Removal of dilapidated mobile homes from De Anza Cove is delayed by pandemic and regulatory hurdles
San Diego officials want the area upgraded for RV campers while studies continue on long-term solutions.
Legal wrangling, bureaucratic red tape and the COVID-19 pandemic have delayed plans to upgrade Mission Bay’s De Anza Cove by removing 167 dilapidated mobile homes and renovating a nearby city-owned RV park.
San Diego officials want the area open to RV campers and the public during the next few years while the city studies the long-term fate of 70-acre De Anza Cove and nearby land in the bay’s northeast corner, such as Mission Bay Golf Course.
The city was nearing the end of a four-year planning process for the area last spring, but then decided to shift gears and study a proposal to make much of the area marshland to help San Diego fight sea-level rise and climate change.
Local environmentalists who want hundreds of acres of new marshland added to the northeast corner of Mission Bay have a reason to be happy.
That study will add about 18 more months to the process, lengthening the time De Anza will be an RV park and making it more important to swiftly remove the mobile homes.
Campland on the Bay, a privately run RV park adjacent to De Anza Cove and the city-owned RV park, agreed in June 2019 to make the upgrades and remove the mobile homes in exchange for rent rebates equal to the estimated $8.2 million renovation costs.
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While little visual progress has been made in nearly 17 months, Campland and city officials say much has been accomplished.
“I share the impatience of the community,” said Jacob Gelfand, Campland vice president. “It might not appear to people on the outside, but we’ve been making a ton of progress.”
That has included gas line repairs, sewer main cleanouts, parking lot lighting, tree trimming, laundry upgrades, recreation center renovations, landscape improvements and new signs.
Additional efforts have been delayed by threats of litigation last year from the San Diego chapter of the Audubon Society, which took more than two months to resolve.
The Audubon Society wanted to ensure that 150 new RV campsites planned for De Anza be located on the least environmentally sensitive land. Those 150 sites would be in addition to the 228 sites now in the city-owned RV park.
Then efforts by Campland were delayed by the pandemic, which sharply decreased demand for RV camping slots last spring and then forced Campland to create and implement a series of complex safety protocols.
Another delay has been testing of the dilapidated mobile homes for toxicity.
Asbestos and lead testing of all 167 mobile homes began in January, but the process has taken longer than expected because of debris, beehives, unstable roofs and other dangerous conditions. The test results will be crucial to determining the scope of work for the asbestos and lead abatement component of the project.
Campland and the city also must secure a permit from the California Coastal Commission to remove the mobile homes. An application has been submitted, but no hearing is expected until February.
Gelfand said Campland has every reason to move as quickly as possible and keep its promises to the city, because the length of its lease could be affected.
Some critics of last year’s deal with Campland said the company made the agreement to gain a foothold on De Anza Cove that could help sway city officials when they decide the long-term fate of De Anza and whether it will include RV camping.
The 45-acre RV park adjacent to De Anza that Campland has operated for more than 50 years is slated to become entirely marshland because of its strategic location at the mouth of Rose Creek.
So if that land becomes marsh and Campland isn’t given land on De Anza, Campland, and possibly RV camping, will no longer be available in the area.
Gelfand said Campland’s short-term lease for De Anza does not give it any advantage when it comes to the city’s final decisions on use of the land.
But he noted that community surveys show strong support for RV camping. He added that the Coastal Commission has prioritized the low-cost access to the water provided by RV camping.
During a Nov. 19 meeting of the City Council’s Environment Committee, council members said they see marshland as a high priority.
“I think it should be crystal clear to us how important the benefits would be,” Councilwoman Vivian Moreno said. “All the researchers and scientists are telling us that our shorelines are going to go through some pretty dramatic changes in the near future.”
Alyssa Muto, a deputy director in the city’s Planning Department, said the city is conducting a climate resiliency study with vulnerability assessments for sea-level rise and coastal flooding. She estimated the work would be complete in 12 to 18 months.
Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell, whose District 2 includes Mission Bay, agreed that more marshland, which acts as a sponge, would be crucial to fighting sea-level rise. She said the city should explore adding it along Chollas Creek in southeastern San Diego, in addition to Mission Bay.
On Campland’s efforts at De Anza, Campbell praised the company.
“They have been moving right along and they are doing the best they can,” she said. “We’ll see what we can do to help them move even faster.”
— PB Monthly staff contributed to this report.