Concerned residents announced they will hold a “Bahia Point Paddle and Appreciation Day” starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 10 at Bahia Point.
“Bahia Hotel is proposing an expansion that will eliminate access and parking on Gleason Road and severely limit water and beach access to Bahia Point Park,” said opposition spokesman Greg Knight. “This expansion has been pushed through the city process without any true public input.”
Responding to paddlers’ comments, Bill Evans, owner of the Bahia and Catamaran hotels on Mission Bay, replied: “We are excited about the prospect of increasing public access and public amenities as part of our renovation and expansion of the Bahia Resort Hotel. In particular, we will be creating a bike and pedestrian pathway around the entirety of Bahia Point, adding lawn and picnic areas, as well as bocce ball courts.”
Knight said the opposition to the hotel’s plan includes a myriad of water users — kayakers, windsurfers, outriggers, canoeists, stand up paddleboarders, sailboats, kayak fishermen, campers and picnickers.
“They, and more, are unhappy about having this public access taken away,” Knight said exhorting people to “come together March 10 to protest and let the city know that this land will not be taken without our voices heard.”
Evans said he continues to be open-minded about public reaction to the hotel expansion plan.
“Although we strongly believe the project will continue to allow access to a wide variety of recreational users, we are sensitive to, and mindful of, the concerns of some groups,” Evans said. “The best way forward is for all interests to continue constructive dialogue, and Evans Hotels is committed to that.”
Bahia Resort wants to nearly double its capacity expanding from 315 rooms to 600 rooms, while adding a 10-foot walkway and 20-foot grass area around Bahia Point Park. That would necessitate shifting current public parking along Gleason Road on the peninsula to other locations inland further from the shoreline.
Opponents claim the hotel expansion would deny public access to Bahia Point, a popular launching spot for small sailboats, kayaks and other watercraft. They argue proposed replacement parking further away from the shoreline would not only be an inconvenience, but a hardship, for boat owners.
Gary Cannon, a retired coastal planner and recreational paddler, cautioned that eliminating all parking along Gleason Road would be counterproductive. “[Officials] also have a mission to balance that with the needs of visitors,” Cannon said. “If you’re going to make changes at the hotel site, you need to protect the existing users.”
Cannon contends closure of Gleason Road, and the elimination of coastal access there “is an attempt to privatize the entire Bahia Point, and to minimize the public’s ability to recreate there.”
Of the proposed bike-pedestrian path, Cannon said, “The bike path is being used as a trade-off to eliminate public use of the area by eliminating the parking.”
“Bahia Point is highly used, and has become more highly used over the years,” said Cannon. “The critical thing for us is it’s a public park.” It’s also an aquatic park. This is about eliminating about a quarter-mile of beachfront on the bay preventing easy — and safe — access into the water.”
Referring to Bahia Point as “a very small area of land,” Evans reiterated his view that eliminating public parking along Gleason Road “is part of the overall Mission Bay master plan.” He added, “The master plan specifically calls for removal of all waterfront parking in Mission Bay Park — you can’t build anymore in the future, and you have to remove all parking spaces [on the fringe] of Bahia Point.”
Evans said plans to extend the bike path and walkway through Bahia Point would “put the walkway on top of the existing hotel building. So we’re going to move the hotel eastward.”
San Diego Park and Recreation Board’s Mission Bay Park Committee voted near-unanimously on Jan. 2 to affirm Evans Hotels’ proposed expansion and parking changes on its existing site at 998 W. Mission Bay Drive.
Previously, Evans noted expansion plans at Bahia call for moving, not eliminating public parking. “Parking will be put in approximately three, 100-space parking lots replacing the 270 spaces on Gleason Road with 273 spaces,” he said. “The Mission Bay master plan calls for removal of waterfront parking, and having concentrated areas of parking off Gleason Road put in.”
Evans anticipates his plans to expand Bahia Hotel while moving, not eliminating parking, will be heard and decided upon by the City Council sometime this summer.
Bahia Point protest
What: Bahia Point Paddle
and Appreciation Day.
When: Starting at 9 a.m. Saturday,
March 10 at Bahia Point.