On Tuesday, January 11, the Board of Port Commissioners of the San Diego Unified Port District issued a new Coastal Development Permit (CDP) for the North Embarcadero Visionary Plan (NEVP) Phase 1 project, after deleting work on the Broadway Pier forecourt that was proposed in a draft CDP last month.

As approved, the new CDP will enable the port and the city to proceed with planned improvements at the foot of Broadway and the construction of the new esplanade along the bayfront stretching north from Navy Pier to B Street. It also calls for a substantial new public park to be built east of Harbor Drive and north of Broadway.

The Broadway Pier issues can be taken up by the port board as part of the Phase 2 North Embarcadero Port Master Plan Environmental Impact Report (EIR), hopefully after the ongoing lawsuit brought by the Navy Broadway Complex Coalition (NBCC) over the new cruise ship terminal on Broadway Pier has been settled or decided by the courts. The current loss of public access, views and public open space originally promised on Broadway Pier must be fully mitigated, perhaps by eventually moving the terminal building off Broadway Pier to another site along the bay, such as the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal, nearer to the convention center and new hotels around it.

Today’s action by the port board delivers an improved phase 1 project based on almost a year of negotiations, with give and take on both sides. At the suggestion of the NBCC and the Lane Field project development team, the port has agreed to modify the Lane Field hotels project lease to require that a 150-foot-wide setback public park/plaza be constructed on the western end of the Lane Field site running from Broadway North to B Street. This will create a new two-plus acre public park on our downtown waterfront, which I believe will partially mitigate the loss of the original Broadway Landing oval park that was envisioned in the original NEVP and included in the Port Master Plan back in the early 2000s.

Before the port board took up the new Phase 1 CDP, it listened to a presentation on a new report and a new video on the final report produced by the broad coalition of community planning groups that hosted a public waterfront planning workshop last October. As NBCC co-chair Diane Coombs noted, the output and recommendations from the October workshop participants and sponsors has wide ranging support from the community and needs to be carefully considered as part of the North Embarcadero Port Master Planning and EIR process.

Here’s the video on the final report on the workshop last October:

This action by the port will allow the Centre City Development Corporation (CCDC) and the San Diego City Council, sitting as the city’s redevelopment agency board, to secure redevelopment funding for NEVP phase 1. This will come partially from the city’s cost share of the project via the NEVP Joint Powers Authority (which includes the city, the port and CCDC) and partially as a loan to the port to help cover its share of phase 1 costs.

The governor’s new budget proposal calls for redevelopment agencies like CCDC to be eliminated, so getting redevelopment funding for the NEVP project secured must be a priority for CCDC and the city, in order to prevent those funds from being grabbed by the state. The governor is not calling for seizure of “committed” redevelopment funds, but the term “committed” has not yet been clarified. So, the city and CCDC may want to move already budgeted NEVP project funds to a secure escrow account with the NEVP JPA, where it would not be subject to being diverted to the state treasury.

The new CDP can still be appealed to the California Coastal Commission, which may want to include its own special conditions when it reviews the CDP, but today’s action is a clear step in the right direction, even though there still are a lot of hoops to jump through to make the NEVP become a reality. Hopefully with today’s compromise, there is hope that our children and grandchildren will one day be able to play and enjoy a chain of public parks along downtown’s north embarcadero and increased public access and views from downtown to the bay that really makes this San Diego.

In addition to his other affiliations, Don Wood is a member of the Navy Broadway Complex Coalition, an alliance of local civic organizations dedicated to preserving and enhancing public access to downtown San Diego’s waterfront, which is currently involved in ongoing litigation with the port over its alleged failure to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act when it approved the proposal to build the new permanent cruise ship terminal structure on the Broadway Pier.

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