Chula Vista and Port of San Diego officials are hoping to entice developers with something rare in California: the promise of hassle-free waterfront development.
The vision for the 535 acres – more than 600 football fields – includes a convention center, hotels, apartments, office space and retail, with almost half of the property left as open space with trails for pedestrians and bikes. It also preserves and protects an environmentally sensitive area south of a nearby national wildlife refuge.
The master plan successfully passed a full environmental review in 2010. That means that when developers pursue projects in that area, they only need to prove their plans are consistent with that plan – a much easier process than doing their own environmental review.
“It’s already entitled,” said Gary Halbert, Chula Vista’s city manager, describing the city’s pitch to developers.
The space is one of the largest developable waterfront properties left on the West Coast.
The arrangement came together over 10 years ago because of an agreement between the Port, which regulates development along the San Diego Bay, the city of Chula Vista and private developer Pacifica Companies. Back then, the Port began negotiations to take ownership of over 100 acres of environmentally sensitive property near the Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge that was owned by Pacifica.
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While I clearly remember the posters and presentations the city of Chula Vista paraded around several years ago, none of them mentioned eleven towers. The hotel was there...and there was much less open space than should be.
So, oddly we in this county now have a situation where the developer in downtown SD does not want to build a high rise hotel across from the convention center because that would block public access and sight lines to/from the bay--BUT--the city of Chula Vista can't wait to do that very thing.
Can we think about this? Why did the approval go from one thing to something rather different? With no public input or even notification?
Yes, money talks, but will another empty convention center site really benefit the city of Chula Vista? All the studies show that convention centers in the US are overbuilt, and that rental rates keep falling because of it.
Is this plan sensible, reasonable and what the public wants? It seems hair-brained to me. Hair-brained, slapped together and full of public dishonesty.