SAN DIEGO — A new plan by San Diego County and city officials could transform the San Diego River into a regional attraction.
The plan would add bike paths, riverfront dinning and other amenities along both sides of the river.
The long-term vision from officials, would develop the river from Ocean Beach, Mission Valley and all the way through the mountains, as far inland as Julian.
"This is a really exciting opportunity," said Nathan Fletcher, San Diego County Chair.
The $700 million plan envisions a trail system that would run from the mountains to the ocean, adding more pathways for pedestrians and bicyclists and creating parks and riverfront dinning.
"You can see so much of San Diego has to offer, it will be a national treasure," added Fletcher.
Fletcher is spearheading the efforts for the county to move forward with the plan. He says, the county and city have agreed to a new financing plan that would pay for it without a tax increase. It involves establishing an enhanced infrastructure financing district that would bring in money to help execute the river park master plan.
"What we're going to be doing here is using a special state law that allows us to draw a line on the map and all the properties that are on that line. They're going to be paying their standard property taxes going into the future, the increase in property taxes that naturally happens usually about 1% a year that excess part will be diverted to be spent here along the river," said Councilmember Raul Campillo.
Campillo says he’s all onboard with moving forward and says redeveloping the river will not only allow for cleaner river, but the plan would also bring in financial gain.
"Many other great cities are emphasizing their rivers and we want to do the same thing here in San Diego. We know we can have redeveloped businesses here and we know we can have tourism starting to come here right now. We emphasize the beach. We emphasize downtown. Let's emphasize Mission Valley," he added.
Officials also say the plan would require both agencies to come together to address homeless encampments along the river.
"We've partnered with the regional task force on homelessness with the city and the county to make sure that as this trail gets developed, that the outreach workers are there, the shelter beds are there, the opportunities are there so we can get homeless out of these canyons. Get them out of these areas as we develop it into something beautiful," said Fletcher.
The plan would be phased out, focusing on urban areas first.
Environmental studies have already been built into the plan, making it easier to adopt, but officials do anticipate more environmental impact studies in the future once developers start getting involved.
"We're making a long term investment in in a project that will be here, literally for generations," added Fletcher.
Officials predict they will have a better idea of when and how to move forward in the next nine to 12 months.
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