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Bayfront concessions made Allison K. Sampité | Sat, Aug 04 2012 12:00 PM

After raising issues for more than two years about the Chula Vista bayfront master plan, members of a community group, the city of Chula Vista and San Diego Unified Port District signed a letter of agreement addressing some of their concerns.

Crossroads II has been actively participating in the city’s bayfront development planning. Between March 2010 and June 2012 they made five suggested changes.

On July 13 the group submitted a petition with 630 signatures to the California Coastal Commission. After reviewing the proposals the San Diego Unified Port and city staff agreed to make fundamental changes to the bayfront plan and signed a letter of agreement last week revising the document.

The city and port had up until recently supported the Sweetwater Park Plan, which includes 1,500 condos, four hotels and a 2,000-room resort center.

Crossroads members instead support what they call “the better bayfront plan,” which proposes a combination of two other development plans, the harbor park and reduced density plans, which includes a 35-acre, centrally-located landmark park on the water.

Also, the agreement calls for  20 acres of active waterfront park land that will be connected across a marsh inlet to 21 acres of passive park to the north by a new bridge for use by pedestrians and bicycles only.

In addition, the changes include protecting Chula Vista Marine Group Boat Works, a family-owned, full-service boat and super yacht refit and repair facility that occupies more than 15 acres of land and water.

Over the years the company has donated more than $100,000 in resources to local schools and non-profits and has purchased an average of $7.4 million in materials and services from local suppliers. It also employs more than 130 people.

A 20-year lease extension was signed with the Marine Group Boat Works July 10.

Crossroads II Vice President Peter Watry says the harbor park plan reduces the density of bayfront development by more than 30 percent and includes a minimum building setback of 50 feet from J Street, allowing for more viewing opportunities for the public.

The city-port plan also includes high-rise buildings. Watry said the structures block the view of the bay. The agreement states it will lower buildings to accommodate better viewing of the bayfront.

In addition, 25,000 square feet of building space will be reserved for cultural uses such as museums and performance space.

Watry said that while the group  did not get everything it asked for, they feel it is a reasonable compromise.

“You can make that boat yard a really interesting thing to attract people,” he said. “They also pay very good salaries. They have high-paying skilled jobs.”

Crossroads II had opposed the bayfront plan since 2010, when they say the Environmental Health Coalition and port had nine months of secret negotiations, days before signing a deal on May 18 that put very severe restrictions on the park, including no athletic field amenities, amplified sound equipment or reservations for group events.

“The Coastal Commission hasn’t really been involved in any negotiations,” said Crossroads II’s David Danciu. “It’s just been us, the city and the port.”

Chula Vista Mobile Home Residents Association President Penny Vaughn attended a three-day Coastal Commission hearing held last month at City Hall on the bayfront plan.

“We support increasing the public park land for Chula Vista residents,” Vaughn said. “The preponderance of mobile home parks are in the southwest Chula Vista area and they use that park.”

Chula Vista Assistant City Manager Gary Halbert said the discussion with Crossroads II members and others has been helpful.

“I think that the number of things brought forward by Crossroads resulted in changes that make for a better project,” Halbert said. “We wouldn’t agree to anything that we didn’t think was an improvement or neutral for the project.”

Watry said with Coastal Commission approval, the better bayfront plan will create at least a 20-acre landmark park on the water, preserve good jobs, create less future gridlock on Interstate 5 and maintain environmental protections.

The final approval for the master plan is Thursday, Aug. 9, at the coastal commission meeting.


A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the coastal commission meeting would take place Aug. 2

The meeting was Thursday, Aug. 9. The Star-news regrets the error.


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