What would an accessible seaport in San Diego look like?
For Christina Griffin-Jones, consulting on accessibility for the development of Seaport San Diego feels personal.
She grew up riding the merry-go-round in Seaport Village, getting pizza with her family and feeding the seagulls against their advice. On a really good day, they’d end with ice cream.
As a young adult, the seaport was near to one of her many trolley and bus transfers on the commute to her job as a hotel worker. It provided a well-lit respite — somewhere safe to sit in her uniform and find peace in San Diego’s waterfront.
“In all those parts of my life — as a little kid, as a young grown up struggling to survive capitalism,” she said, “Seaport San Diego (was) a space that was able to support and hold me in those different transitions. And honoring that folks with less privilege than I have, that that might not be a reality for them.”
Historically, some — especially non-white and lower-income residents — have been excluded from San Diego’s waterfront areas through policing, redlining and transportation and financial barriers.
Griffin-Jones’ consulting company, Womxn’s Work, is now gathering public input to ensure everyone can experience it.
“No matter where they live in San Diego, no matter how hard they have to work or how low they're paid, they deserve access to fun,” she said.
Griffin-Jones was coy about the specifics of what accessibility might look like. She said she didn’t want to influence the results of the public listening sessions.
Yehudi Gaffen, CEO of 1HWY1, the development company in charge of the $3.6 billion redesign, offered some clues.
They are looking to diversify the pricing of attractions and hotels to make them financially accessible. The infrastructure needs to be accessible to people with disabilities and those who use wheelchairs. The bus and trolley routes need to connect those from historically excluded neighborhoods.
But they’re also looking at factors that influence whether someone feels like they belong in the space, like what kind of food and shopping the vendors offer. Griffin-Jones said what police presence looks like can also affect that feeling, especially for groups disproportionately harmed by the justice system.
“For us,” Gaffen said, “we will have failed if Seaport San Diego is not a comfortable place for everyone, whatever walk of life, whatever economic strata you come from, whatever color you may be.”
The redevelopment plan extends to roughly 70 acres of land and water between downtown San Diego and the San Diego Bayfront. It includes Seaport Village, Santa Monica Seafood (formerly Chesapeake Fish) and surrounding areas between the Manchester Grand Hyatt and the USS Midway Museum. Embarcadero Marina Park North, Ruocco Park, and Tuna Harbor are also included.
Gaffen’s team dreams of an observation tower with different activities on every level – a “mist garden” that simulates clouds; a cargo net near the top that visitors can lie out on “if you have the stomach for it;” a highly polished reflective surface intended to make visitors feel like they’re floating in the clouds.
They want to curate retail stores to offer unique sustainable products, like shoes made of recycled ocean plastic that are designed and 3D printed in real-time in front of the customer.
He envisions a butterfly garden, a world-class aquarium and a live auction fish market. He wants it to be a destination for both San Diegans and tourists.
His challenge is ensuring that in all of these fantastical elements, there will be something for everyone — and they can access it.
Gaffen said groundbreaking is “three to four years away at best.”
The next listening session will be at the Chula Vista Library on Saturday, Aug. 19 from 2 to 4 p.m., with Spanish language facilitation. There will be another session at the Skyline Hills Library on Saturday, Aug. 26 from 12 to 1:30 p.m.
Residents who can’t participate in the listening sessions can provide input through the online survey.