Dunham Reilly has little chance of saving one of Coronado’s last stretches of unobstructed bay shoreline and its view of downtown San Diego, A four-story, 198-unit condominium project is already under construction on this eleven-acre section of beach at the foot of Orange Avenue on Coronado’s northeastern side. By September 28 the Unified Port District should receive bids from developers interested in building a 200-to-400-seat restaurant, 30,000 square feet of tourist shops, and up to 133 parking spaces on the remaining seven acres.
The port district’s proposal also calls for a one-acre park, but that’s woefully inadequate for Reilly, a retired Navy captain who has spent the past seven years campaigning to save the old ferry site, as the beach is known to Coronadans. His design, supported by 1300 islanders who signed his petitions, features an eight-acre park. To make room for the green space, Reilly would scratch the retail shops from the port district’s plan and remove a three and one-half acre, pre-World War II, bayfront boatyard.
Of the tourist shops, Reilly says, “They’re the last thing we need. No one wants to shop here, and they’ll make it harder on the downtown shops on Orange Avenue,” which he says are already hurting from competition with the retail stores in the Hotel del Coronado. As for the boatyard, Reilly says it should have been relocated long ago, “The space it takes up is far too valuable. It could be moved to any number of locations,” including the Sweetwater Channel between National City and Chula Vista.
The boatyard, however, is going nowhere, its owners having just signed a new forty-year lease with the port. The boatyard is also an insurmountable barrier to Coronado’s goal of an around-the-island waterfront bicycle pedestrian path. That path must now detour inland when it hits the boatyard, continuing along A Street for several blocks before returning to the water’s edge at Orange Avenue.
Reilly had several allies for his bayside plan, but the most influential, Coronado City Councilwoman Mary Herron, abandoned him last year. Herron and the Coronado council wanted to build more park space and sports fields at a forty-two acre hotel/restaurant site near the bridge toll crossing. They cut a deal with the port commission for twenty acres of park space on the site, agreeing in return to accept less green space at the old ferry site so prized by Reilly.
Herron still sympathizes with Reilly’s campaign, but says his call for eight acres ‘just isn’t pragmatic. Who’s going to pay the bill for landscaping?” she wonders. Herron disagrees that the planned retail shops will make it tougher on other store owners. “The business owners have told me these shops will enhance business opportunities in Coronado,” says Herron who nonetheless worries that San Diego’s popular Seaport village has, “boutiqued the bay to death.”
Though he’s not optimistic, Reilly will continue to lobby for more park space. He will review the winning developer’s proposal when it’s made public in late September, and may challenge it before the Coronado City Council.