Baygoers rally against Bahia Hotel expansion

SAN DIEGO -- Protesters rallied Sunday against the Bahia Resort Hotel's plans to add 285 more rooms across 8 additional acres in Mission Bay.

“There’s not any other beach access like this, especially for the paddlers and the stand up paddle boarders," said protester Nick Ingrande. "Kayakers pull up right here. You only have about 20 feet to put your rig out there and it's easy access."

That access -- a tradition for hundreds of families like Nick Ingrande’s and other baygoers -- may change after the City of San Diego Parks and Recreation Board voted unanimously to recommend plans for an expanded Bahia Resort Hotel.

If approved, the resort would add 285 additional rooms, requiring about 8 additional acres. Demonstrators argue that it would eliminate public parking, essentially turning the area into a private beach for the resort.

But in a statement from Evans Hotels, the operator said that public access to the area would remain:

We are excited about the prospect of increasing public access and public amenities as part of our renovation and expansion of the Bahia Resort Hotel. In particular, we will be creating a bike and pedestrian pathway around the entirety of Bahia Point, adding lawn and picnic areas as well as bocce ball courts. Although we strongly believe that the project will continue to allow access to a wide variety of recreational users, we are sensitive to and mindful of the concerns of some groups. The best way forward is for all interests to continue constructive dialogue and Evans Hotels is committed to that.”

Expansion supporters add that the development would create more than 350 new jobs.

But Ingrande and other advocates from Citizens and Paddlers Against the Bahia Hotel Land Grab say they plan to continue to fight to keep the area just the way it is.

“They're saying that they’ll put in a pedestrian access way and that they’ll put a parking lot up there, but then we’re going to have to carry all our stuff out here. Will we be welcomed out here in front of the hotel if the hotel property is right here?” asked Ingrande.

Next up: the project faces reviews by San Diego City Council and the California Coastal Commission.