Lawyer, OB Rag founder, and self-proclaimed “grassroots activist” Frank Gormlie recently posted an article on his opinion website OB Rag on “Why SeaWorld Can’t Build a Hotel at its Location on Mission Bay“. He argues that because of SeaWorld’s proximity to a former toxic waste dump site, the hotel project which SeaWorld announced recently will not be able to go forward. Luckily, this claim is not true.

Because of SeaWorld’s location on Mission Bay in San Diego, it is required to submit a master plan to the California Coastal Commission which is reviewed and updated every so often. The latest Master Plan was updated in 2002 and can be viewed at the link below.

View SeaWorld San Diego’s Master Plan

The Master Plan shows where SeaWorld considered building a hotel way back in 2002.

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The potential hotel location is across the park from the limits of the former toxic dump, according to a document approved by the California Coastal Commission in 2002.


In the November 2015 presentation announcing plans to build a SeaWorld-branded hotel in San Diego, SeaWorld showed two possible areas for expansion. One corresponds to the potential hotel location, and one corresponds to a potential area for a ride, exhibit, or show, shown on the same diagram from the Master Plan.

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The hotel is most likely to be located in the yellow area on the left of the park, as shown from this slide from SeaWorld’s investor presentation.

Mr. Gormlie’s post on the OB Rag shows the dump boundaries covering the whole park and stretching to nearby West Mission Bay Dr. However, according to the state-approved SeaWorld Master Plan, the landfill boundaries only stretch a part of the way into the parking lot, and are across the park from the proposed hotel location.

It looks as though Frank Gormlie is a little too desperate to attack the “orca circus” (what he and other animal rights activists call what we know as SeaWorld), and he won’t let facts get in his way.

The OB Rag’s caption for this photo reads, “Approximate boundaries of the Mission Bay Landfill.” The boundaries in this photo conveniently stretch across the entire park, contrary to information from the California Coastal Commission.

2 thoughts on “Sorry, Frank: SeaWorld’s Future Hotel Isn’t Affected by Toxic Waste

  1. The area you cite for the landfill is not accurate either. Besides, the estimates for the size of the landfill are based on aerial photographs from that era. The City destroyed the majority of the records related to the landfill, which makes it impossible to prove either analysis correct.

    The study of the dump site was undertaken in 2005, so why point to 2002 data? The Reader, UT and other sources in 2006 showed an area that is bigger than what you show and smaller than the map from the OB Rag story. It includes part of the areas that are labelled “I-2 Exhibit/Ride/Show” and “A-1 Special Events Center” in your map.

    Either way there is no debate that that landfill was unlined, and hence toxins could have migrated from the original landfill in the 50+ years since the dump site was closed. The study said it is probably safe as long as it is left alone. So in truth, neither of you know for sure.

    There is also no debate that Ramada abandoned their planned hotel for the site in 1983 amid toxic concerns. The City tried to fast track approval of the project at the time by bringing in a consultant to do a quick study to vouch for the area’s safety.

    The study came up with an estimate of the area for the landfill. They were wrong. During excavation of South Shores Park in 1988 a pocket of hydrogen sulfide gas was released that sent a number of the workers to the hospital. Hydrogen sulfide was not even among the toxic wastes listed in the City’s study. Reddish-orange seepage from the excavation site proved to be dichloroethane, tca and carbon tetrachloride a known carcinogen). The carbon tetrachloride concentrations were 900 times the EPA safe limit for drinking water.

    In 2003 a triathlon was held that included swimming through the South Shores area. A number of triathletes experienced long-term gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses following this race. While there is not way to be certain, many felt it was due to toxins from the former dump site. This was also well covered in local mainstream media.

    You better hope you are right about the hotel site not being affected. If you are wrong it could be disastrous for the workers and water quality if another pocket of toxic waste is exposed.

    Supporters of SeaWorld make a big mistake attributing this opposition to “animal rights activists”. Gormlie is no animal rights activist and has no connection to PETA, and neither do the majority of the neighborhood activists who oppose SeaWorld based on bad neighbor reasons. Things like the Prop-D referendum to build over 30 feet, the fireworks, SeaWorld drive traffic, dumping whale feces into Mission Bay, etc. Some people just have a longer memory.

    PETA is full of attention-seekers and their tactics and protests make them standout from others. It is easy to tell them apart. If SeaWorld supporters spent more time listening to real concerns and less time trying to infiltrate and discredit groups with valid concerns maybe they would have more support.


    1. Hello Mr. Ross,

      Thanks for the information. I realized after the fact that I should have put a disclaimer that I could very possibly be wrong, as I am not normally particularly interested in this type of thing and did my best to write up a post about it. I appreciate your input.

      The reason I called Mr. Gormlie an animal rights activist is due to the tone of his articles regarding SeaWorld on the OB Rag, which sounds like the terminology PETA and other groups use (“orca circus” and the like). I am happy to hear that this is not the case.

      We do try to listen more to valid concerns on Orca Action Network, which is why we wrote this post.

      Thanks for your feedback!


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