Today, Citizens Coordinate for Century 3, the region’s oldest community urban planning organization, hosted a breakfast dialogue to update its members on current plans for new parks and related projects along downtown’s North Embarcadero area. Former Centre City Development Corporation planner Phil Bona moderated a panel of waterfront planning leaders.

County Supervisor Ron Roberts outlined his successful efforts to convince the Board of Supervisors to dump an earlier County Administration Center (CAC) redevelopment proposal in favor of a plan that will cover the parking lots on the site with new public park space. He noted that there is demonstrated demand for more public space along the embarcadero, pointing out that there are more weddings performed every week on the CAC’s grounds than any other place in the county.

He noted that the a linear fountain running north to south from Grape Street to Ash Street will separate grassy park space to the west of the CAC and outdoor landscaped tree grove “rooms” running along the east side of the 16-acre site along Pacific Highway.

The existing 1,100 parking spaces on either side of the CAC would be converted into park space at grade, with 250 parking spaces built below grade and another 600-700 spaces will be created in a new building the county will build near the Cedar Street trolley station.

Supervisor Roberts said the estimated cost of the new park and the new parking structure will be between $60 and $65 million, and announced that the Board of Supervisors has agreed to use county funds, along with funds the county gets from the downtown redevelopment agency, to begin construction of the new park this summer.

Roberts said that it is critical that we get planning on the North Embarcadero right, since this is one of the most unique waterfront sites in America. He said he is no fan of what is being proposed on the Navy Broadway Complex site, and he pointed out that outdated bayfront hotel projects like the Holiday Inn need to give way to better design creating a better balance of public and private uses.

Port Commissioner and Chairman Scott Peters gave an update on plans for the new Ruocco Park, to be built on 3.3 acres of public tidelands just south of the Navy Broadway Complex, utilizing a $3.5 million grant from the estate of C-3 co-founders Lloyd and Ilse Ruocco. Peters said that project design work on the new park has been completed with a lot of public input.

Peters then described North Embarcadero Visionary Plan (NEVP) phase 1, which received final approval from the California Coastal Commission last week. He noted that the new project will create a new 135-foot wide public esplanade running along the waterfront and a realigned Harbor Drive. Additionally, he noted that plans for the Lane Field hotel project are being changed to create a new 3.71 acre setback park on the west portion of the hotel complex site, partially mitigating the loss of the Broadway Landing Park that was originally going to be built at the foot of Broadway, which is now unfeasible due to the port’s decision to build a new cruise ship terminal on Broadway Pier.

Commissioner Peters said that port and downtown redevelopment agency funds have been set aside to complete phase 1, and a request for construction bids will be going out soon to get the project construction underway.

He then the described NEVP phase 2 planning that is just getting going, which will lead to the development of a North Embarcadero Port Master Plan Amendment (PMPA). He outlined how the port has created a new PMPA Citizens Advisory Committee. It will be meeting over the next six months to discuss a variety of planning issues like realigning and narrowing Harbor Drive to three lanes, parking, potential changes to the piers along the North Embarcadero, future uses of the B Street Pier, and the creation of additional new public park space west of Harbor Drive. They also will discuss how to pay for future improvements along the bayfront.

He said that one key issue is how people will move between the airport and the convention center. He said the port planning team wants to hear new ideas from members of the public. He noted it that it makes no sense to put asphalt parking lots where we want people to go along the waterfront.

Jerry Trammer, project executive for the Lane Field hotel project, outlined how they plan to update their plans to create the new setback park west of their complex. He said one key goal of realigning Harbor Drive should be to create new public park space west of the road. He said our planning efforts should shoot for the best balance of public space, semi-public space and private space.

Shaun Sumner and Darlene Nicandro of the port’s real estate and planning staff outlined the port’s planning philosophy calling for the creation of new activated public spaces along the embarcadero. It calls for a balance between active and passive park uses, and balancing economic, social and environmental concerns.

During questions and answers, Paul McNeil said that downtown needs places where people can touch the waters of San Diego Bay. He asked where our downtown beach going will be created. Shaun Sumner and port landscape architecture consultant Marty Poirier, discussed ideas that have been considered so far, including a kayak-launching spot near the Midway Museum, and the creation of new bayfront steps or floating dock space near Grape Street to support Little Italy’s traditional “Blessing of the Ships” event.

Then, Marti Kransberg asked Supervisor Roberts to convince the county to rejoin the NEVP planning process. Roberts outlined earlier problems the county had experienced trying to work with other agencies as part of the NEVP process and why it had decided to work separately on its parking planning. Ron noted that even if it isn’t a formal partner in the NEVP planning process, the county is keeping up with current planning efforts along the bayfront and county staff is working informally with the port and city staff.

Catch up on previous posts about this issue here.

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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