Much of Northeast Mission Bay Will Return to Marshland Under Mayor Gloria’s New Proposal

by on January 12, 2022 · 0 comments

in Environment, Ocean Beach, San Diego

On the eve of his State-of-the-City Address, Mayor Todd Gloria unveiled a stunning turnabout on a major environmental issue – the future of northeast Mission Bay. And it’s sure to win him accolades within San Diego’s environmental community.

On Tuesday, Gloria released his proposal to transform much of northeast Mission Bay into marshland – which has been demanded by environmentalists for years. It is a needed change in Mission Bay which will help fight sea level rise and restore animal habitats destroyed when beginning in the fifties, the huge shallow marshland and lagoon that we now know as Mission Bay, was aggressively dredged to make way for the largest aquatic park on the West Coast (some say it’s the largest in the world!).

For years, environmentalist – led by the Audubon’s ReWild Mission Bay project – have been pushing for more acreage as marshland; they’ve clashed with golfers, campers, recreation advocates, and restaurateurs over the fate of northeast Mission Bay, which became available for redevelopment five years ago when a mobile home park closed.

Gloria’s proposal is a turnaround for the City which in 2018 looked like it was moving on a recreation-heavy redevelopment plan over the marshland-heavy plan. However, in October 2020, a unanimous state Regional Water Quality Control Board for the San Diego region approved a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) that enabled the ReWild plan to be considered at the same level as the city’s own plan. That decision marked the culmination of a two-year effort by the ReWild Coalition since the ReWild Mission Bay Wetlands Restoration Feasibility Study was released to the public in Sept. 2018.

Gloria’s proposal includes:

  • 90 acres for recreation – including 5 acres of new beaches in Mission Bay’s northeast corner
  • the creation of a new channel near the center of De Anza Point, which would be part restored marshland and part campgrounds;
  • Campland would become entirely marsh;
  • golf course lies within the new plan’s blueprint for active recreation, so it could survive the transformation
  • 50 acres for camping, -includes roughly 600 campsites for either tents or RVs (compared to 53 acres and 838 camping slots now available)
  • 221 acres of marshland – the lion’s share of the area
  • 44 acres of dunes and environmental buffers.

Compare this to the decision by the Mission Bay Park Committee in 2018 to approve a proposal that only included 120 acres of wetlands combined with more acres of camping and recreation, including a restaurant. (One of the sole holdouts on the influential committee, the OB rep, voted against it.)

City planners now see that nature-based solutions like marshland are better than less-natural alternatives like giant sea walls.

According to David Garrick of the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Environmental groups welcomed the new proposal Tuesday, but warned it is not a final victory.

“This is a positive step forward, but there are many more steps the city needs to take here,” said Andrew Meyer, director of conservation at the San Diego Audubon Society. He said those steps include water quality efforts, making habitats contiguous and boosting access to nature for all San Diegans. …

The proposed marshland restoration would cost many millions, but city officials said they expect to obtain significant federal and state funding devoted to climate change and infrastructure.

The city is launching an analysis of the new proposal called a programmatic environmental impact report. Public comments can be submitted through Feb. 10. After that review is complete in roughly a year, the City Council is expected to vote on Gloria’s proposal sometime in 2023.

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