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In-Depth: Port of San Diego finalizes new master plan

Plan will guide development for decades
Posted at 6:01 AM, Dec 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-09 15:18:57-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Port of San Diego Commissioners saw the latest draft of the new Port Master Plan this week while allowing people who live in the area one more chance to weigh in on the region's future.

The Port Master Plan is a 51-page document that will guide development along the San Diego Bay. This is the Plan's first update since it was created in 1981.

"For the first time, we include elements, or chapters of goals, objectives, and policies that will guide issues that apply Bay-wide, not just specific to individual locations," says Lesley Nishihira, the Port's Planning Director.

The new Master Plan calls for more hotel development, with nearly 4500 new rooms on Harbor Island and the Embarcadero. But it prohibits new hotel rooms on Shelter Island, the Coronado Bayfront, and the Silver Strand.

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It also includes provisions for height restrictions on new buildings, a plan to turn the parking lot at Navy Pier into park space, and commercial industry use guidelines along the Bay.

Port employees have been working on it for nearly eight years, with the Port Commissioners holding 40 meetings about the Plan, as well as dozens of public forums.

But critics say it is too focused on tourism and industry and does not do enough to help out San Diego residents who live along the Bay, particularly in low-income areas south of the Convention Center.

"The status quo isn't good enough for the community," says former City Councilman David Alvarez, who has been vocal in his criticism of the new Plan. "We've seen the pollution. We've seen the impacts; the parking problems, the lack of access to the water (for low-income residents)."

Alvarez brought these issues up at a public comment session on Monday. He says, to his surprise, the Commissioners voted unanimously to make sure more Social and Environmental Equity issues go into the Plan.

Port employees say they will include specific policies in the final draft to ensure all San Diegans can benefit from the Bay.

"We'll take a closer look at those policies and see where we can include more information to make sure we're truly addressing the issues as needed," says Nishihira.

Port employees are now finishing the Final Draft of the new Master Plan. It should be completed by the summer of 2021.

After that, it needs a full environmental review and then approval from the California Coastal Commission.

Nishihira says the entire process should be complete by the start of 2023.

To see the latest version of the Port Master Plan, click here.