Brigantine plans for former Anthony's site hit big snag

Port district vs. California Coastal Commission

Rendering that shows Brigantine project from southwestern perspective
  • Rendering that shows Brigantine project from southwestern perspective
  • from California Coastal Commission report

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).

Anthony's Fish Grotto

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.

View from the northeast

View from the northeast

from California Coastal Commission report

"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.

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The Coastal Commission as a state agency has more power than the Port, a history of jurisdiction that the Port is strangely trying to deny, and proof that "public access" will be at the mercy of a private business (limited by their hours of operation and right to refuse service).

This can mean only one thing: the Port folks must have got a lot of under-table money and so need to make a show of fighting the CCC on this.

You mean there's possible corruption involved? Whooda thunk it? ;-)

This will eventually be settled after the preparation of thousands of pages of docs. Those 800 pages are just the opening salvo. And when all the dust settles, the only real beneficiaries will be law firms who will bill thousands upon thousands of hours at many hundreds of dollars per hour.

I've always really wondered what is wrong with the Ghio family that had such a great string of eateries around the county. In the past twenty-or-so years they have done nothing but close them and now the chain isn't even a chain any longer. One remains. Th-that's all folks! Todd Ghio just seems to stumble from one failure to another. He had thousands of customers rooting for him when this lease was up for replacement, and yet he wasn't even a finalist in the competition. Can we call this the Rise and Fall of the House of Ghio (and Weber?)

A competent port would have ran the plans by the Coastal Commission before "awarding" the project to Brigantine. If the project was a renovation it would have been okay, but it seems the greedy port wants to wall off every inch of the bay for the benefit of - well themselves. They want to destroy quaint Seaport Village too.

Now, the building will be an ugly empty eyesore that could have been a tax generating property on a month-to-month lease while the redevelopment plans were negotiated. The Port is a disgrace and filled with useless cronies. This debacle proves it.

Sounds like the Brigantine may have a lawsuit against the Port. I am sure that the Brigantine Restaurant Group has invested a lot of money and is counting on a construction timeline to recoup the investment. I wonder how many months/years this pissing contest will go on.

As long as the attorneys' bills get paid!

The planned expansion sounds, well, too expansive. Calling a deck "public" that can't be reached except by entering the restaurant, walking through it and taking an elevator sounds like a Marx Brothers idea: It's a joke. Anthony's Fish Grotto was nostalgic but pretty tired. After all this time frying fish, the Ghios are probably tired too and ready to hit the beach. A new fish restaurant on that site will be fine, but let's hope the Coastal Commission requires genuine public access to the huge deck and that the Port of San Diego accedes to the demand. As for attorneys, don't knock 'em: good ones are worth their weight in gold.

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