Long-delayed plans to develop Chula Vista's waterfront are finally seeing smooth sailing toward becoming a reality.
The end result figures to be a huge economic boost to an area hard-hit by the recession.
"It's 550 acres of prime waterfront property,” says Ann Moore, the city of Chula Vista’s representative to the board of commissioners of the San Diego Unified Port District. “ It's probably the biggest area left to develop south of San Francisco."
South Bay residents can't help but envy how San Diego and Coronado have been able to develop their bayfronts.
For more than three decades, Chula Vista's efforts fallen short many times.
But now, the stars and planet' seem almost aligned to make things happen.
"According to our economic studies,” Moore said in an interview Friday, “the first 20 years that this project gets going, it's going to put a billion dollars into the South Bay region."
In the joint public venture, Chula Vista and Port officials are looking at as many as four hotels, a couple of industrial/business parks, some mixed-use commercial and residential projects, and a second marina.
Much of the area encompasses the site of the South Bay Power Plant, scheduled for dismantling in October.
During the build out process, 7,000 construction workers are expected to be hired.
"That's a really good thing,” said Chula Vista resident Rich Rodriguez, on a family outing Friday to Bayside Park’s playgrounds in Chula Vista’s Marina area. “If anybody's been hit the hardest, it's construction. A lot of the construction companies -- it'll be really good for them."
A key selling point is that leading environmental groups are on board with the plan, which keeps 220 acres for open space.
Officials note that as a courtesy, the state Coastal Commission has agreed to take early public input during its meeting in Chula Vista next month, with a formal hearing on the project targeted for August in Santa Cruz.
"This is a real quality plan, and it addresses everything that needs to be addressed,” says Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce vice president Steve Miesen. “Let's move forward. Let's do it."
Backers hope the development will have appeal far beyond South Bay, and that hotel guests and tourists will spread the word about an emerging “destination” in the San Diego region.
"Lots of people come from LA and just go to Gaslamp, go to concerts and stuff,” said Imperial Beach resident Karina Hopper, enjoying a family picnic Friday in Bayside Park. “I think it's good. I think it's a change we should have done a long time ago."
Chula Vistans vividly recall enduring a major setback to the plan in late 2008, when Gaylord Hotel hotels pulled the plug on a resort project that faced regulatory hurdles and economic issues, including a project labor agreement.
Chula Vista voters later banned PLAs.
That move, along with other anti-PLA measures in San Diego and throughout the state, is now subject to a potentially costly political reprisal in Sacramento which seems likely to play out in the courts.