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Port of San Diego to expand Pepper Park

Though the park is only one of a handful in National City, it's directly controlled by the Port.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — You don’t truly realize how large the National City Bayfront is, until you fly above it. 

The 440-acre property owned and operated by the Port of San Diego, is a massive economic driver, but not directly for the city of National City. 

So for the public benefit, the Port constructed a green space along the waterfront, Pepper Park. 

Though it’s only one of a handful of parks in National City, it’s directly controlled by the Port.

"Way back in the day, there was a land swap. Which eliminated National City as a community, our access to the waterfront, it became a working waterfront," said National City Mayor, Alejandra Sotelo-Solis. 

Sotelo-Solis is a third-generation resident who has long dreamed that Pepper Park could become something better. 

"When we talk about open space, and places where people can congregate, we want spaces like this to have a bigger footprint," said Sotelo-Solis. "Where our Sweetwater High School, the only high school in National City could potentially have their prom in their own city."

And the Mayor finally may have gotten her wish. 

After nearly two decades of negotiations between the Port and National City and a $3.5 million investment from the American Rescue Plan, a new land deal was created to add 2.5 extra acres of green space as well as improving amenities to the park.

"A win for community, a win for industry and a win for commercial," said Sandy Naranjo, who represents National City for the Port of San Diego. "The industrial side of National City has an economic benefit, but how can we really make it mutually inclusive, not exclusive, as far as access to the bay, access to green space" 

The Port has released three plans for how the park could be redesigned. Improvements like a bandshell, new playground equipment and potentially a water taxi to shuttle passengers to other bayside communities.  

While there are renderings, by no means is anything set in stone. Naranjo says the park won’t be fully complete until 2029. 

So until then, The Port of San Diego and the City have set several meetings set up to get community input on how they would like to see Pepper Park transformed.

Pop-Up Workshops

  • 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., Saturday, April 2 at Las Palmas Little League (Las Palmas Park)
  • 4 – 6 p.m., Thursday, April 7 at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center
  • 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., Saturday, April 9 at the Aquatic Center in Pepper Park

Next Design Workshop: (Additional details and registration info to come.)

  • 6 p.m., Thursday, May 5, location to be announced at a later date
  • You’ll have the opportunity to see and comment on a hybrid draft plan and to help define priority park elements to be designed and constructed by 2024.

WATCH RELATED: City leaders unveil newly built Kearny Energy storage facility (March 2022)

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