New sign system coming to Mission Bay: Weigh in on designs to showcase ‘a world-class park’

Current condition of the Welcome to Mission Bay Park sign

“Out with the old and in with the new!” says the Mission Bay Park Improvement Fund Oversight Committee.

The City of San Diego wants to replace Mission Bay Park’s worn-out signs (designed back in 1986) with new, modern signs — so new, in fact, they haven’t even been officially designed — giving the community an opportunity to offer some input.

Members of the City Public Works Department came before the Mission Bay Park Committee on May 7 in the Mission Bay High School cafeteria to host a workshop where locals could provide feedback on two early design packages.

James Arnhart, project manager, described all the workshop would hold: a Signage Concepts Presentation, time to examine the proposed signage in Packages A and B, a chance to give public comment, and a voting session to see which package got the most thumbs-up.


The goals behind the new signs are to:

1) Increase visibility of Mission Bay Park as a regional resource for residents and visitors;

2) Improve visitor orientation with the Park through the use of upgraded signage and new directories; and

3) Improve traffic circulation and visitor safety.


Dimensional rendering of a “Welcome to Mission Bay Park” entry sign, Package A
(Savanah Duffy)

Next to speak was Todd Anderson, creative director at Dudek, an Encinitas-based firm of environmental planners, scientists and engineers, which is helping the City design and create the new signs.

According to Anderson, Dudek surveyed Mission Bay Park to locate welcome monuments, way-finding signs, and signs that identify certain facilities such as golf courses and RV dumping stations. Dudek cataloged the location of all the signs and discovered there are more than 130 signs just for way-finding purposes, but no directory or way-finding signs along the walking trail around the bay.

Proposed signage for the boat launch ramp in De Anza Cove, Package B
( Savanah Duffy )

The Mission Bay Park Master Plan describes Mission Bay as being a series of “parks within a park,” Anderson explained, and with that concept in mind, the Dudek team developed a color-coded design to identify each distinctive park district so visitors could orient themselves to their location.

“It’s very easy to get disoriented because the park is so large and there are so many different areas around it,” Anderson said. The team started with six areas, then decided to segment off “walkable neighborhoods.”

A grand total of 12 areas have been assigned a color on the proposed Mission Bay Branding and Way-finding Signage map: West Mission Bay, Sail Bay, Vacation Island, Robb Field, Dusty Rhodes Park, Fiesta Island, Crown Point, Rose Creek, De Anza, South Shores, East Mission Bay and River Park.

Package B proposal
( Savanah Duffy)

Each area is approximately a 10-15 minute walk to its neighbor park. The color-coded signs, directories and leaflets are intended to help visitors transition and navigate their whereabouts.

Display posters showing dimensional renderings of the two different sign packages were set up on either side of the room for convenient viewing. “We wanted to really showcase Mission Bay as a world-class park,” Anderson explained.

Pacific Beach Planning Group’s Karl Rand offers public comment.
( Savanah Duffy )

The design team came up with unified themes and selected materials that could be easily maintained and would be durable against the challenge of sun and salty air. Solar-powered lighting for nighttime visibility is also an idea in the works, he reported.

Package A and Package B share the same tagline: “Mission Bay: City Park & Aquatic Playground,” but the similarities end there.

Package A
( Savanah Duffy )

Package A (with a focus on the natural beauty of the land) has flowing sand-colored lines transitioning into soft and then deeper blues to portray the bay waters.

Package B (with a focus on the sails and sunset concept) has the “O” in Mission Bay formed with the boat sails. About a quarter of the letters are submerged in the “ocean water.” A series of polycarbonate “sunset sails” provide the backdrop for the park name and allow natural light to stream through.


Each package includes signs for the entryway monument, walkway directory/interpretive sign panels, roadway directional signage, and large and small format information panels.

Current condition of directional signs in Mission Bay Park.
(Savanah Duffy)

Paula Roberts of the Aqua Community Relations Group joined Anderson to take questions.

One resident asked why they felt the need for color-codes, to which Anderson replied: “It’s a way to allow people to know when they transition from one area of the park to another. There may be certain facilities nearby that we want to orient visitors to, and we can tell them ‘Hey, go over to Quivira Basin, which happens to be in Zone Blue, and the blue signs will help them know when they get into that area of the park.”

The colored signs will be in addition to “You are now entering …" signs, Anderson added, but considering there may be only one of those in each area, the colored signage will help visitors know which park they’re in as they wander along.

Questions morphed into design critiques, so Roberts paused the meeting to ask residents to look at the signs close-up to form their own opinions and fill out the comment cards. Guests could vote for Package A, B, or “Go back to the drawing board.”

Welcome to Mission Bay signage, Package A
( Savanah Duffy )

After everyone had time to review the signs, the community and board re-grouped for public comment. Remarks included fears that people might lock-up their bikes on the signs’ poles; suggestions to ensure the artistic design did not come at the sacrifice of visual clarity, a request to update the signs to include new businesses, and questions regarding high-tech components.

Anderson responded that there’s been discussion about adding interactive monitor technology, similar to Balboa Park ‘s electronic kiosks, but other suggestions are welcome.

“This is not the last time you’ll see this,” Roberts pointed out. “We want to come back and talk to you several more times as we move through the process.”

Package B’s Mission Bay signage
(Savanah Duffy)

After the meeting, City staff reported that, in general, Package A received more support, but the plan is to develop another concept by combining preferred elements from each concept into one. More public input will be gathered after the new concept is developed, which the City estimates should take two to three months.


• WANT TO WEIGH-IN? The first round of voting closed May 13. The next Mission Bay Park Committee meeting is slated for 6 p.m., Tuesday, July 2, but there’s a possibility it could be canceled due to the July 4 holiday. The meeting location will be posted online 72 hours in advance at