San Diego Audubon Says City’s Plans for De Anza Cove Won’t Protect the Future of Mission Bay

  • Residents ask for more habitat restoration to safeguard environment and communities
  • Misguided priorities for De Anza cove impacts simultaneous effort in northeast corner of bay
SAN DIEGO, June 30, 2017 — San Diego Audubon says the City of San Diego’s De Anza Cove plans are driven by misguided priorities and therefore have a shortsighted approach to protecting Mission Bay.
Last night, community members and the City of San Diego’s De Anza Revitalization Plan Ad-hoc Committee (comprised of individuals that bring a variety of expertise to guide the planning process) reviewed two alternative plans for De Anza Cove.
San Diego Audubon and residents gave feedback that the plans have come a long way since they were first released last November by integrating more wildlife habitat and water quality improvements, but clearly will not protect the integrity of the bay in the long run.
“Both of the De Anza Revitalization plans reconnect Kendall-Frost Marsh with Rose Creek, which will help the remaining 40 acres of wetlands survive,” says San Diego Audubon Director of Conservation and Ad-hoc Committee Vice Chair Rebecca Schwartz Lesberg. “What is missing from both alternatives is the long-term view to ensure wetlands can continue to create cleaner water, buffer communities from sea level rise, provide habitat for wildlife, and get people out in nature. If they disappear, so do those services.”
Audubon says that while the De Anza Revitalization project is vital to the survival of the endangered species that rely on Mission Bay’s remnant wetland areas, it does very little to correct the bay-wide imbalance that has for decades favored commerce and recreation at the expense of the environment.
“Over the past few months, City planners have engaged with the ReWild Mission Bay project team and have made a good-faith effort to include and configure habitat in their planning area,” said San Diego Audubon’s Executive Director Chris Redfern. “However, the direction given to them by City leadership to include both 40 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.”
Audubon leads a concurrent project to enhance the bay called ReWild Mission Bay. ReWild’s plans are to restore up to 170 acres of wetlands in the northeast corner of Mission Bay in a way that is resilient to sea level rise. Those plans overlap with the De Anza Revitalization Plan. Audubon says how the City chooses to revitalize De Anza Cove will directly impact how ReWild is able to restore the sensitive wetlands in northeast Mission Bay.
According to the City’s Mission Bay Park Master Plan, which serves as the guiding document for the City of San Diego’s De Anza Revitalization Plan, planning for this area must include wetlands restoration and improvements aimed at protecting those marsh areas.
The Master Plan states, “we have learned, through the painful mistakes of yesterday’s ignorance and myopia, that we cannot view the natural environment as something apart from the human race.” Schwartz says this is the City of San Diego’s last chance to implement these lessons learned and plan for a future in Mission Bay that protects the natural environment and our communities.
To adequately protect wetlands in Mission Bay, the City would need to dedicate at least 200 acres of this planning area — less than five percent of Mission Bay — to habitat. The plans currently only have around 30 – 40 acres at De Anza and about 60 acres at Campland set aside for wetlands, increasing the less than two percent of wetlands in the bay to only less than three percent. The Master Plan allows for this kind of forward-thinking restoration, but the City would need to change the underlying priorities (namely, fitting both golf and guest housing into the planning area) that have driven this process. Additionally, one of the plans has high intensity uses, such as restaurants, adventure play, and boat rental, right next to the wetlands, which could negatively impact sensitive species that dwell in the marsh.
Wetlands — including marshes, mud flats, riverbanks, and more — play an important role in San Diego’s quality of life, as they attract wildlife, foster a diverse ecosystem, improve water quality and protect communities from flooding by providing a cushion during high tides. Today, only about one percent of the historic 4,500 acres of Mission Bay wetlands remain, making the restoration of the wetlands in Northeast corner of the bay a critical and time-sensitive project for the area.
The City says they will refine these plans based on public input and take updated plans to the Mission Bay Park Committee in the fall to chose the preferred alternative. From there, the plans will go through environmental review in 2018 before going for approval by the Coastal Commission in 2019.
“These plans seem to be an attempt to please the highest number of people today”, says Schwartz. “But this is not a popularity contest. The City needs to be willing to make potentially tough decisions and do what is best for the region over the long term. The ReWild team looks forward to continued dialogue with City Planners to develop a final plan for the area that provides a habitat resilient to climate change and opportunities for the public to engage with nature in this otherwise urban setting.”
For more information about ReWild Mission Bay, please visit To learn more about the San Diego Audubon Society, please click here.
San Diego Audubon Society is a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering the protection and appreciation of birds, other wildlife and their habitats. Education, environmental recreation and conservation programs make San Diego Audubon a significant resource for the natural world in San Diego.

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