California Commission calls for affordable San Diego rooms

The California Coastal Commission yesterday rejected a proposal to develop a 175-room hotel on San Diego's Harbor Island due to the land's lack of lower-cost hotel rooms. 

KPBS reported that the Commission rejected the $30-million hotel in a 9-2 vote, calling for more public access to the coastline in the form of more lower-cost accommodations. The Port of San Diego had offered to use 25 percent of the remaining 325 rooms for development as low-to-middle-cost accommodations.

The $30 million hotel is part of an amendment the Commission needs to approve for the Port of San Diego's master land use plan, which originally called for a 500-room hotel on the east end of Harbor Island. ABC 10 reported that the plan was eventually chopped up into three separate properties to offer a combined 500 rooms. 

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However, of the 8,000 rooms available on San Diego's coast only 237 are considered low cost, many of them located at a recreational vehicle park in Chula Vista. A developer fee was supposed to be used to create budget-friendly rooms as an alternative to the expensive lodging options found at many waterfront hotels in the area, which charge hundreds of dollars per night, but a commission staff report found that the fee has not brought about the desired result.

According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, commissioners were not satisfied with the Port's resistance to provide a portion of the site for "lower cost visitor accommodations." This requirement restricts the port from building 325 additional rooms on Harbor Island until it completed an affordable lodging study, a study that will take an estimated two to three years to conclude.

“It isn’t true that providing low cost visitor-serving accommodations is complicated,” Commissioner Mary Shallenberger told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “This is as simple as can be. The land is there. The land is empty. It is a form of segregation when we take the public land and develop it for people who can afford $250-and-above hotel rooms and we develop land (further) away for cheaper (hotels) for the public who can’t afford it. This isn’t all about money. It’s about making our coast accessible to all people."

“We are a public agency and it is public land we administer and we are working hard to come up with a rational well thought out policy for dealing with lower cost visitor accommodations on tidelands,” said Port District CEO Randa Coniglio. “We don’t believe dealing with this on an approval-by-approval basis is the right or rational way to do it. We have made progress on our studies. It is not going to happen overnight.”