Port of San Diego’s Master Plan Discussion Draft


The Port of San Diego (PSD) has been seeking (and continues to seek) public feedback on its Master Plan Discussion Draft — and boy, has the community provided it!

You can read the Discussion Draft at

More than 3,000 (and counting) comment letters were submitted to the PSD during the 90-day review period of the draft, which was shared online more than three months ago, said staff. The letters address a myriad of concerns — and oftentimes outright disapproval — of a variety of the proposal’s elements; the possible fudging of the 30-foot coastal height limits, pitches to increase the number of hotels, and the announcement of the removal of historic piers along La Playa Trail.

PSD planning director Lesley Nishihira told Point Loma-OB Monthly that the Port is “barely scratching the surface of gleaning what the issues are.” The Port of San Diego is a self-supporting public-benefit corporation established in 1962 by an act of the California State Legislature. The Discussion Draft — under development since 2013 — was created to be a comprehensive framework for growth within the Port District.

Density and Height Limits

The majority of qualms with the Master Plan Discussion Draft were location-specific or community-based, she pointed out. For example, Point Loma and Coronado shared apprehensions over height limit and density. With 1,119 hotel rooms currently located on Shelter Island — and a proposal to add another 1,600 to the Shelter Island Planning District — the community had a lot to say.

“The addition of 1,300 (or more) hotel rooms?” questioned several members of Silver Gate Yacht Club in separately signed letters submitted to the Port. “There is not enough square footage to accomplish this. The rooms can be built by increasing the height of the buildings and blocking the views of everyone along the waterfront behind Shelter Island. Where are you planning on parking the cars and how are you controlling the additional traffic?”

Other concerns came over the proposal to add more walkways throughout Shelter Island. This idea, along with wanting to create a more robust water transit system (water taxis, ferries, etc.), falls in with the Port’s vision to make public spaces more accessible, Nishihira said, and get people to rely less on vehicles in congested areas.

The Port’s mission, she added, is a State-wide, trust purpose mission: the Port must find a balance between recreation, environmental stewardship, commerce, navigation and fishing. For Shelter Island, specifically, Nishihira said the Port wants to ensure it is promoting and sustaining water-dependent uses, such as fishing and vessel repair, while also providing amenities and public space for those visiting the region and looking to recreate along the waterfront.

Peninsula Planning Board meeting

Those who attended the Peninsula Community Planning Board meeting July 18 vehemently expressed disapproval that the PSD seemed to lack an understanding or appreciation for the way the drafted Master Plan could affect nearby residents. “You’ve been insensitive to the people who live here,” said one commenter.

Others shared concerns about proposed new walkways bringing in transients (“Does the Port have a plan to deal with health issues and crime that will come with an increase in density?”); the walkways around the perimeter of the yacht clubs (“People pay for those!”); climate change and the ensuing rise in water levels.

Nishihira emphasized that the draft plan was just meant to be the framework for future developments. It is not a project-specific plan — it sets up what potential development could be implemented over the next 30 years. Therefore, many of the questions posed, though taken for future consideration, have no answers yet.

Among residents’ apprehensions were what Nishihira called “misunderstandings.”

Misconception 1: La Playa Bayside Trail

Nishihira clarified the misunderstandings with Point Loma-OB Monthly.

The La Playa Bayside Trail, described in the Port’s draft as “an existing bayside nature trail located in the Shelter Island Yacht Basin from Talbot Street to Qualtrough Street (that) continues southwest to eventually connect to Kellogg coastal access,” is one of the community’s favorite walks. It offers a gorgeous view of the bay and gently rocking sailboats. The path is the perfect width for two strolling side by side, but not wide enough to handle a Sunset Cliffs-at-sunset-sized crowd.

So the Port’s statement on Page 131 of the draft, PD1.38, caused some locals to shudder. It reads: “Create a walkway on Anchorage Lane with a minimum width of 12 feet, or wider where physically feasible, from east of the Talbot Street trailhead to Shelter Island Drive.”

The PCPB meeting attendees stated their opposition to any plans for paving the trail or adding bathrooms and benches along it.

Nishihira explained the Port is absolutely not proposing to pave the trail, and that the only location where the Port may add public amenities is at the trail head (where there is already a large boulder with a plaque). Furthermore, the Port does not plan on adding a bathroom nor benches along the length of the trail; it will potentially add park benches or a shade structure at the trail head only.

Because areas of the trail have eroded, the Port intends to maintain it, but does not intend to widen the whole trail, only the trail head at Anchorage Lane.

“The preference is that it remain very natural,” Nishihira said, “that it not become a super-wide thoroughfare where all of a sudden you see the kind of level of activity you see along the Embarcadero in front of the Maritime Museum. That’s not the type of appropriate walkway that belongs on the La Playa shoreline.

Page 30, PD1.34 states: “The La Playa Trail shall remain unpaved and not be expanded more than six feet in width, in order to maintain the atmosphere and character of a natural trail.”

Misconception 2: Removal of boat ramp parking

Another weighty issue expressed through letters to the PSD was the fear it was proposing to remove the parking at the boat launch ramp and replace it with a dog park.

“We have no idea where that idea came from,” Nishihira said. Possibly, because the green-colored area of the map is labeled as the boat launch ramp parking lot, a number of people worry that the Port would be getting rid of the parking. But the Port has no intention of doing so.

Misconception 3: La Playa piers

The historic La Playa piers may have a big fan club of Peninsula residents, but this group is butting heads with the Port’s mission as a trustee agency for the State of California.

With the exception of the La Playa Yacht Club Pier, all piers and docks in the West Shelter Island subdistrict that are residential or quasi-private residential will be removed within two years of certification of the Port Master Plan. Regardless of the public’s disapproval, Nishihira pointed out that though this may be news to some people, it has actually been a long-held, never-fulfilled agreement with the California Coastal Commission.

The piers were there before the first Port Master Plan was ever adopted, she stated, and go back to before the Coastal Act in 1976. The piers were originally attached to residential homes, and unfortunately, the Port’s duties lie with public land and managing that land on behalf of the public. Therefore, when the 1980 Port Master Plan was taken to the Coastal Commission to be certified in 1981, the Commission acknowledged the distinction and required that the Port either make the piers 100 percent public, or remove them.

The new Port Master Plan Discussion Draft simply re-iterates a former agreement to remove the piers, Nishihira said.

Want to know more?

The next PSD Draft Discussion community workshop will take place at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28 at the Portuguese Hall, 2818 Avenida De Portugal. Because parking is limited, additional public parking will be available in the two lots on either side of Anchorage Lane, directly off Shelter Island Drive, as well as at all the meters along Anchorage Lane, which will NOT require payment after 5 p.m. (this night only) to further provide parking for the meeting.


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