The California Coastal Commission has deadlocked on a decision to grant approval to the first phase of the North Embarcadero Visionary Plan, a project that would have redeveloped a one and a half mile area of Harbor Drive from Laurel Street to the G Street Mole.
The Commission panel was split 5-5 on the vote, which resulted in the project being rejected.
"We're extremely disappointed by the Commission's actions today," said Robert "Dukie" Valderrama, Chairman of the Board of Port Commissioners for the Port of San Diego. "More than a dozen years of planning between the city and the Port on this recreational project has been rejected. We believe this is a loss for the people of the San Diego region and for the people of the state of California."
This was the second time in two months that the project came before the Commission. At its February hearing in Oceanside, the Commission directed the Port and Coastal Commission staffs to meet and work on the details of special conditions that the Coastal Commission staff recommended for the project.
At issue was an oval park that was initially envisioned at the foot of Broadway Pier. The park was redesigned for a different area to accommodate a new cruise ship terminal being built at Broadway Pier. The Coastal Commission asked the Port to amend its project to include space for an alternative park. Port staff proposed three alternative locations for the park.
"Let's look at what this project would have brought: A promenade along the water, colorful trees and landscaping, and public restrooms, " said Charles Wurster, President & CEO of the Port. "The project also would have provided environmental protection through a system that prevents polluted runoff from entering San Diego Bay. It's a sad day for the Port, the city and the public we serve."
Other elements affecting the Commission's split vote were an indemnification issue and what the Commission felt was inadequate parking.
The Coastal Commission told the Port it needed to amend its Master Plan and re-submit its application for approval.
"We are not sure what our next move will be," said Valderrama. "We will spend several days in careful reflection, then make a decision about how to proceed. While disappointing, I'm very proud of the hours and hours of dedicated work by our Port staff on a project that we all deeply believe in."
The North Embarcadero Visionary Plan is a joint project between the Port of San Diego, Centre City Development Corporation and the City of San Diego. The first phase of the project covers an area from the B Street Cruise Ship Terminal to Navy Pier and a portion of West Broadway from Harbor Drive to just past Pacific Highway and the railroad tracks.
If the California Coastal Commission had approved the project today, the first phase could have begun as early as December 2010.