Monday, April 6, 2009
The Unified Port of San Diego is planning to build a permanent cruise ship terminal at the Broadway Pier on San Diego’s bay front. On Wednesday the California Costal Commission could approve the project. But there are opponents to the plan and they want to be heard before the terminal moves forward. KPBS Metro Reporter Katie Orr has the story.
(Photo: A cruise ship sit docked at San Diego Bay. Katie Orr/KPBS)
On a Saturday afternoon, people stroll along the Embarcadero near the Broadway Pier. Some watch as a ferry pulls up and unloads passengers, other walk over to the USS Midway to take a tour. And as they enjoy the day, none seemed overly concerned about the prospect of the Port building a permanent cruise ship terminal on Broadway Pier.
Janine Hutt is from Canada but says her family visits San Diego often. She’s not worried that views might be obscured by the new building and ships that might accompany it.
“We’ve been around many areas where you’re by the bay. And it seems there are many areas where you can actually get a good view. So as far as we’re concerned if you can’t get it from here, you can go in other places where you do get a good view of the bay,” she says.
But Don Wood of La Mesa doesn’t share that laid back view. He’s part of a citizen’s coalition which opposes the Port’s plan. The group says the terminal would limit public access to the pier and eliminate valuable park space which is part of the North Embarcadero Visionary Plan.
Because of security concerns, portions of the pier would be closed to the public when cruise ships were docked there. Wood says civic leaders and the public should ask some questions before accepting the Port’s plan.
“How many more ships do you want to add? To what degree do you want to turn San Diego bay into a parking lot for the cruise line’s floating hotels,” he says.
He says the interests of the cruise ship industry are being put above those of the public. But Wood may have a hard fight ahead of him. Those floating hotels bring in a lot of money and generate a lot of jobs.
The Port’s Rita Vandergaw says a 2005 Port survey shows every cruise ship that begins and ends its trip in San Diego pumps $2 million into the local economy. She compares it to having a major corporation in the city. And she says building a permanent terminal is consistent with Broadway Pier’s traditional use.
“The piers have always been considered the Port’s purview. The piers are there to support maritime activities. That’s why they were built. That was the purpose of the piers from the very beginning, and they‘re going to continue to support maritime activities,” she says.
Vandergaw disagrees with Don Wood that the public is losing space. She says the first 400 feet of the pier would be dedicated park space and a total of 5 acres of park on the bay front will be available once the North Embarcadero Visionary Plan is complete. She says security concerns do mean a portion of the pier will be closed when cruise ships are docked. And she says there’s no way to know how often that will be because the cruise schedules change every year.
Vandergaw says the Broadway Pier site is meant to serve as a back up to the existing B Street pier terminal. But she acknowledges Broadway will be used more frequently when the Port begins its planned renovation of the B Street facility.
The Costal Commission is also weighing in on the project. Commission staff believes the Port should make a slight change to its Master Plan before it goes ahead with the permanent terminal.
“The Pier has traditionally been used as an auxiliary cruise ship terminal. That’s always clear, that’s clear in the existing Port Master Plan that it was going to be used for a cruise ship terminal,” says Dianna Lilly. She is a Costal Planner with the Commission and has been working on the terminal project.
“But it’s also always been used for public access, people have been able to walk out on there, there’s been restrooms, they hold festivals out there. So our biggest concern was, is building this permanent facility going to stop people from being able to use the pier,” says Lilly.
So to reconcile these two uses, Commission staff worked with the Port to create an amendment to the Master Plan. But Lilly says the changes are relatively minor. At its meeting the Costal Commission can simply accept the change, choose to hear public testimony on the subject, deny the change or postpone a decision.
If the Commission approves the measure, construction on the $30 million project could begin this summer. The terminal could be ready for use by December 2010.
Katie Orr, KPBS News