by Photo courtesy of Port of San Diego

The approval of a financial plan for a billion-dollar destination resort and convention center on the Chula Vista Bayfront brings decades-long planning closer to fruition.  

Chula Vista City Council Members and Port of San Diego Commissioners voted last week to support an updated financial plan that outlines the funding for the project and its projected revenue. Construction for the project, the first of its kind in the South Bay, will begin once bonds are approved. 

The City and the Port District began a collaborative planning process in 2002 to create the Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan (CVBMP) for the approximately 535-acre of vacant and industrial land in the Chula Vista Bayfront area. According to a city staff report, the master plan was “designed to transform Chula Vista’s underutilized industrial Bayfront landscape into a thriving residential and world-class waterfront resort destination”.

“This project here, we’ve been waiting for it for literally decades,” said Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas. “It wasn’t an easy deal. It was pretty complex and it was a rollercoaster ride. We could not have imagined when we embarked on this how complicated it would get in the end”. 

At build-out, more than 40 percent of the CVBMP project area will be dedicated to parks, open space, and habitat restoration and preservation. The development expects to bring anticipated economic benefits, including the creation of approximately 3,900 permanent jobs, approximately 3,480 temporary construction jobs, and numerous indirect jobs in the regional economy. 

The CVBMP will be implemented in four major phases over an expected 24-year period, a city staff report said. Phase one of implementation includes the development of the resort hotel and convention on a 36.5-acre project site and the development of the RV park, Sun Outdoors San Diego Bay which opened in April 2021. 

The Gaylord Pacific Resort and Convention Center, approved in 2018, will be at the Bayfront’s centerpiece. Huston-based RIDA Development will build the 1,600 room hotel, a 275,000 square foot convention center, and 1,600 parking spaces. Construction for the $1.2 billion projects is expected to last three years.

Phase one of the master plan also includes the creation of public parks and open space, the restoration of habitat areas, and mixed-use residential development. 

Chula Vista and the Port anticipate receiving $151 million in revenue over the first 37 years of the project. Both are also estimated to receive about $45 million in annual tax revenues.  

Supply and chain impacts of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic called for an additional $18 million toward the construction of the convention center, compounded by the rapid inflation experienced in early 2022. The Port and the City agreed to share the cost equally with $9 million and $1 million in reimbursement to RIDA. 

“With all the c challenged we have faced, particularly over the last six months, and there have been many, working on this project felt more like a quest,” Chula Vista City Manager Maria Kachadoorian said. “This project will be transformational for the city and the port.” 

According to a city staff report, this increased their total public investment to $284 million. The Chula Vista Bayfront Facilities Financing Authority plans to repay the bond debt by June 2059. 

“We will be celebrating something that is a milestone, not just for Chula Vista and the region, but for the entire port of San Diego. This is some of the port’s unfinished business," Councilmember Steve Padilla said. "This will help complete the port not just from the embarcadero to San Diego, but to all communities." 

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