By Jennifer Van Grove
01/11/21 - Developer 1HWY1 has spent four years and $18 million refining a 2 million square-foot project that includes multiple hotels, shops, an event center and a blue-tech campus
After spending more than four years refining a now $2.5 billion project, the developer picked to completely redo the existing 70 acres of land and water that make up San Diego’s Central Embarcadero appears to be on the cusp of receiving a key determination from the state agency tasked with protecting California’s tidelands. The decision in question, from the California State Lands Commission, relates to whether a handful of unconventional tideland uses, such as office space and brand-name retail stores, being proposed by developer 1HWY1 in the 2 million square-foot Seaport San Diego project are consistent with what’s known as the Public Trust Doctrine. The doctrine, which dates to Roman law, seeks to protect the public’s right to use and enjoy tidelands.
Following years of back and forth, a preliminary finding in favor of the developer could come in a few months, 1HWY1 told the Union-Tribune and the agency confirmed. It would help finally push more formal — and public — consideration of a highly anticipated project that has yet to graduate from the realm of the conceptual to the actual. Should State Lands find that project is consistent with the Public Trust Doctrine, Seaport San Diego would then begin to travel down the long road of approvals, as overseen by the San Diego Unified Port District, which holds the land on behalf of the public. It starts with board approval of the project description, ends with certification by the California Coastal Commission and includes a likely two-year-long environmental analysis period in between. 1HWY1 anticipates finalizing and submitting its formal project description to the port by June. If OK’d by the board of port commissioners, the project would then undergo environmental review. A best-case scenario could see the developer break ground in 2024 or 2025.
“This is a very large and complex project and the 1HWY1 team has proposed some unique programmatic components. Therefore, it will take time to ensure it’s done right — and we’re more focused on that than on how long it will take,” said Port Commissioner Michael Zucchet, who is the incoming board chair. “That’s not unusual anywhere, and certainly not unexpected when we’re talking about a potentially multi-billion dollar proposal on a prime location on the Southern California coast.” Backed in part by the Jacobs family, Seaport San Diego is a total reimagining of downtown’s Central Embarcadero — the expansive, bayfront area that includes Seaport Village and follows the coast from Embarcadero Marina Park North to the G Street Mole, just south of the USS Midway Museum. In November 2016, 1HWY1 was selected by the Port of the San Diego to redevelop the subdistrict. 1HWY1 is headed by Yehudi “Gaf” Gaffen, Jeff “JJ” Jacobs (son of Irwin Jacobs) and Jeff Essakow, and is privately financed by the principals, friends and family members. Read More>