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Port Debates Permit for Embarcadero Plan

The San Diego Port District will vote this week on whether to earmark millions of dollars to start the first phase of a plan to turn the Embarcadero into a world class waterfront. But critics say the plan has been modified to benefit the cruise ship industry. The Port holds a public hearing Tuesday afternoon.

The vision for the Embarcadero has been in the works for more than a decade. The Port has to grant a Coastal Development Permit before authorizing the money to begin.

But waterfront planning activist, Don Wood, says the plans have changed significantly in the last few years. A public plaza with fountains planned at the foot of Broadway will now be the entrance to a new cruise ship terminal.

“What was supposed to be an open, public Embarcadero, is going to be a canyon between 200-500 foot buildings on Harbor Drive, and five to six-story cruise ships on the west side,” Wood says. “The Port made a promise to the public and is now completely reneging on that in order to benefit one special interest -- the cruise line.”

The cruise ship industry has expanded beyond most planners’ wildest dreams, bringing millions in new revenues to the city. Meanwhile, money for public parks is hard to come by.

The Port District estimates the first phase of the Embarcadero Plan for wider pedestrian walkways, formal gardens and restrooms, is $28 million. The District will earmark about $15 million, and the Center City Development Corporation will contribute more than $5 million.

The cruise ship terminal will cost $22 million, with Carnival Cruises kicking in over the half the money. The Port District still has not confirmed who will pay the rest.

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