Shared accommodations hotel concept begins review process in San Diego

Port district hopes the lodging idea means more lower-cost overnight accommodations will be available at or near San Diego Bay.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include perspective from the Port of San Diego. Port district staff, after reading this article online, requested an opportunity to provide a response to references made below about social distancing.

SAN DIEGO—One of the biggest themes of 2020 is social distancing – yet it is with this backdrop the Port of San Diego will begin its environmental review process of a shared accommodations hotel concept, with eight to 12 “POD beds” per room and shared bathrooms.

The POD concept, which emphasizes shared accommodation rooms, is the antithesis of social distancing.

Port district staff, nonetheless, hopes this “shared accommodations” concept will ultimately become reality and allow the area surrounding San Diego Bay to be dotted with these lower-cost hotels.

Pursuit of a hotel with densely occupied rooms to provide affordable overnight accommodations at or near San Diego Bay actually began well before the Covid-19 pandemic took over our world. The developer of this shared accommodations concept, Stay Open, was selected by the port district’s board in May 2019.

“The Stay Open team is an experienced, international hospitality team that proposes to develop and operate a shared accommodations experience located on Pacific Highway between the Port’s Administration Building and Palm Street,” port district staff said in a released statement.

The hotel concept would include shared rooms with eight to 12 POD beds per room, and up to 17 private PODs with family rooms. None of the POD rooms would have a private bathroom. All bathrooms would be shared with other guests.

Stay Open would also have a lobby bar, café, and rooftop restaurant and bar.

“The PODs will be designed for shared accommodation rooms, but each individual POD can be completely closed for privacy. Each POD will contain a large single bed, light, mirror, temperature control, charging station, free Wi-Fi and secure luggage storage,” port district staff said in a released statement.

“The private/family rooms will consist of a mix of twin and/or queen beds with some having private bathrooms. The hotel would also include a well-appointed shared bathroom space, comparable to a bathroom facility in a high-end fitness center,” the port district’s released statement continued.

Penny Maus, the port district’s department manager of real estate, said Stay Open, which is slated to open in 2024, would actually respect the health and privacy of all guests.

“While at a glance some might think this is a product that doesn’t allow for social distancing, for young travelers on a budget that often stay in hostels where there are multiple open bunk beds in a room, the individual PODs, which can be closed and locked, are a better option for both guest privacy and health,” Maus said. “The proposed project is still in the early planning phases so the earliest we anticipate Stay Open to open is 2024, at which time they would have to follow any and all public health orders.”

Port district staff will conduct its environmental review for the rest of this year and into 2021. The staff will engage with consultants and ultimately come back to the port district’s Board of Port Commissioners with an environmental document by August 2021.

Commissioners will, at that point, review the document and provide port district staff with direction to submit a Port Master Plan Amendment to the California Coastal Commission.

The Stay Open hotel project could be formalized by commissioners by the end of 2022, with a Coastal Development Permit and lease ready to go in early 2023.

Board Chair Ann Moore said the Stay Open shared accommodations concept will make the San Diego waterfront an affordable destination.

“When I envision the Port of the future, I envision the kind of opportunities Stay Open’s innovative shared hospitality concept will provide,” Moore said. “With overnight accommodations in a prime location that won’t break the bank, visitors from various backgrounds and income levels will be able to experience and enjoy our beautiful San Diego Bay waterfront and all it has to offer.”

The Coastal Commission has made it a priority to promote lower-cost overnight accommodations at many waterfront communities. The policy direction has been part of the Coastal Commission’s requirement for coastal access.

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