West Coast
The Wyatt Pier along the La Playa Trail in Shelter Island is one of four residential piers in jeopardy of being torn down as part of the Port Master Plan Update.(Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

California: ‘Leave Shelter Island alone’ — community rejects port’s changes to waterfront areas

Hundreds of unsettled residents attended a discussion session hosted by the port

Shelter Island is fine the way it is.

That’s according to hundreds of vocal community members who packed the Portuguese Hall in Point Loma Wednesday night hoping to sway, occasionally using a threatening or accusatory tone, Port of San Diego staffers and commissioners to rethink forward-looking coastal plans that attendees fear will destroy the character of their town.

The discussion session was scheduled as port planners are working through changes to the Port Master Plan Update, which was released in draft form in late April.

The document, first started in 2013, sets the framework for what can and cannot be built in the port’s jurisdiction, an area that spans 34 miles of waterfront from Shelter Island to Coronado.

A final version of the land-use document is expected to be presented to the agency’s board for approval this year. Later, following an environmental review, it will be given to the California Coastal Commission to certify.

The 327-page plan dedicates just 14 pages to the Shelter Island area, but the small section has led to a state of outsized panic, some of which can be attributed to occasionally ambiguous planning language or misinformation picked up and spread through messages on Facebook and Nextdoor.

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GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT

Your pier or mine? La Playa docks are dredging up big controversy in this upscale Shelter Island area / Aug. 24, 2019

The port’s vision for Shelter Island includes as many as 1,600 additional hotel rooms (there are 1,119 now), a narrowing of Scott Street, public access paths around the perimeter of yacht clubs and changes meant to increase visitation to the La Playa Trail.

Four of the five small piers that dot the unpaved trail, which starts at Talbot Street and continues to Kellogg Beach, must also be made entirely public or removed, according to the document.

“I’m concerned about all of it. Nobody wants any of it,” said Rachel Anderson, who lives on Albion Street a few blocks from the La Playa Trail. “I know (the port commissioners) don’t live in the area, but it is the most beautiful place to walk. I used to live in Carmel Valley and I’m so excited that I don’t live there anymore.”

Anderson’s comments echoed those of many in attendance. Others spoke about the plan’s traffic implications or unwarranted changes to on-street parking. Some questioned the agency’s motivation, believing that the port was favoring money-making endeavors over neighborhood character.

The remarks were in keeping with earlier feedback. The port received 3,878 pages of comments to its draft Port Master Plan. Letters railing against the Shelter Island plans comprised a substantial portion of those pages.

Wednesday evening, three of the port’s seven appointed commissioners — Ann Moore, Marshall Merrifield and Garry Bonelli — sought to get a better handle on the discontent. The commissioners tried to assuage attendees with a promise to take back all of their concerns to the full board on Sept. 16. At that board meeting, they said, commissioners can direct staff on how to proceed with changes to the master plan.

“I want to remind everybody that this is just a draft. This is not the final product. I can guarantee you that, based on what I heard tonight, it is not going to look like this,” Moore said.

It’s unclear whether the port can do anything to appease people on one of the more contentious issues: The La Playa Piers.

The piers are considered residential and not allowed on public tidelands because, although parts are open to the public, access is restricted to the floating docks where boats are docked.

The Coastal Commission, which is the higher ranking authority, is standing by a decades-only determination that they must be public or torn down.

See The San Diego Union-Tribune article . . .