Chula Vista Wetland Restoration Hinges on 1500 Condos and Shopping Center
By Tanya Mannes
STAFF WRITER, San Diego Union-Tribune
October 9, 2007
CHULA VISTA – San Diego-based Pacifica Cos., which has been working since 2000 on a plan to build condos and at least one hotel on the Chula Vista bayfront, has agreed to scale down the project and move it to a new site – across from the Chula Vista Marina – to protect wetlands.
Permits are still years away, but company President Ash Israni said he is encouraged by the progress made in discussions with the Port of San Diego, environmental groups and labor unions.
Israni holds an option to develop 97 acres near a wildlife preserve. He hopes to swap that for 32 acres owned by the port and build a “walkable neighborhood” of 1,500 condos, a 250-room hotel and 450,000 square feet of commercial and office space.
“What we want to do is a 24-7 type of community that is active, vibrant and environmentally sensitive,” Israni said. “You have to make sure that everything is agreeable and everybody likes what I'm doing.”
Public attention has focused on Gaylord Entertainment's plan for a hotel and convention center on the
Israni got involved in the bayfront master planning process years before Gaylord arrived on the scene.
“But we've been very low-key about it,” Israni said. “A lot of people don't know who
Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox said she's aware of “very general” information about
In 2002, before she was elected mayor, Cox worked as a consultant for
If the land swap is approved,
Chris Lewis, chairman of the Chula Vista Redevelopment Corp., remembers
“I know very little about it,” Lewis said. “They kind of took a back seat when we started working on Gaylord.”
Gaylord got involved in the
So far, Israni has managed to avoid a combative relationship with labor unions.
Israni has also taken steps to appease environmentalists who objected to his 2002 plan for 3,400 condos and three hotels for the site bound by wetlands. He has scaled back the project and accepted the idea of a complicated land swap.
To help build alliances, Israni hired former Mayor Steve Padilla's coastal/environmental coordinator, Allison Rolfe, as the project coordinator. Rolfe served on the Citizens Advisory Committee for about two years before joining Padilla's staff in September 2005.
This year, Rolfe helped
The land swap will require approval from the port and then from the State Lands Commission. The bayfront master plan will also go to the Chula Vista City Council and the California Coastal Commission. The earliest the plan could clear all hurdles is mid-2009, according to the port's timeline.
Israni said he never anticipated that the project would take this long.
“It has been a real trying project for me. I would never take on a project like this again,” he said. “But we are so far into it that it has become a challenge I need to pursue.”