example.

“Considered the front porch of San Diego, the Embarcadero is a vibrant planning district with broad recreational and access opportunities on the waterfront that also provide economic value for the region and the tourism industry,” port district staff stated in a report to commissioners. “This area provides a waterfront experience that combines visitor- and maritime-serving uses with working waterfront and water-side activities of commercial fishing boats, cruise ships, and pleasure craft.”

North Embarcadero is one of three districts within the Embarcadero Planning District; the other two areas are Central Embarcadero and South Embarcadero. All areas within the planning district support a variety of marine activities, such as recreational boating, commercial fishing, cruise ship docking and sportfishing.

Implementation of the Port Master Plan could result in the North Embarcadero being declared as the “Window to the Bay.”

Increasing visitor-serving recreational and commercial uses of the North Embarcadero is also a state goal of the Port Master Plan.

What those plans look like, however, are still being vetted.

The port district has been working on an “Integrated Planning” of San Diego’s waterfront redevelopment since 2013. Port district staff created the Port Master Plan to help realize the planning’s conceptual ideas.

“The Port Master Plan update … is a comprehensive, integrated, baywide approach that will modernize our method for land and water planning and serve as a guide for future uses and development of [port] district tidelands,” port district staff stated. “The [Port Master Plan] will connect the tidelands through a series of networks and planning districts.

“It will control the allowable land and water uses, including the type and characteristics of development, recreation, and environmental conservation throughout the District’s jurisdiction,” port district staff continued in a report to commissioners.

The Port Master Plan is organized into seven sections: land and water use; mobility; coastal access and recreation; natural resources; resilience and safety; economic development; and, environmental justice.

Port district staff is expected to return in front of the board again in mid-March and provide additional updates.

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