Making a splash in San Diego: An inside look at the port’s waterfront makeover

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SAN DIEGO — There’s something new in almost any direction you look along the 34 miles of coastline the Port of San Diego oversees.

The construction boom along San Diego Bay includes some projects decades in the making, and there’s more plans in the works that could change the face of the port and protect it from climate change.

FOX 5’s Kathleen Bade got out on the water with Port of San Diego Commissioner Dan Malcolm for an exclusive look at what’s new along and underneath the water.

“Some of these projects have been in the works for years and years and years,” Malcolm said.

And the timing couldn’t be better. Coming out of the pandemic, the public’s appetite to get out and about is huge. Take the newly-redeveloped Portside Pier for example. It had big shoes to fill, taking the place of longtime local haunt Anthony’s Fish Grotto.

“In one month, they had $3.6 million in sales. In the restaurant world, that is a huge amount,” Malcolm said.

There’s talk of building an aquarium along the waterfront, and water parking could also become a reality at Seaport Village within the next five years.

“So if you want to come in by boat instead of parking your car, come in and there would be a parking meter right there and you could pull your boat in and enjoy downtown or enjoy Seaport Village.”

The Port of San Diego took over Seaport Village in 2018. About 20 new tenants are moving in, with the most recent additions announced last month. Gladstone’s, the historic beachside restaurant known for its Malibu location, and Shorebird, which has a popular spot on the bay in Newport Beach, are expected to arrive in fall 2022.

Of all the recent projects, the Rady Shell at Jacob’s Park is making the most waves, even internationally. It was recently featured in the video launch of the iPhone 13 and the New York Times called it “San Diego’s answer to the Hollywood Bowl.”

Malcolm said 90% of tickets for the upcoming season at the Shell have already sold so if recent ticket sales are any indication, it’ll be rocking the Embarcadero for years to come.

The largest transformation in the area requires a flyover of a 535-acre area, where the Chula Vista Bayfront will soon be re-imagined.

“We are actually slated to start construction in January on a 1,600-room Gaylord Hotel,” Malcolm said. “The largest hotel property to be developed in San Diego County right on our waterfront.”

What’s going on underneath the water may be the most life-changing. In March, the port installed cement blocks called e-concrete to create a living coastline around the bay.

“That creates tidepools, it creates actual life and biodiversity in the water as opposed to just putting a dead rock there,” Malcolm said.

The project could also help with rising sea levels, and another environmental project involves growing oysters in Tuna Harbor. There are about 50,000 oysters in each compartment of the setup. Most end up on plates in the Pacific Northwest but they benefit our bay too. The plan is to have hundreds of thousands of oysters around the bay to clean the water.

“Each oyster filters 50 gallons of water a day so the benefit – they’re delicious and they’re cleaning the water in the bay.”

In all, the commissioner says the port has invested $1.9 billion into the region since 1962, none of it from tax dollars but all of it patrolled by the Harbor Police.

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