One sport’s advocates try to block Mission Bay revamp plan

Golfers are launching a last-minute campaign against plans to convert much of northeastern Mission Bay into climate-friendly marshes, which the City Council will consider Tuesday after years of debate and lobbying.

Local golfers, high school golf coaches and regional golf organizations say they’re not opposed to the idea of ​​a marsh — they just don’t like that it would require the Mission Bay Golf Course to become a few acres smaller.

This may require reducing the driving range, shortening some holes, or both. These changes could cost the course its eligibility to host some high school events.

The changes planned for the course are relatively minor compared to what the Marsh Plane will do to the campground, which will move to a completely new location and see the number of campsites cut in half, from 970 to roughly 500.

Golf, camping and unregulated activities such as picnicking would have to give up space to allow the city to double the area of ​​marshes, wetlands and sand dunes in the area from 82 acres to 262 acres.

Golfers worry this may be just the beginning.

“Reducing the size is just the first step toward eliminating it for good,” said John Mason, a local youth golf advocate and director of education at Encinitas Ranch Golf Course.

Nikki Gatch, CEO of the PGA of Southern California, said the City Council should delay approval of the long-delayed marsh plan to reconsider its impact on golf.

“Mission Bay Golf Course is an exemplary facility for golfers of all ages and ability levels at an affordable price,” Gatch said. “It’s places like this that our golf pros point to when we introduce beginners to the game of golf.”

Downsizing the course would require Mission Bay to become a full par 3 course rather than an executive course with both par-3 and par-4.

“Altering the footprint of a golf course can negatively impact character, charm and playability,” Gatch said. “We can all agree that environmental sustainability is a priority in this beautiful city, but not at the expense of golf and other recreational activities that give great value to its residents and visitors.”

Any change in course would be several years away, because the city still needs to refine its plans and find millions to pay for transforming the northeast corner of the bay.

The details of how the route will be changed will not be settled until city planners, with public feedback, develop a general development plan that specifies what uses will go where in the shift.

For example, under the marsh plan the City Council votes on Tuesday, the active recreation space would grow slightly from 60 to 66 acres, allowing for two additional tennis and pickleball courts and expanding some of the courts to regulation size.

But advocates of tennis, soccer, softball and other recreational activities won’t know where they will ultimately be until that general development plan is in place in a few years.

Last year, city planners created a virtual “test fit” map that reduced the size of the golf course from 47 to 43 acres, reducing it from par-58 to par-54 and making the driving range smaller.

But the revised version shows the golf course shrinking by only 2 acres instead of 4 acres. The final decision on how to reconfigure it will not come until the general development plan is drawn up.

The marsh proposal has generally been well received, receiving unanimous approval from the city’s Planning Commission in December and the Council’s Environment Committee in March.

The Environment Commission described the plan as a fair compromise between environmentalists, camping supporters and recreation advocates.

Committee members praised the plan to preserve nearly all existing uses while combating sea level rise and working to remove dangerous carbon from the air by tripling the area of ​​marshes in the area.

The plan has also been praised for recent revisions that ensure camping and recreational uses, which will move to new locations, will be able to continue operating until the city is ready to begin the changes.

After the council approves the plan, it must also obtain approval from the California Coastal Commission.

The fight over the northeast corner of Mission Bay began more than seven years ago, when the closure of the De Anza Cove mobile home park prompted San Diego to explore how to regenerate 505 acres of land and water there.

New features included in the plan include a nature center, a small non-motorized boating area on De Anza Cove Beach and an extensive network of multi-use waterfront trails.

Groups that have been fighting to control the area for years expressed mostly reluctant support for the plan when the Environment Committee approved it in March. But they also complained about what they would lose.

The 50-acre Campland on the Bay would become a marsh in the plan, so it could be included in the existing Kendall-Frosh Marsh reserve north of Crown Point.

Kendall-Frost is the only marsh remaining on Mission Bay Park’s 4,000 acres, Which was originally swampland before it was forcefully bulldozed after World War II to create what city officials call the world’s largest water park.

Camping will get less space and be moved to De Anza Point, where the mobile home park used to be. Campland’s supporters pointed out that the city collected more than $5.6 million in rental and tax revenue from camping in Northeast Mission Bay during 2023, an amount they say will likely shrink significantly with fewer campers.

Environmentalists, including a group of 86 organizations that formed a coalition called ReWild Mission Bay, have continued to call for more marshes than the 262 acres proposed by the city.

The coalition wants 315 acres instead, and sea level rise will put much of the new marsh under water in the coming years.

The council hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in the afternoon session, which begins at 2 p.m. at City Hall, 202 C St.

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