Two new supporters – an environmental activist and a labor spokesman – have joined Mission Bay water users protesting expansion plans for Bahia Resort Hotel.
“The Mission Bay Park Master Plan (MBPMP) requires that development on Bahia Point retain Gleason Road,” said former City Councilmember Donna Frye. “The public deserves better. At a minimum, there needs to be an environmental analysis for the project where all the facts can be reviewed, along with a full staff report and not rushed through as a lease amendment.”
Frye added the requirement to retain Gleason Road “Appears to have been left out of the developer’s presentation that was shown to both the Mission Bay Park Committee and the Parks and Recreation Board before they voted. The information led to a false belief that the development was consistent with the MBPMP, when it was not.”
Bahia resort wants to nearly double its capacity, expanding from 315 to 600 rooms, while adding a 10-foot walkway and 20-foot grass area around Bahia Point park. That would necessitate shifting current public parking along Gleason Road from the periphery to the interior of Bahia’s peninsula. Detractors claim that would be a hardship on water users, denying public access to Bahia Point, a popular launching spot for standup paddle boards, kayaks and other watercraft.
Hotelier Bill Evans answered that his proposed parking changes will reconfigure – not eliminate – existing onsite parking, shifting it away from Gleason Road and into the peninsula’s interior.
Evans is holding to that view.
“We are continuing to work with the City on the specifics,” Evans told Beach & Bay Press. “At this time, we have nothing to add beyond what was presented to the Mission Bay Park Committee – which overwhelmingly agreed the proposal is consistent with the Mission Bay Park Master Plan – and the City of San Diego Park and Recreation Board – which voted unanimously to recommend the proposal to the City. We look forward to adding a grass recreation area around all of Bahia Point, as well as almost one-mile of pedestrian and bicycle pathways.”
The controversy began early in January when San Diego Park and Recreation Board’s Mission Bay Park Committee voted near-unanimously to affirm Evans Hotels’ proposed expansion and parking changes on its existing site at 998 W. Mission Bay Drive. The board accepted the hotelier’s view that that action would be consistent with the master plan.
But Giovanni Ingolia, an Ocean Beach Town Council member, who also sits on the Mission Bay Park Committee, didn’t agree.
“There are parts of [Evans plan] that are in line with the master plan, and parts of it that are not. That’s why I voted against it,” he said. “One hundred percent of Gleason Road needs to be (retained) in the master plan. We can’t just cherry pick what parts are in the plan, and what parts are not, and then just rubber stamp it.”
Added Ingolia: “The east side (of Bahia peninsula) is supposed to expand access for water users by taking out the road and just putting in a bike path. Who’s going to want to drag a kayak or a paddle board down a bike path?”
Some neighbors and water users are claiming Bahia’s expansion proposal would eliminate 170 of 270 parking spaces while decreasing public beach access.
“Evans’ proposal would not only redo the hotel, but extend its boundaries over Gleason Road and eliminate public access moving parking somewhere else,” said Rick Bates, spokesman for Unite Here, hospitality union Local 30. “Is that right, and consistent, with the master plan? That [beach] was meant for public use, not to privatize it, or parcel it out for long-term leases.”
Greg Knight, a Mission Bay recreationalist and co-organizer of Bahia expansion opposition, said the project can still be stopped.
“Right now it is scheduled to go in front of the Smart Growth and Land Use Committee on Oct. 17, and they will vote on whether they will recommend it to the City Council,” Knight said. “We believe (fingers crossed) it will get a no vote. It would then go to the actual City Council. After that, It would go to the Coastal Commission for either final approval — or changes.”
“What Evans Hotels is doing is trying to get a development plan approved using a lease amendment as a vehicle,” contended union rep Bates. “It’s the wrong process. What he really needs to do is a master plan amendment.”
Added Bates, “But I understand why he would not want to go that route, because it’s much more expensive, takes much more public participation, and would trigger a new environmental impact report, which takes time.”