After Four Years, Campland Needs to Make Good on Its Pledge

Removal of the mobile homes at De Anza puts San Diego one step closer to real wetland restoration. It’s good news – but it’s also about time.

Campland, the privately-owned camping concessionaire that’s been leasing city land at Mission Bay Park since 1969, recently hosted a media event with Mayor Todd Gloria to celebrate the beginning of Campland’s removal of the abandoned mobile homes on the De Anza “boot” in the northeast corner Mission Bay.

It’s good news. Removal of the mobile homes at De Anza puts San Diego one step closer to real wetland restoration. But four years into Campland’s 2019 deal with the city that arranged for the disposal of the mobile homes, it’s also about time.

As identified in both the city’s 1994 Mission Bay Park master plan and its 2002 update, Campland and the De Anza boot are located in the best, most optimal place in Mission Bay for wetland restoration. The needs outlined by the city in 1994, and resulting benefits of ReWilding, are clear:

  • Cleaner water throughout Mission Bay.
  • Greater climate resiliency providing protection against sea level rise and storm surges.
  • Considerable carbon sequestration.
  • A chance to reconnect residents to a new, vibrant recreation opportunity in a restored marsh.
  • The fresh water of Rose Creek once again making contact with the surviving one percent of Mission Bay natural habitat at Kendall-Frost Marsh, thereby restoring the unique natural conditions that facilitate the growth of wetland habitat.

In addition, a restored wetland in northeast Mission Bay will go a long way toward fulfilling our city’s legally-binding Climate Action Plan.

Responsibility for the removal of the mobile homes was a key component of Campland’s 2019 lease renewal deal with the city, which saw their purview at Mission Bay essentially double when it was awarded a second lease to manage the Mission RV Park on the east bank of Rose Creek. In that same meeting, the San Diego City Council voted to postpone any decision on wetland restoration for at least five years.

In the interim Campland received rent credits to cover the estimated $2 million cost of removing the mobile homes from De Anza, and after years of legal wrangling and delay got the green light from the California Coastal Commission last summer.

At that time our ReWild Coalition asked Campland to get cracking on the mobile home removal so as to finally make way for new land uses at De Anza. So while it’s good news the mobile home removal is at last underway, the delays have unacceptably slowed the restoration timeline for Mission Bay’s wetlands even further. We can’t get that time back.

As part of their press splash, the mayor and Campland also indicated that removal of the mobile homes will increase public access at Mission Bay Park. Well, not exactly.

While expanding public access is one of the key tenets of the ReWild plan, the public’s legal access and right of way to its parkland should have never been in doubt. The public deserves more effective, restored access on both sides of Rose Creek, on the De Anza Boot, and at Campland iself – which for years was reluctant to include signs or clear access until it was ordered to do so by the California Coastal Commission.

And while the mobile home removal process will no doubt be a difficult task given the likelihood of water, soil, or air contamination in the form of long-decaying asbestos in the mobile homes, Campland owes the mobile home removal to the public because of the rent credits it’s already received from the city. Now it needs to make good on its pledge to our public parkland.

As we wrote last year, “The Coastal Commission listened to our calls for improved information about water quality problems in Rose Creek, requiring more public access signs in the plan, improving language about native plants and invasive plant removal, and putting lids on all the garbage cans.”

The Regional Water Quality Board (RWQB) also mandated multiple new stormwater protection measures to better protect Mission Bay from Campland’s old and outdated land use – permitted long before water quality problems in Mission Bay were fully understood – and how critical robust wetland resources are as a no-cost “green infrastructure” water filtration system.

For now, time is of the essence in ensuring wetland restoration is done before vital bayfront habitat, like that of the endangered Ridgway’s rail and other threatened species, slips beneath the waterline. We need to get the land use plan done and begin ReWilding!

Implementing the Wildest restoration of 220 acres in northeast Mission Bay will also help facilitate the “mixed uses” the mayor spoke about in his remarks this week, offering opportunities for paddleboarding, kayaking, and low-cost camping in a restored marsh environment unlike anywhere else in the city.

We once again call on Campland to finally, safely, and quickly remove the dilapidated mobile homes from our city park, and we call on the city to hold Campland accountable for its 2019 pledge – especially as the city’s draft EIR is about to be released, and when Campland’s licenses come back up for consideration.