Approval for 5-Story Parking Structure at Seaport Village Attacked on 2 Fronts

Times Staff Writer

Chula Vista Councilman David Malcolm, the San Diego area’s representative to the California Coastal Commission, said Thursday that he will appeal the Board of Port Commissioners’ approval of a five-story parking garage planned for the downtown waterfront as part of a $50-million expansion of Seaport Village.

On another front, San Diego Councilman Ron Roberts said Thursday that he will ask Seaport Village President Lee Stein to voluntarily reduce the size of the parking garage, which both he and Malcolm criticized as too large for the waterfront.

The port commissioners approved Seaport Village’s $50-million conceptual plan Tuesday, agreeing to a 253,075-square-foot expansion that would enlarge the waterfront attraction by 166%.

In doing so, commissioners virtually ignored the concerns of the Centre City Development Corp., which called for eliminating parking on the roof of the garage and removing several existing structures at Seaport Village to prevent the development from forming a visual wall between the city and the harbor.


Appeal to Coastal Commission

Malcolm could hold up the expansion plans by appealing to the Coastal Commission, which under state legislation enacted in 1976, has final authority over all construction on the coast. Malcolm said he needs the support of one other coastal commissioner to lodge the appeal, and Los Angeles Coastal Commissioner Mark Nathanson has agreed to help.

“I felt that the least I could do was to make sure that a proper hearing on this monstrosity was held, since the port (commissioners) denied Mr. Roberts’ request to hear it,” Malcolm said.

A Roberts aide asked commissioners Tuesday to delay approval of the parking garage for 60 days to allow the City Council to examine the project, but the commissioners denied that appeal on a 5-2 vote.

Seaport Village spokesman Tom Gable said the expansion, including the parking garage, “fits within Coastal Commission guidelines. It is low-scale, park-like (and) provides access to the waterfront where there wasn’t access before.”

Malcolm said his decision to appeal came after a discussion with Roberts, although Roberts did not ask for the appeal, Malcolm said.

“It’s just the size of a parking structure like that on the waterfront,” said Roberts, who leads the Broadway Complex Coordinating Group, which is attempting to develop a master plan for the downtown waterfront. “It flies in the face of everything we’ve been trying to do. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Gable said he does not know whether Stein will agree to scale back the parking garage or even meet with Roberts. But he said that Roberts expressed no opposition to the garage when he met with Stein Jan. 12.

“All I know is that Lee and an architect met with Ron Roberts on Jan. 12, and, as far as I know, there was no problem,” Gable said.

“That’s not true,” responded Paul Grasso, Roberts’ top aide. “Ron has expressed concern about that garage from Day One. He has said that it’s too big, and he asked that they do more landscaping. Ron’s feeling is that they didn’t go far enough.”

Gable said that Seaport Village has “already made significant changes in the design at significant cost,” including staggering the parking garage’s levels, adding landscaping, and turning the garage perpendicular to the waterfront so it is less of a visual obstruction.

“The garage is basically going to be invisible from Market Street and Harbor Drive because of the landscaping,” he said. Gable also said that, by replacing some of the six acres of surface parking with a vertical parking garage, Seaport Village is actually creating more open space.

But Malcolm responded that “the surface parking, you can see over that, you can see the water. I defy anyone to drive down and look over a 43-, 44-foot structure. You can’t do it.”

Malcolm said he hopes to hold the hearing in April, when the Coastal Commission will meet in San Diego.