Field report: City plans for De Anza focus on shortsighted priorities; missing long term wetlands protection in Mission Bay

By Kelsey Wadman, San Diego Audubon

THANK YOU to the huge crowd of ReWild and Audubon supporters who came out to the City’s De Anza Revitalization plan meeting yesterday. What a win for birds and other wildlife to see all the ReWild shirts in the crowd who were there to support the restoration of wetlands in Mission Bay.

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For those of you who weren’t able to attend, you should know that much to the detriment of local wildlife, neither of the City’s two draft alternatives included sufficient acreage for wetland restoration, particularly when accounting for sea level rise.

Some positives: both draft alternatives call for creating habitat to connect Kendall Frost Marsh to Rose C​​reek, providing that much-needed feed of freshwater to the wetlands. Another positive: the members of the Ad Hoc Subcommittee overwhelmingly support a landscape that is more natural in De Anza Cove, demonstrating that there is a general consensus for the protection and enjoyment of wildlife.

San Diego Audubon’s Director of Conservation Rebecca Schwartz Lesberg, who sat on the Ad Hoc Subcommittee, made inspiring statements about the success of connecting Kendall Frost Marsh to Rose Creek, and the unfortunate shortcomings of these draft alternatives in not providing enough wetland acreage. She was the only committee member who was met with enthusiastic rounds of applause and cheering.

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Some excerpts of Schwartz’s comments: “While this project and the habitat areas that are included in it are vital to the survival of the endangered species that rely on Mission Bay, it does very little correct the Bay-wide imbalance that has for so long has favored commerce and recreation at the expense of the environment… I think that what you [the City] tried to do here is satisfy the highest number of people, or perhaps upset the least number of people. But this is not a popularity contest. It is the responsibility of our community to think long term and bigger picture about the needs of region. This process has focused too much on satisfying the highest number of people today, which might be a political win, but it’s not what this regional park requires.”

 The City determines the next steps to the De Anza Revitalization plan, but down the road there will be more opportunities to advocate for what we know to be true: any meaningful effort to stabilize vital habitat for currently unstable wildlife populations requires more wetland acreage in Mission Bay.

As Chris Redfern, Executive Director of San Diego Audubon, stated after the meeting, “Over the past few months, City planners have engaged with the ReWild Mission Bay project team and made a good-faith effort to include and configure habitat in their planning area. However, the direction given to them by City leadership to include both forty acres of guest housing and retain an 18-hole golf course in the planning area have left little room to accommodate habitat. As a result, the plans ultimately fail to adequately safeguard the area from the impacts of climate change.”