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Bayfront Master Plan takes one step forward

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The Chula Vista bayfront could look dramatically different over the next 10 years, as the city’s master plan to redevelop the area moves past local jurisdiction and onto state agencies.

In late May, the Environmental Impact Report and amendments to the Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan were approved by the Port of San Diego and Chula Vista's City Council, Redevelopment Corporation and Planning Commission.

This now moves the approximately 556-acre development -- west of Interstate 5 from E Street to Palomar Street -- to the State Lands Commission. The commission must hear and approve a proposed land trade, expected this fall.

Also, the California Coastal Commission will be asked to approve the Bayfront Master Plan amendments sometime next year. If both agencies approve the master plan, then development and construction can begin.

“It’s going to be an economic engine that will turn around Chula Vista,” said Robert “Dukie” Valderrama. He called it the biggest decision “that I will make as a member of the Port commission.” The Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan, which represents eight years of work from various people and agencies, calls for redeveloping land along Chula Vista's bayfront that includes a 1,500 condominium complex; a 1,500- to 2,000-room resort and conference center; three hotels; restaurants and retail shops; and approximately 230 acres of open space for parks and trails.

Some of the amendments to the master plan included a buffer zone to protect sensitive wildlife habitat and species.

“Our community deserves a world-class bayfront as a regional asset that also improves the quality of life in our city, and today we took a major step forward,” said Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox. “This project will bring thousands of new jobs to Chula Vista and the South Bay, as well as millions of dollars in annual revenues to provide for a healthy bayfront, create parks and build an inviting environment that showcases our waterfront for residents and visitors.”

The Bayfront Master Plan is expected to generate $1.3 billion for the regional economy over a 20-year period, including more than $11.5 million in annual tax revenues. A new hotel and conference center could create more than 2,000 permanent jobs and more than 6,500 construction jobs.

Most people who spoke during the public comment portion of the special joint meeting approved of the plan, but some residents criticized it for not having enough beachfront area for the public nor an area dedicated to a sports complex.

Stephen Padilla, who represents Chula Vista on the Board of Port Commissioners, said there were more than 100 public and outreach meetings and that compromises had to be made from environmental groups, the city of Chula Vista and the Port so that the Master Plan could move forward.

According to the Port, the Bayfront Master Plan is expected to pay for itself, with the majority of improvements to be funded with revenues generated by new development within the project area.

Financing is expected to be managed through a Joint Powers Authority established by the Port and the city of Chula Vista.

On June 8, Chula Vista voters passed Proposition G, an initiative that bans collective bargaining agreements like project labor agreements that call for union-only workers on a construction project.

Cox said once this “fair and open competition” ballot measure goes into effect later this year, it would lower the cost of projects in the city such as those that could be part of the Bayfront Master Plan.

“If the Bayfront Master Plan is passed by the Coastal Commission, then you will get a larger group of contractors bidding on projects, creating more competition and thus lowering costs,” she said.

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