By Ann Moore
The waterfront of San Diego Bay is precious, and how we use it defines our region. From tuna boats and shipyards to bay-view hotels and 22 public parks, the non-Navy land and water outlining the bay is under the safekeeping of the Port of San Diego.
In the past, the port was sometimes accused of “piecemeal” planning — looking at a specific area of the bayfront without considering the impact on all 34 miles of waterfront that we oversee within the port’s jurisdiction on and around San Diego Bay. Whether fair or not, these criticisms did not fall on deaf ears.
We listened to the community and over the past decade, the port has worked hard to achieve a more balanced and sustainable waterfront. For example, we have moved to increase park acreage in National City, which has borne a larger burden of industrial uses than other cities.
I launched the Integrated Planning process during my first chairmanship in 2013 to take a holistic approach to the whole bay and to update our Port Master Plan, which today is nearly 40 years old. This process, which considers both land and water, has already yielded its first major win for some of our most impacted communities.
To address community concerns about truck traffic, we are pursuing a vision for a freight “haul road.” The goal is to identify and pair intelligent technology and dedicated lanes to connect the truck route between our two cargo terminals to increase the efficiency of our working waterfront and to reduce truck traffic in the neighborhoods in Barrio Logan and National City. This is a win-win.
A haul road now seems like a no-brainer — a dedicated route for heavy trucks. How come we didn’t think of this before?
The answer lies in the holistic approach that we took as a board. Together, we agreed to step back and consider the entire bay — not just a single site. What started as a haul road has evolved into a concept with benefits going well beyond trucking.
Through smart planning, the port will reduce truck traffic impacts by redesigning the industrial section of Harbor Drive using intelligent transportation systems, while adding protected bike lanes, beautification and other elements. We call it “Harbor Drive 2.0” because it is more than a haul road and it has strong support from the Environmental Health Coalition, the San Diego Port Tenants Association and other stakeholders.
The Integrated Planning process began with setting our vision for what San Diego Bay could and should become for the benefit of the people of California. The Board of Port Commissioners engaged a leading planning firm to lead it through a visioning exercise in which we looked at the whole bay — not just a piece. We heard from thousands of stakeholders and community members, and we listened to their concerns, hopes, wishes and desires for our bay.
The results were nothing short of transformative. By the end of 2015, we had identified several projects as priorities — including a haul road. This led to further study and investigation of how cutting-edge “intelligent transportation systems” technology could make it possible and lower costs. On Oct. 9, our board took a momentous step, approving a memorandum of understanding with two other transportation agencies — Caltrans and SANDAG — to advance Harbor Drive 2.0.
This is a case study of the value of planning. It demonstrates how we can take a concept and grow it into a project that can make real, changes to a community that will enhance their quality of life. It shows how planning can make a difference. That’s why I am so proud of the Port Master Plan Update — because the plan will guide the future of our waterfront.
But planning takes time. We are in the eighth year of Integrated Planning, and while our process has won many awards, the Port Master Plan Update is not yet complete — but we are almost there. This month, we released our second draft for public discussion before the bay-wide plan moves forward for environmental review. The public is invited to review the revised draft and submit comments through Nov. 17.
Harbor Drive 2.0 is just the beginning, but it is an excellent start. Long term, our integrated approach will yield many benefits for our entire community.
Ann Moore, a Chula Vista attorney, is the 2020 chair of the Port of San Diego and a past recipient of the American Planning Association’s National Planning Excellence Award for a Planning Advocate.