Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Cottages at the Cays Decision Did Not Reflect Coronado’s Wishes, and Other Port News: Yacht Club, Ferry Landing

The land where the Cottages at the Cays project would stand is currently being used for boat storage. Many Coronado residents think it should be used as recreational open space instead. Megan Kitt / The Coronado Times

An investigation into the San Diego Unified Port District found it carries a “lack of oversight, transparency, and accountability” out of balance with its power over land around San Diego Bay.

The report, filed by the San Diego Grand Jury, raised concerns about the port district and its governing board of port commissioners, an unelected, seven-member body that manages San Diego Bay tidelands and submerged lands.

As a result, the commission decides the fates of certain land parcels spread across its five member cities, including the plot for the heavily opposed Cottages at the Cays development in Coronado.

The proposed development comprises 41 small, two-bedroom, two-bath vacation rentals with off-street parking, restaurant and retail space, as well as a publicly accessible boardwalk, enhanced beach access, a playground, bathroom, and showers.

The San Diego Board of Port Commissioners in February voted 4-3 to move the project into the environmental review process. The decision came after a lengthy meeting in which more than 75 people spoke, most of them opposed to the development. In addition, hundreds of letters were sent to the board ahead of the vote and a petition against the project garnered more than 1400 signatures.

“Recent decisions by the Port District surrounding the proposed Cottages at the Cays Project on Coronado’s North Grand Caribe Isle exemplify the disconnection and disenfranchisement of the voting public and elected governmental bodies resulting from the Port District’s independence from local governmental oversight,” the Grand Jury found.

It cited a unanimous vote against the development by the Coronado City Council, widespread public opposition, the proposed project’s inconsistency with the land’s surrounding residential neighborhood, and more as evidence that the development did not align with Coronado’s interests.

In 2021, the port passed a Port Master Plan Update (PMPU), which forbade adding more hotel rooms to the area and prioritized creating recreational open spaces and to protect natural resources for future generations.

The commission is able to amend the PMPU – and would have to if the Cottages at the Cays were to reach final approval – but the investigation questioned whether sufficient oversight of the commission existed. It suggested updates to the PMPU be ratified by the relevant city council and County Supervisor to ensure equity. Coronado agreed with this suggestion.

“The port’s decision to approve the Cottages at the Cays development proposal could negatively impact access to San Diego Bay,” the Grand Jury concluded, “and approving the plan favors those willing or able to pay costly hotel rates typical of the Coronado area.”

The Coronado City Council approved its responses to the Grand Jury’s findings at its Aug. 15 meeting. The city largely agreed with the jury’s findings regarding the Cottages at the Cays decision. (Read the full response here.)

“In the (port commission) meeting, after the vote was taken, the people in the community who had spoken were admonished,” said Dorisk Besikof, a Coronado resident, during public comment at the meeting. “Essentially, the tone of the words that were used by the commissioners was that our community was selfish and elitist, and that we looked down on trailers.”

In February’s meeting, most dissenting voices remained respectful, with a handful of outliers using derogatory language, such as “ghetto trailer park,” to describe the project. Most speaking in opposition asked that the land be transformed into a park or open space, but to complicate the matter, the land is under long-term lease by Cays Resort, LLC, who also maintains rights to monetize the parcel. It is currently being used as boat storage.

The commission’s February vote cleared the developer to move forward in the process, but that does not mean the project is approved yet. Coronado’s representative on the San Diego Board of Port Commissioners, Frank Urtasun, said the environmental review process for the proposed development will begin soon.

“The public will have an opportunity to weigh in along the way,” Urtasun said. “I’m watching it very closely, obviously.”

A notice of preparation will be filed before the review gets underway, and relevant parties will be able to address the scope of environmental factors that should be considered. Urtasun said he does not expect the assessment to be completed and ahead of the commission until 2025.

If the project passes this stage, it will then have to convince the commission to issue an amendment to the PMPU, which must be won by a two-thirds majority vote (and which the Grand Jury suggested also must be ratified). Then, the developer would have to apply for a coastal development permit.

“We have a long road ahead of us,” Urtasun said.

Other Port News

Urtasun offered other updates on port activity relevant to Coronado at Tuesday’s council meeting:

Coronado Yacht Club Access

Coronado Yacht ClubThe yacht club has long wanted to replace its clubhouse, but it hit a snare in a Coastal Commission policy that requires public access to the state’s coastlines.

“For obvious reasons, the yacht club doesn’t want the public to be walking right through the leasehold,” Urtasun said, so the project has been stuck. He and leadership at the club have been working to find a solution.

“I think it’s a robust plan,” Urtasun said. “It allows for new (public) access without going right through the leasehold.”

The matter will be presented to the Coastal Commission staff this week.

Ferry Landing Redevelopment Project

Plans have been submitted to the port, and the matter should come before its commission in October, Urtasun said.

Additionally, the Ferry Landing’s restaurant pad has been slated as such since 1997, but the lot has sat vacant. The owners of the Monarch Ocean Pub in Del Mar are interested in developing it.

Landscaping at the landing’s Centennial Park was completed in June.

Possible Renovations at Loews Coronado Bay Resort

Loews Hotel & Company, which owns the longstanding Coronado resort, is considering a renovation. It would not include any additional rooms or buildings, but instead would remodel those already existing.


Megan Kitt
Megan Kitt
Megan has worked as a reporter for more than 10 years, and her work in both print and digital journalism has been published in more than 25 publications worldwide. She is also an award-winning photographer. She holds BA degrees in journalism, English literature and creative writing and an MA degree in creative writing and literature. She believes a quality news publication's purpose is to strengthen a community through informative and connective reporting.Megan is also a mother of three and a Navy spouse. After living around the world both as a journalist and as a military spouse, she immediately fell in love with San Diego and Coronado for her family's long-term home.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

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