Case Study

Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan From Vacant Site to Active Harbor

Chula Vista, California, USA

The Challenge

The Chula Vista Bayfront project represents one of the largest developable waterfront properties on the West Coast. HKS was challenged to transform the mostly vacant, underutilized industrial area into a flourishing recreational, residential and tourist destination while preserving environmentally-sensitive areas near a national wildlife refuge.

The Design Solution

Designers dedicated 336 acres of the 535-acre site to parks and open space as well as creating an active commercial harbor with public space along the waterfront. Underutilized and vacant areas in the City of Chula Vista and on Port Tidelands are redeveloped for a variety of uses. New east-west street extensions to the bay provide pedestrian, vehicle, bicycle and transit links to the area. A continuous, public walkway connects the three new districts on the site and ecological buffers protect adjacent environmentally-sensitive areas.

The Design Impact

Reimagining the site for high-density uses and ample open spaces, while respecting sensitive wetland and marine habitats, garnered the master plan broad public support, which received unanimous approval and certification from the Port, City Council and California Coastal Commission in 2012.

Project Features

  • 70 acres of new parks (100 acres total, including existing parks)
  • 120 acres of open space, habitat replacement, wetlands and ecological buffers
  • 2,850 hotel keys
  • 600,000 square feet (55,741 sm) of restaurant, retail and marina-support
  • 220,000 square feet (20,438 sm) of mixed-use commercial recreation and marine-related offices
  • Shoreline promenade
  • Walking trails
  • Bicycle path network
  • 1,100 to 3,000-car parking facility


  • 2014 American Planning Association, National Planning Achievement Award for Urban Design