The battle between the California Coastal Commission and the Port of San Diego over whose rules a bayfront restaurant must follow comes to a head tomorrow (March 8).
1360 N. Harbor Drive, Downtown San Diego
(Has gone out of business since this article was published.)
In December, the port gave the Brigantine Restaurant Group permission to tear down the building that housed Anthony's Fish Grotto and build its planned outpost there.
Brigantine plans include sinking 53 new concrete pilings and constructing a 40,805-square-foot, 34-foot-high building as well as a 24,960-square-foot platform and 3370-square-foot dock. Three new restaurants and a gelato coffee bar will open in the building, which adjoins a 3711-square-foot public viewing deck on the second floor. A 45-inch-wide public walkway around the perimeter of the first floor will give people access to bay views, according to plans.
The new restaurant complex will seat about 1000 people — nearly twice the 536 seats in Anthony's.
But the coastal commission says the development doesn't meet the port's own master plan and raises concerns based on the California Coastal Act. The port's response: it's none of the coastal commission's business.
Coastal commission staff focused first on public access. The Brigantine design echoes Anthony's, with a docking pier and a large outdoor deck, only bigger. While the port accepted the notion that the dock and deck provide public access, the commission disagreed.
"While the project includes a public viewing deck and perimeter accessway, it is unlikely that the public will be aware of these amenities as access to them is only available by entering through the restaurant(s), elevator, or outdoor dining area," according to a coastal commission report.
The report also takes issue with calling the dock a public amenity, since it would only be used by people coming to the restaurant complex. The port's answer to these concerns: the coastal commission has no jurisdiction to appeal port decisions because the permit is for a restaurant, and the Coastal Act doesn't include restaurants.
"The Coastal Act designates the Port of San Diego as the permitting authority for restaurants and this project is not among the category of project subject to appeal," according to a written response from the port's spokeswoman.
Not so fast, the coastal commission responded, pointing out that the port had recognized the need for their approval on at least ten occasions, including for the restaurant building at the Coronado Ferry Landing and the expansion of the restaurant at JimsAir.
The argument is headed for a hearing at the March 8 coastal commission hearing. The commission will hear the appeal — by two coastal commissioners — and the dispute over who has jurisdiction at the hearing.
Calls to the Brigantine Restaurant Group for comment and to ask about construction delays over five days were not returned. Lawyers for the restaurant agree with the port that the coastal commission has no jurisdiction. And, they said in filed documents, there is no actual procedure to resolve jurisdiction disputes — which the coastal commission staff has scheduled for its March 8 meeting.
"Here, staff has simply invented a ‘dispute resolution’ procedure," the 800-page document argues.