San Diego, California (2006-2007)

Client: San Diego Unified Port District


During the summer of 2006 Project for Public Spaces worked with the San Diego Unified Port District on ways to bring more activity to the city’s waterfront.

The North and South Embarcadero Marina Parks are located on a protected harbor with a fantastic sunset view, and flanked by high-rise hotels. The convention center is located to the east, Seaport Village to the north, and a working marine terminal to the south. However, the parks were receiving a fraction of their potential use given their central location.

PPS conducted two Placemaking workshops and worked with Port and area stakeholders to create a vision for the parks that would make them more of an attraction with more things to do, including: water-based activities like fishing, and facilities for docking, launching or renting different types of small boats; eating from vendors or having a picnic; playing games and attending events. The goal emphasized by participants in the process was for local partners and stakeholders to together make the Embarcadero the “place to be” in San Diego.

Some of the key issues to address in the future include:

  • Develop new types of activities that provide a wider range of opportunities for people to use the waterfront parks and their adjacent buildings.
  • Give a priority to people-oriented activity rather than vehicle-oriented activity in terms of land use along the waterfront.
  • Provide more choices of transportation options including bicycle, boat, trolley, and bus access to the Embarcadero Marina Parks.
  • Make the area more pedestrian friendly in general, especially connecting the adjacent downtown destinations.
  • Create direct and visible entrances and signage into the Embarcadero Marina Parks from the east.

The Unified Port started with improvements in the summer 2007.

As a first step, the Port has developed a temporary “event” called Bahia del Sol at the Big Bay. On weekends throughout October 2007, Embarcadero Marina Park North featured interactive exhibitions (kite-flying, drum circles), games, newspapes/magazines/coloring books, and tabled seating. Other events included the Coronado Speed Day Festival, Spa Day at the Bay, The Artists Guild of San Diego, Movies before the Mast, and Concerts at the Bay.