The late Mission Bay hotelier Bill Evans began making plans two years ago to add a second cruise boat to the one already plying the waters of Mission Bay between the two hotels he owns there, the Bahia and the Catamaran. The original boat, the Bahia Belle, had been making the hour-long nighttime bay cruises since 1963, and as the beach area became more popular over the years, the demand began to exceed the boat's 200-person capacity. (The cruises are free for hotel guests; $4.50 for the general public.)
In the ensuing two years, recalls Evans's wife, Anne Evans, the project went through a succession of "round-table talks" with designers at National Steel and Shipbuilding, Campbell Industries, and San Diego Shipbuilding; in addition, an environmental impact report was completed. And while still in the conceptual stages, plans for the Bahia Belle II call for the vessel to be built in a style similar to the original Bahia Belle, which is a replica of a Mississippi riverboat. Designers are leaning toward making it a side-wheeler rather than a stern-wheeler, it would be of a larger size (ninety-eight feet long as opposed to the Bahia Belle's sixty-five-foot length) and thus hold 350 people, and it would have a full on-board kitchen. The Evans family - son Bill and daughter Grace Cherashore help mother Anne run both hotels - hopes to have the boat on the water by the start of next summer.
There's one hitch, though: at a recent meeting of the Mission Beach Precise Plan Committee, president Kathy Caputo, herself a long-time Mission Beach resident, told members that pending further study, when the project comes up before the committee, she would recommend the planning group vote against the project due to parking problems and congestion created by the additional use of Bahia facilities. Anne Evans, however, says those worries are unwarranted, since a parking study that was part of the environmental impact report found that restriping the two parking lots adjacent to the Bahia would create an additional 190 spaces, more than would be needed. Caputo, however, isn't so sure that restriping would solve the matter. ''The gist is that the Bahia hotel already has a parking problem," she says, "and before anything else" happens, it should be taken care of in some way."