A Familiar Face Pays Our Wetlands Working Group a Visit

The second half of our virtual monthly Wetlands Working Group meeting on July 22nd had a special guest joining us in the form of the Honorable Todd Gloria, Mayor of the City San Diego, along with Randy Wilde, who now serves as senior policy advisor to the mayor.

No stranger to the ReWild Mission Bay campaign and the effort to restore native wetlands in the northeast corner of Mission Bay, Mayor Gloria last joined us as Assemblymember Gloria, when he attended our Love Your Wetlands Day event about a month before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We gave Mayor Gloria a quick refresher on the history of the ReWild Mission Bay campaign, including how the Wetlands Working Group was started during the ReWild Feasibility Study period in 2015 to help guide and inform wetland restoration in Mission Bay Park – which itself was detailed as a necessity in the 1994 Mission Bay Park Master Plan.

We also passed along to the mayor updates on the now 57-member strong ReWild Coalition of area businesses, neighborhood booster groups, labor unions, environmental organizations, and faith and religious centers.

Saying he “may be naïve,” the mayor outlined a positive, community-supported vision about how to prioritize land uses in our public, coastal parks. He recognized the benefits – and necessities – of the ReWild proposal, as he similarly indicated during our meetings when he was serving in the Assembly. The mayor also noted his desire to bring more revenue into city parks, and especially approved of our emphasis on improved water quality and public access at Mission Bay.

Mayor Gloria also noted that our wetland restoration proposal, approved by the Regional Water Quality Control Board in October, would “significantly” increase wetland acreage compared to an existing city alternative, expand low-cost guest accommodation and camping, and could be a helpful tool in curbing the local effects and impact of climate change.

Acknowledging the multiple stakeholders in the bay, the mayor asked to maintain communication and utilize the ReWild effort as a template to restore more wetlands and “other wins in other communities.”

During the course of our discussion with the mayor, Dave Gibson with the Regional Water Quality Control Board advocated for the broader benefits of the Wildest proposal, including the enhancement of recreation assets like boardwalks and accessible wetlands.

David Zoutendyk with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (which co-funded the ReWild Feasibility Study with the California Coastal Conservancy) said he was pleased to hear the mayor’s support for maximizing wetland restoration and – in the spirit of the mayor’s emphasis on transparency – asked for a follow-up meeting to get an update on what may be in the city’s plan.

Rachele Lopez of San Diego Coastkeeper highlighted the potential for water quality improvement and “visionary” storm water infrastructure in her remarks, while Brandon Linton of Renascence noted his organization’s interest in the “overlap” between wetland restoration and human reconnection to Indigenous spaces within the park.

Megan Cooper with the California Coastal Conservancy noted that there are several ongoing programs and grants to help restore habitats, bring in low-cost camping, and similarly explore co-management opportunities with Kumeyaay tribal organizations, and encouraged the mayor to investigate the funding options.

Perhaps most of note – Randy Wilde mentioned at the close of the meeting that the release of the Notice of Preparation for the city’s version of the project’s Environmental Impact Report would occur within the next couple months. So be prepared, and be ready, to act for our wetlands.

Photos by Greg Hoxsie