Fiesta Island upgrades get final approval; dog park will remain unchanged

Toni Wendel keeps an eye on a group of dogs as they walk along Fiesta Island on National Dog Day on Aug. 26, 2019.
Toni Wendel keeps an eye on a group of dogs as they walk along Fiesta Island on National Dog Day on Aug. 26, 2019.
(K.C. Alfred - U-T)

Long-awaited master plan OK’d with tweaks by Coastal Commission


The San Diego City Council gave final approval to long-awaited plans to revamp Mission Bay’s Fiesta Island with new parks, playgrounds, volleyball courts, marsh areas and habitat preserves.

The large dog park on the island’s southwest corner will remain almost entirely unchanged thanks to lobbying by one of San Diego’s most powerful grassroots organizations, Fiesta Island Dog Owners.

The Nov. 9 council action incorporated changes proposed by the California Coastal Commission into the new master plan for the island, which the council previously approved in 2019.

In June, Coastal Commission staff members suggested broadening use of the 90-acre dog park. But lobbying by FIDO persuaded the commissioners to reject those proposals, 6-5.

While critics say FIDO uses its strength to control more land than it needs at the expense of other groups, FIDO leaders say they are preserving a treasured and unique area.

Most of the new amenities and significant changes in the master plan will be in the southeastern portion of Fiesta Island, just across the water from SeaWorld.

Upgrades to that area will include turf fields, children’s play structures, picnic areas, a camping area, restrooms, public plazas, hiking trails, parking lots and a concession stand.

The tip of the southeast portion of the island, called Stony Point, will remain a fenced-off habitat for least terns.

The northern portion of the island will stay primarily a habitat preserve, with the only proposed changes an expansion of marsh areas, a new channel to boost water quality and a wildlife observation area.

The central portion of the island will continue to host the annual Over the Line tournament each July, and the San Diego Youth Aquatic Center and the Fiesta Island Youth Camp will continue to operate as usual.

The only changes there will be creation of a habitat area and upgrades to the sand recreation area, including an emergency shelter for large animals, new volleyball courts and other recreational amenities.

The new master plan will leave Fiesta Island Road as the only access route to the island, but it will change traffic flow on the one-lane road from counterclockwise to clockwise and add a roundabout near the entrance off East Mission Bay Drive.

Fiesta Island has occupied much of eastern Mission Bay since dredging created it in the 1940s.