San Diego Park and Rec Board Gives Go-Ahead to Hotelier Bill Evans’ Public Land Grab at Mission Bay

by on January 19, 2018 · 5 comments

in Ocean Beach

Expansion Project Nearly Doubles Bahia Resort – Eliminates Public Parking

On Thursday, January 18th, the San Diego Park and Recreation Board gave the go-ahead to hotelier Bill Evans’ plans for his public land grab at Mission Bay.  At the end of the public presentations and discussion, the board voted 10-0 in favor of recommending the San Diego City Council approve Evans’ expansion project – that would nearly double his Bahia Resort – with no modifications.

Yet, one of the main organizers of the stiff opposition that mobilized in just a few weeks, on the group’s facebook urged his fellows on:

That does not mean this fight is over, it is actually just beginning…. If you were one of the many involved, please don’t put your head down, but feel proud about how much has been accomplished in such a short time. 

What’s this all about?

Dave Rice at the San Diego Reader explains:

Hundreds of kayakers, mini sailboat enthusiasts, and stand-up paddlers showed up to a meeting two weeks ago, saying they were blindsided by plans to nearly double the size of the Bahia Resort from 315 to 600 rooms. In the process, the resort would reconfigure the ground it leases from the city, gaining about an acre of land to the east and north of its current holdings.

At issue is the loss of about 300 parking spaces that run the length of the Bahia Point peninsula, favored by bay users because of close proximity to sandy beaches from which their vessels can be launched. About a third of those spaces would be replaced by a parking lot partway down the point, but most of the public parking would be relocated to areas where launching and retrieving craft would require scrambling over riprap boulders placed to prevent erosion control.

That meeting Rice refers to was the January 2nd meeting of the Mission Bay Park Committee, which voted to the Evans’ project their green light. This reporter ran into the Ocean Beach representative on that committee, Gio Ingolia, the other night after the OB Town Hall meeting. I asked him about that January 2nd meeting – and he said, rather exasperatedly, “I was the only one who voted against the plan!”

It was all part of the process. Once the Mission Bay Park board approved it, it went to the full Park and Rec Board, and now it goes to the San Diego City Council.

Dave Rice was at Thursday’s meeting and estimated there were about 15 speakers who voiced opposition to any approval of the project and only about one third of that who spoke in support. Rice quotes Clarke Graves who spoke on the loss of parking:

“This other parking would be located in parts of the park that are designated swim zones. That’s a tremendous danger for watergoers both in the water and on craft.” …

Dave reported:

Opponents also attacked the master plan itself, arguing that developments over the 20-plus years since its adoption warranted a second look at the trade-offs required of the Bahia to have its expansion granted.

“The master plan is out of date due to the immense growth in the use of one-man canoes, surf skis, and, more recently, stand-up paddleboards,” offered opponent Gary Cannon. “The city didn’t anticipate the growth in these new activities when it adopted the plan in 1996.”

Rice also reports, city staff handled most of the presentations, but “local hotel magnate Bill Evans was on hand to personally handle promotion.”

In our previous post, we noted:

Evans is one of the top hoteliers in the City, a man of great influence, someone who has contributed mightily to the campaigns of Republican mayoral candidates – like Kevin Faulconer, Jerry Sanders and Carl DeMaio.

Rice also quoted Evans’ claim that his resort expansion is somehow “codified in the Mission Bay Park Master Plan, drafted in 1994 and approved by the city in 1996.”

Rice explained more background:

As part of the expansion, the Bahia is required to install a 20′ strip of grass and 10′ bicycle/pedestrian path around the point — while the grass exists alongside parking on the west and north sides currently, the west side is currently blocked to the public and the exclusive domain of resort guests.

Both Evans and his supporters argued that this public access improvement was of greater benefit than the current parking for small-craft boaters, offering the observation that far more bay visitors opt to partake in shore-based activities like casual cycling. Opponents countered that by eliminating parking adjacent to the grass, local visitors seeking to launch craft, picnic, or hold bonfires would be discouraged from carrying their supplies an excessive distance from the consolidated parking lot, creating a de facto private amenity for resort guests.

“Anybody who makes a claim that this is going to restrict public access,” Evans told the committee, “they just haven’t read the plan. This is going to be the biggest win for Mission Bay Park casual users who come here to bike on the weekends that we’ve seen in a very long time. This is a great opportunity. Is it going to limit some people’s access? Yes. But what it’s mostly going to do is ease access.”

Evans suggested that small-craft users relocate to nearby Mariner’s, El Carmel, or Santa Clara point launches, while boardmember Katherine Johnston suggested Fiesta Island, a launch site on the east side of the bay dominated by motorized water traffic such as jet skis. …

Rice concluded:

After public comment concluded, committee members took turns praising Evans and his plan, which after completion would net the city an estimated $5 million annually in extra revenue, 35 percent of which would be available for parks and recreation use outside Mission Bay. He responded positively both to a suggestion that an alteration to the resort plan be considered to allow short-term vehicle access to the existing launch sites (though plans call for the construction of hotel buildings where the existing Gleason Road access is sited), and to a request from boardmember Marcella Bothwell to promise to provide staff members with golf carts to assist elderly paddlers with transporting their vessels from the parking lot to the water.

The board ultimately voted 10-0 in favor of recommending that the city council approve the Bahia expansion with no modifications.

Here’s CBS8 news report on the meeting.

Meanwhile, opposition organizer, Greg Knight, urged other members of the Citizens and Paddlers against the Bahia Hotel land grab on Bahia Point, to not give up, on the group’s facebook:

While many of you have already heard, the Parks and Rec board has approved the Bahia expansion project. That does not mean this fight is over, it is actually just beginning. A lot of people from this group have put in a lot of work going to meetings, researching legal issues, web sites, power point presentations, contacting politicians, getting the word out on the ground, and much much more.

Quick facts: We had 15 days to put together all our information and presentations. Bahia has had 20+years.

We have no budget, Bahia has unlimited $$$.

We currently have no political ties, Evans is a main supporter of many key political figures.

We have had to volunteer all our time for speaking, meetings, etc. Bahia has had speakers that were on payroll representing and speaking for their project.

If you were one of the many involved, please don’t put your head down, but feel proud about how much has been accomplished in such a short time. If you haven’t been involved yet, please get involved. The power of a group like this is the number of people and we need everyone.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar ZZ January 19, 2018 at 1:30 pm

In the last few days one of the buildings on the beach block of newport near the pizza place and holding co was demolished completely. I think it was a vacant clothing store. Any idea what is happening with it?

It is a tarp-covered eyesore at the moment, but this happened such a short time ago I can’t complaint, yet.

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Avatar Christo January 19, 2018 at 2:38 pm

It WAS The Holding Company. New building going up with second story and deck.

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Avatar val January 19, 2018 at 4:21 pm

That is THC, not a clothing store. They are completely remodeling.

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Avatar Peter from South O January 19, 2018 at 1:59 pm

This will require the approval of the Costal Commission, and public access denial is a PRIMARY reason for them opposing applications like this one. Greg Knight is correct: this is just the START of the fight.

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Avatar Peter from South O January 19, 2018 at 2:00 pm

umm . . . Coastal Commission (brain fart)

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