San Diego Audubon Critical of City’s New Options for DeAnza Cove in Mission Bay

by on June 30, 2017 · 5 comments

in Ocean Beach

Kendall-Frost Mission Bay Marsh Reserve

Last night at Mission Bay High School, the city unveiled two of its alternative plans for De Anza Cove before community members and the De Anza Revitalization Plan Ad-hoc Committee .

David Garrick at the San Diego Union-Tribune reported on the revised plans:

Mission Bay’s northeast corner would be transformed into a combination of marshland, public-private recreation, camping areas and a restaurant … The two proposals would also preserve but reconfigure Mission Bay Golf Course, create nature lookout points, fill a missing link for bicyclists, add a vehicle entrance off Grand Avenue and centralize parking areas.

The public-private recreation would include boat rentals and a family-friendly “adventure play” area modeled after popular Maggie Daley Park in Chicago, which includes free features and some requiring fees like rock climbing and skating.

Immediately, San Diego Audubon representatives, while praising the City for improving its former models of development first released last November by integrating more wildlife habitat and water quality improvements, were highly critical of the current alternatives.

The environmental group, in a press release, stated:

”…while the De Anza Revitalization project is vital to the survival of the endangered species that rely on Mission Bay’s remnant wetland areas, it does very little to correct the bay-wide imbalance that has for decades favored commerce and recreation at the expense of the environment.”

The group said “misguided priorities” are driving San Diego’s De Anza Cove plans and the city has “a shortsighted approach to protecting Mission Bay.”

Audubon has its own project to revitalized the northern areas of Mission Bay, called ReWild Mission Bay but prioritizes the re-establishment of more marshlands.

Audubon Director of Conservation and Ad-hoc Committee Vice Chair Rebecca Schwartz Lesberg stated:

“Both of the De Anza Revitalization plans reconnect Kendall-Frost Marsh with Rose Creek, which will help the remaining 40 acres of wetlands survive.

What is missing from both alternatives is the long-term view to ensure wetlands can continue to create cleaner water, buffer communities from sea level rise, provide habitat for wildlife, and get people out in nature. If they disappear, so do those services.”

Audubon’s ReWild Mission Bay plans are to restore up to 170 acres of wetlands in the northeast corner of Mission Bay in a way that is resilient to sea level rise, plans which overlap with the De Anza Revitalization Plan. How the City chooses to revitalize De Anza Cove will directly impact how ReWild is able to restore the sensitive wetlands in northeast Mission Bay.

Audubon’s Executive Director Chris Redfern stated in their press release:

“Over the past few months, City planners have engaged with the ReWild Mission Bay project team and have made a good-faith effort to include and configure habitat in their planning area.

However, the direction given to them by City leadership to include both 40 acres of guest housing and retain an 18-hole golf course in the planning area have left little room to accommodate habitat.

As a result, the plans ultimately fail to adequately safeguard the area from the impacts of climate change.”

New City Options


More from San Diego Audubon:

According to the City’s Mission Bay Park Master Plan, which serves as the guiding document for the City of San Diego’s De Anza Revitalization Plan, planning for this area must include wetlands restoration and improvements aimed at protecting those marsh areas.

The Master Plan states, “we have learned, through the painful mistakes of yesterday’s ignorance and myopia, that we cannot view the natural environment as something apart from the human race.” Schwartz says this is the City of San Diego’s last chance to implement these lessons learned and plan for a future in Mission Bay that protects the natural environment and our communities.

To adequately protect wetlands in Mission Bay, the City would need to dedicate at least 200 acres of this planning area — less than five percent of Mission Bay — to habitat. The plans currently only have around 30 – 40 acres at De Anza and about 60 acres at Campland set aside for wetlands, increasing the less than two percent of wetlands in the bay to only less than three percent. The Master Plan allows for this kind of forward-thinking restoration, but the City would need to change the underlying priorities (namely, fitting both golf and guest housing into the planning area) that have driven this process. Additionally, one of the plans has high intensity uses, such as restaurants, adventure play, and boat rental, right next to the wetlands, which could negatively impact sensitive species that dwell in the marsh.

Wetlands — including marshes, mud flats, riverbanks, and more — play an important role in San Diego’s quality of life, as they attract wildlife, foster a diverse ecosystem, improve water quality and protect communities from flooding by providing a cushion during high tides. Today, only about one percent of the historic 4,500 acres of Mission Bay wetlands remain, making the restoration of the wetlands in Northeast corner of the bay a critical and time-sensitive project for the area.

The City says they will refine these plans based on public input and take updated plans to the Mission Bay Park Committee in the fall to chose the preferred alternative. From there, the plans will go through environmental review in 2018 before going for approval by the Coastal Commission in 2019.

“These plans seem to be an attempt to please the highest number of people today”, says Schwartz. “But this is not a popularity contest. The City needs to be willing to make potentially tough decisions and do what is best for the region over the long term. The ReWild team looks forward to continued dialogue with City Planners to develop a final plan for the area that provides a habitat resilient to climate change and opportunities for the public to engage with nature in this otherwise urban setting.”

For more information about ReWild Mission Bay, please visit To learn more about the San Diego Audubon Society, please click here.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

retired botanist June 30, 2017 at 3:04 pm

Without even reading further… get rid of the golf course and the restaurant under any of the alternatives, and reconfigure those acreages as function and service wetlands…Hullo…! And the ‘raised boardwalk and trail’ sound way better than an ‘adventure park”.


Debbie July 1, 2017 at 11:45 am

Agreed ditch the golf course…that only requires maintenance and water. Why allow any housing? Did they just not kick out all the homeowners.

Retired botanist….is correct. No adventure park….the area needs to be restored so show people what peace and beauty and nature feel like, something their phone cannot provide.


Judy Swink July 2, 2017 at 12:20 pm

The “housing” is not residential but vacation visitor housing like the hotels – and like what was supposed to be at De Anza before the City allowed the travel trailers to become full-time residential homes. That is an illegal use and will not be allowed to happen again.

What is planned is a replacement for the RV camping now available at Campland though it has been suggested that some of the 40-acre leasehold could include small rental cabins if a lessee desires to include them. Obviously, if that is the case, we all must keep an eye out to ensure they are and remain short term rental cabins. “Tiny House” design would work for this but there remains a huge demand for RV camping access for overnight stays at Mission Bay Park and that should remain the predominant use.


Judy Swink July 2, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Frank, excellent article, thank you.


Camper July 19, 2017 at 12:11 pm

Lose the golf course, keep the campsites, restore the wetlands! It’s really that simple.

(by the way…the “guest housing” on the plans is mislabeled. These are campsite for short term visitors in RVs. Same thing you have now at Mission Bay RV park. This is NOT the condemned trailer park….that thing is getting torn down.)


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