Now that Chula Vista's long-awaited bayfront development plan has the go-ahead from the state Coastal Commission, how long will it be until the 'dream becomes reality?
The city, the San Diego Unified Port District and South Bay movers and shakers are working with the largest remaining stretch of coastal land that could be developed south of San Francisco.
The makeover calls for up to $2 billion in private investments over two decades.
If the money's there, the area's 'ship' could finally come in.
"It's a game-changer for Chula Vista, it's huge for the region,” says Chula Vista City Mgr. Jim Sandoval. “And it's one of the biggest economic development projects in the state of California … I believe Chula Vista's going to be one of the great West Coast cities, and this is one of the major projects that'll make it happen.”
Nearly half of the 556-acre site will become parklands and nature preserves.
The rest, a so-called "mixed-use" complex anchored by a resort-conference center, 1500 condominiums, new RV park, offices, and commercial space.
Environmental groups signed off on the master plan, and coastal commissioners unanimously approved it following an hour-long public hearing Thursday in Santa Cruz.
But other community activists who lent their support have doubts that it will reach full "build-out," given its size, scope and economic realities.
“If you read the plan, it's all dependent on some big hotel coming in, and the city and the port are going to pay for the Convention Center,” says Peter Watry Jr., a retired Southwestern College economics professor who serves as vice president of Crossroads II, a community advocacy group in Chula Vista.
“When you're that dependent on one big thing -- fifty-fifty chance," Watry added. “I've been trying to find somebody to bet me that ten years from now, it won't look just like it does now. And I haven't gotten any takers so far."
Sandoval says he’ll gladly take Watry’s bet.
“There’s an extremely strong hotel market; San Diego County’s second in the nation,” he said in an interview Friday, before South Bay civic leaders celebrated the Coastal Commission’s decision during a news conference in Bayside Park.
"We're going to be looking for financing not only in the U.S., where money is tight, but we're actually going to be look abroad,” Sandoval continued. “And we don't feel like we'll have a problem finding a developer. It's going to be finding the money to build, and I think we know where to look."
Chula Vista merchants and businesses say they can’t overstate the undertaking’s potential economic impact on the area.
"The trickle-down effect's going to be huge,” says Adam Sparks, president of the Third Avenue Village Assn. “And it's going to be defining not just for Chula Vista, but South Bay and San Diego are going to feel the huge economic impact. I mean, over the next 20 year's there's going to be billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.”
Assuming full build-out, officials say the development projects could create 7,000-construction jobs and 2,200 permanent jobs -- and generate around $180 million in revenue for Chula Vista and the Port District over 20 years.
But city officials acknowledge that major groundbreaking ceremonies may three years away.