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Park In New Plans For Embarcadero

Audio

Aired 11/9/10

In April, 2010, the Coastal Commission rejected the Port's plan for the Embarcadero as not containing enough open space. The Port has negotiated an agreement with the Broadway Complex Coalition for a new plan. The cornerstone of this new plan is that the developer of the hotel for Lane Field has agreed to a 150' setback from Harbor Drive, which will be parkland. The hearing on this new plan is scheduled for today.

Guest: Alison St. John, KPBS reporter, STUDIO

The North Embarcadero is located along the harbor on the east side of San Diego Bay.
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Above: The North Embarcadero is located along the harbor on the east side of San Diego Bay.

In April, 2010, the Coastal Commission rejected the Port of San Diego's plan for the Embarcadero because it did not contain the promised open space along the waterfront. The Port and the Broadway Complex Coalition have come to an agreement on a new plan. The developer of the hotel to be located on Lane Field at the south end of the waterfront has agreed to a 150' setback from Harbor Drive, which will be parkland. The hearing on this new plan is scheduled for today.

Guest: Alison St. John, KPBS reporter

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. San Diego's port commission meets today to get public comment on the latest version of its plan to renew the city's north embarcadero. The last plan was rejected by the state because it didn't contain the amount of pope space and park land originally promised by the port. This time, some of that open space has been restored but it's not cheer it will be enough. I'd like to welcome my guest, KPBS senior metro reporter, Alison St John. And Alison, good morning.

ALISON ST JOHN: Good morning, Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So finding a resolution to the question of what to do about the embarcadero has been a long process, a contentious process. If you would, remind us what the north embarcadero is, and what is at stake?

ALISON ST JOHN: Well, I think that's the easiest way for people to kind of imagine in their mind's eye what we're talking about is when you go down to see the star of India there on San Diego bay, it's got Anthony's fish grotto, it's got the midway a little further down of it's at the foot of Broadway right where downtown San Diego meets San Diego bay. So this spot is, like, regarded as just a wonderful prime spot that kind of summarizes San Diego's world class location on a beautiful, big bay. And it's right where the city meets the water. So this has been planning for more than a decade in a sense, really, this has been talked about for a long time. And this is just one part of that whole esplanade, it's the whole embarcadero at the foot of Broadway that we're talking about.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I was just going to say and as part of the planning for this esplanade, as you say, be the port originally promised a park, public space, lots of open space. And then when it submitted what it actually was going to do to the coastal commission, some of the coastal commission people were kind of surprised.

ALISON ST JOHN: Well, what happened was the cruise ship industry became an important factor. So the original plans drawn up a few years back included an oval park at the foot of Broadway. Sense then, we have very rapidly built a somewhat makeshift cruise ship terminal at the foot of Broadway in order to satisfy some of the demands of some of the cruise lines that said they need more space to load and unload their passengers. This of course has very strong economic underpinnings because the cruise ship industry brings millions of dollars to San Diego. However, it has affected the planning for this public open space very dramatically, and instead of an oval park there is now a square concrete plaza which will partly be used for trucks to turn around and supply these cruise ships.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So the coastal commission looked at the plan that included all of had this concrete instead of this open space, and they rejected a plan in April. Now what's different with this new plan that the port commission has come out with.

ALISON ST JOHN: There's been a lot of negotiation with interested stake holders over the last few months, and what's happened interestingly, again, an economic thing has turned the tide, the underdeveloped lane fields, which is a big parking lot, if you can imagine, going down broad way on the right. There's I big empty space that's being used as a parking lot. And the hotel development there has agreed to set back the proposed hotels built on that site by a hundred and 50 feet back away from harbor drive, leaving a big open space that could be turned into some kind of a public space. And probably the reason that this has been possible is because of the economic downturn. It may be more difficult for the developer to raise the funds to build as big a hotel as he hoped. So they're willing to change their plans and include more public open space in the planning.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is there any feeling that this is going to satisfy the people who had objections to the original plan?

ALISON ST JOHN: Well, yes, Maureen. It does seem like what is called the Navy Broadway complex coalition, the main people who are engaged in lawsuits with the port over the cruise ship terminal and the park and this whole area, they are all very pleased at the developments here. And it's a little unclear as to what would actually happen on that park. Is there going to just be a big old patch of grass, or could there be more imaginative ideas as to how to develop something that, let's face it, could be the postcard icon of San Diego, this big open space on the edge of the bay. So there's still a lot of space creative thinking on this project, but at least there's a footprint that's been conserve carved out from the concrete down there.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What will happen at this meeting today at the board commission.

ALISON ST JOHN: The port commission isn't going to actually vote because it hasn't reached the point where it's tidied up all the details. But it's officially opening the public comment period on this new plan, and in three weeks, they will vote. And if all stake holders are satisfied, it could be that the coastal commission staff would sign off on it, and it might not even have to go back to the coastal commission board for review. Because if the staff feel like it's good enough, then it probably wouldn't need to go back to the board. And the important thing about that, Maureen, is that that would allow phase one of the embarcadero plan to start. And some of the changes which involved planting jacaranda trees, narrowing harbor drive, creating a nice walk way along the edge of the bay, dealing with some groundwater issues which has to be date with before anything can start developing, those things could actually begin, and there's a big push to get that off the ground before the redevelopment money, almost $30 million, earmarked for that, ends up getting syphoned somewhere else.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, I thank you so much. Thanks Alison.

ALISON ST JOHN: My pleasure, Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I've been speaking with KPBS metro reporter, Alison St John. If you'd like to comment, you can go on-line at KPBS.org/These Days. You're listening to These Days on KPBS.

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