Editor: This is a continuation of the debate over the future of Fiesta Island. It began with op-eds in the San Diego Union-Tribune, and we helped it along with our earlier post. Here below, Judith Swink rebuts the rebuttals.
By Judith Swink / OB Rag
Improvements on Fiesta Island will happen eventually because they must.
The 1994 Mission Bay Park Master Plan carried forward that intention from the previous master plans. The proposed Fiesta Island improvements will make the island more useful and inviting to a much larger number of people than just those who want to use it as it is today. It is a key tenet of both the Mission Bay Park Master Plan and the California Coastal Act that coastal recreation areas be developed to enable use and access for everyone.
A Local Coastal Program amendment in 2002, in conjunction with approval of the Sea World Master Plan by the Coastal Commission requires the City to develop Fiesta Island as proposed in the 1994 Mission Bay Park Master Plan and LCP.
This requirement was incorporated into the Master Plan. The Commission also stated that Fiesta Island and South Shores improvements must be well under way before the Commission would be prepared to consider major Mission Bay lessee redevelopment.
There is funding available both from the Fiesta Island Sludge Mitigation Fund (see next paragraph) and the Mission Bay Improvement Fund under Charter Section 55.2.
In the 1990s, the Coastal Commission began fining the City for not removing the sewage sludge beds from Fiesta Island in a timely fashion and required establishment of a Fiesta Island Improvement Fund from a portion of the fine which accumulated to $5 million.
Some of that has been used to improve roads around Fiesta Island, over $300,000 (& rising, with the delays) has been spent for the Fiesta Island GDP and over $4,000,000 remains to help fund elements of the plan including replacing the existing chain-link fence around the off-leash area with more natural-appearing fencing.
The Master Plan and LCP also specify a swimming beach at the south end of the fenced area that off-leash dog owners use. The road and small parking area at the east edge of that sector will enable people to better access and enjoy that part of Fiesta Island.
Most of the rest of Fiesta Island other than the Youth Camp and habitat areas, also will remain off-leash use areas.
Proposed improvements are low-key and do not include buildings other than public restrooms.
Fiesta Island will never look like the green parkland of east Mission Bay. A small area in the north center is to be a tent-camping area. There will be a lot of natural open space including and off-leash dog use continued on most of the island and not limited to a fenced-in area of about 90 acres.
Landscaping will consist of removing non-native and invasive plants, and planting native vegetation. There also are habitat areas that would remain closed to use but other areas would open up for use.
Right now the large center of Fiesta Island is not available for public use unless you want to wade through beach trash and dead kelp.
Finally, on FIDO’s claim that the City guaranteed continued use for off-leash dog activities, a use that will continue on Fiesta Island within the proposed Fiesta Island GDP, every document since 1972 which has confirmed off-leash dog use includes a qualifying phrase:
“….pending future public hearings at the time funding is available for design and initial development of the Island”.
Clearly, this is not a guarantee but approval by Council and Coastal Commission will – for the first time – ensure that off-leash use is a permanent part of the Mission Bay Park Master Plan.