Chula Vista Is Set To Have An Influx Of 60,000 Residents Within The Next Two Decades
By Barbara Zaragoza
For decades community groups such as Crossroads II have noted that the City of Chula Vista is nothing more than a bedroom community. They explain that developers came into the region, created a mass of housing, but didn’t provide residents with essential amenities, such as employment centers, adequate big box stores such as Walmart, smaller retail shops, restaurants, parks or hotels. In Crossroads II’s 2016 Annual Report, they wrote, “Because of the lack of commercial development, Chula Vista is second from the bottom in terms of sales-tax revenues per resident in San Diego County.”
The Chula Vista City Council has attempted to change this bedroom community into a bustling city where local and international tourists come to shop, eat and play. They’ve done it by attracting developers to the open stretch of land located in eastern Chula Vista known as Otay Ranch. Now, within the next twenty years or so, Chula Vista anticipates more than 60,000 new residents will flood into the area, including university students, Olympic quality athletes and Google-type executives. Their goal is to transition eastern Chula Vista into becoming a dense urban environment that is state-of-the-art in technology and also environmentally sustainable.
Excited? Convinced? In this 3-part series, I’ll take a look at what the City of Chula Vista and developers are saying they have in store.
History Of The Otay Ranch GDP
South Bay locals remember Otay Ranch as the place where teenagers often went off-roading. In 1988 Baldwin Vista purchased the Otay Ranch property and the next year, they submitted “The New Town Plan” to the City of Chula Vista and the County of San Diego. It took another three years, in 1993, for the City of Chula Vista and the County of San Diego the approve the Otay Ranch General Development Plan (GDP).
A plethora of important, but admittedly dry, reading material exists about the Otay Ranch GDP, including at the city & county websites as well as their joint Executive Summary. In the 1990’s the vision was vast. As the City of Chula Vista website explains, “Consisting of 22,899 acres, Otay Ranch is east of I-805 and south of Telegraph Canyon Road. The plan consists of 11 urban villages, containing approximately 27,000 dwelling units and support commercial and community facilities. The entire ranch will ultimately add a total population to Chula Vista of approximately 62,373.”
What’s more, sustainability was written into the Otay Ranch GDP before the concept was in vogue. As the Executive Summary explains, “Residential areas will be grouped into “villages,” around a “village core.” This village concept will provide a sense of community and social cohesion in a “small town” way, and reduce dependence on the automobile for local trips.” (pg. 10)
The documents read like a fairy-tale environment with trees, parks, public transportation and good jobs in walking distance of residential homes. So far, villages 1, 5 and 7 are finished and, although still a bedroom community where everyone drives, the streets are clean & broad, the parks numerous and lush. The parking lots at the Otay Ranch Mall on weekends are overfilled with AMC movie goers as well as Cheesecake Factory and California Pizza Kitchen diners. Currently, village 2 is underway. Villages 3, 4, 8, 9 and 10 are yet to be built.
Economic Development Director of Chula Vista
Today, the City’s point of contact for marketing this vision is Eric Crockett, Economic Development Director of Chula Vista, who gave a Power Point presentation to the Growth Management Oversight Commission in February about the Otay Ranch development. He also gave a similar talk in February at a Citizens Coordinate for Century 3 breakfast whose theme was What Does South Bay Know That The Rest Of Us Don’t? He described a momentous vision for the Otay Ranch area, which integrates the Olympic Training Center into the University project, plus several villages that provide housing, retail and 3.5 million square feet of Class A office space. (Yes, you read that right.)
The Olympic Training Center
In February, the Chula Vista City Council voted unanimously to transfer the Olympic Training Center to Chula Vista in 2017. According to the Union Tribune, the Olympic Committee will hand over the 155 acres of land for $1.
Hold on, some residents say who have questioned the takeover. The USOC wanted to abandon the OTC was because it was a money sink. Focus on Chula Vista explained, “It currently costs $8 million per year to maintain the facilities. The USOC has promised to pay $3 million per year for four years for use of the facilities. The rest is supposed to come from innovative and creative solutions from whoever the City hires to maintain the facility. If those solutions fail, the City will be left with the bill.”
Eric Crockett, however, says that the end result of the takeover has been new momentum for the University project. With a University and the OTC together, a new hub for technology, innovation and even world-renown sports activities could begin to take shape.
The Binational University
Crockett said, “Since we started having this conversation, lots of different Universities in the state and out of the state have shown interest in this opportunity. The opportunity to have access to world class athletes, not only from the sports fields, but from studying of engineering, kinesiology, sports medicine. All the different things that go on in training: nutrition, training world class athletes, it’s creating a new kind of buzz.”
The planning of the University and the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) should be completed by August 2016. It covers a total of 875 acres and the hope is to have upwards of 20,000 students in the future. The city anticipates 2,000 housing units for these students.
Village 9 & 10 were planned to be integrated with the University and a promenade will go down the mixed-use corridor of Village 9. The city is also considering the concept of a binational university, which could have multiple universities co-located on the Chula Vista campus, and even have universities from Mexico locate here.
“I’ll give you an example. Let’s take engineering. You look at the mega region and look at the employment that happens here. We are 6 billion people, our biggest industries that are happening on both sides of the border involve engineers. Engineers that work at the maquiladoras in Tijuana, but they are also working on this side of the border in design.”
So far, Crockett says, the Ford Foundation and the Kresge Foundation have expressed some interest.
For many years, eastern Chula Vista residents have complained about the lack of a hotel. When their families come to town for graduations, weddings, quinceañeras, debuts and other celebrations, they need somewhere to stay that’s close by. Until now, the options have been limited and most families have to stay in downtown San Diego about 17 miles away.
Crockett explains that the Marriott Residence Inn is currently under construction, which will have 148 doors. The next project will be the Marriott Courtyard, which will means the site will have a total of 300 units, both Marriott brand. The higher-end boutique hotel, Ayers, will be located in the Millenia project (to be covered next week) and have about 134 doors.
The city also received an application for a third hotel, which is currently going through the permit process. If all goes well, the Hampton & Homewood Hotel will be located at the Eastlake Business Park and have 200 units. That means, 640 new hotel rooms will be available in eastern Chula Vista probably by 2018.
“From economic development, we’ve already identified bringing in people who want to have their offices here. One of the things that’s always lacking when you go out and talk to people is ‘Do you have hotels? Do you have the amenities that people want to have that are going to move their office building here?’ Well, we’ve got good retail. We’ve got some good restaurants. Restaurants die during the day because we don’t have enough jobs. But one of the major players that you need to have in order to get Class A office tenants is, when exectives come in, they want hotels.”
The Office District and Main Street
Finally, the city hopes to attract both retail as well as large companies that are similar to Google or Intel. The office space will mainly concentrate within the new downtown Millenia project, currently an enormous construction area that hopes to bring jobs down South in walkable distance of their homes.
Stay tune. Next week I take a look at this most important development in eastern Chula Vista: The Millenia project — a mixed-use space that will become the downtown center for Otay Ranch.