San Diego completes key analysis needed for redeveloping Mission Bay’s northeast corner
Officials also revised their latest proposal, boosting land for active recreation and adding a third public beach
Plans to transform northeast Mission Bay into a combination of marshland, campsites and recreation areas will take a key step Tuesday with the release of a multiyear city analysis of how the changes could affect the environment.
The 446-page analysis, which concludes the proposal wouldn’t have significant adverse impacts, allows the approval process to advance to hearings later this year before the Planning Commission and City Council.
City officials also revealed Tuesday some revisions and refinements to the proposal, including one third more land for active recreation areas, a third new beach and a clubhouse that would rent non-motorized boats.
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The additional land for active recreation, which includes playing fields or golf courses, comes at the expense of land for passive recreation like picnic areas, which would drop by 43 percent.
Other changes include creating a second possible location for a planned wildlife interpretive center. The center could be either along the southern edge of Mission Bay High School next to restored marshland or near the shore of De Anza Cove.
Officials also cemented their support Tuesday for prioritizing restoration of marshland, which helps fight sea-level rise and boosts the revival of habitats that were destroyed when the area was aggressively dredged decades ago.
The latest proposal, which city officials call De Anza Natural, includes 219 acres of marshland and another 38 acres of dunes and environmental buffers.
That’s a dramatic shift from a proposal approved in 2018 for the area by the Mission Bay Park Committee. That proposal included 120 acres of wetlands combined with more acres of camping and recreation, including a restaurant.
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City officials began considering major changes to the northeast corner of Mission Bay seven years ago when a large portion of the area became available for redevelopment after the closure of the De Anza Cove mobile home park.
The latest proposal is viewed by many as a major victory for environmentalists in their years-long battle with golfers, campers and recreation advocates over the prime area.
But campers and golfers aren’t left out.
The entire site of Campland by the Bay, a privately managed park for recreational vehicles, would be transformed into marshland. But new campsites would be created on De Anza Point. There are 48.5 acres for camping in the latest proposal.
The increase in the number of acres devoted to active recreation from 45 to 61 could boost prospects for the long-term survival of 46-acre Mission Bay Golf Course, the only lighted course in the area.
Under the previous proposal, the golf course would have been the area’s only active recreational use if it survived. Now the course could survive and there would also be 15 acres for tennis courts, playing fields and other active recreation.
The additional 15 acres for active recreation activities is south of the golf course driving range toward the bay. That area had been designated for passive recreation in the previous proposal, which was unveiled in January 2022.
“The De Anza Natural Plan does propose this significant increase in planned wetland areas, but it also takes into account the need to balance all of these other uses in a relatively small area of land,” said Heidi VonBlum, the city’s planning director.
The latest proposal does not specify the exact uses within the active recreation area. Vonblum said that will be decided by city parks staff in coming years when something called a general development plan for the area is created.
If the City Council approves a comprehensive plan for land uses in the area this year, city officials then must get final approval from the California Coastal Commission. After that, staff could begin creating the more specific development plan, Vonblum said.
Vonblum said the most recent revisions were prompted mostly by public feedback during the creation of the new city analysis, which is called an environmental impact report.
A key change is adding a third beach to the plan. Two beaches had already been planned for the north and south sides of De Anza Cove, which would be dramatically revamped by chopping a water channel through De Anza Point.
The third beach proposed would be just west of Interstate 5 and just north of an existing boat launch near East Mission Bay Drive.
With completion of the environmental impact review, city staff have also created a list of guiding policies for the redeveloped northeast corner of Mission Bay.
They include boosting access to the area for Native Americans, low-income residents and other people of color who have previously not had easy access, basing development decisions on boosting resistance to climate change and diversifying recreational space to serve more residents and more cultural groups.
Vonblum said the impacts analyzed in the EIR were relatively minor.
“I wouldn’t say there was anything eye-popping in there that made us pause and reconsider what was ultimately proposed,” she said.
While the latest proposal has been praised by environmentalists, it doesn’t include as many acres of new marshland as called for by a group called Rewild Mission Bay.
Concerns about sea level rise have prompted environmentalists to revise upward how much new marshland they want included in San Diego’s proposed redevelopment of Mission Bay Park’s northeast corner.
Of the 219 acres in marshland proposed by the city, only 140 acres would be new. The other 79 acres are the existing Kendall-Frost Marsh north of Crown Point.
Rewild says 227 acres of new marshland is needed to successfully fight sea level rise.