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Coastal Commission Votes Down Plans To Redevelop Downtown Navy Headquarters

Aired 11/3/11 on KPBS News.

Coastal Commission Votes Down Plans To Redevelop Downtown Navy Headquarters

The California Coastal Commission has delivered a blow to a major development proposed for San Diego's downtown waterfront. The Navy Broadway Project pits the state's coastal commission against the federal government.

The current Navy headquarters in downtown San Diego on on Oct. 26, 2011. A pr...
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Above: The current Navy headquarters in downtown San Diego on on Oct. 26, 2011. A proposed plan would replace the building with a new headquarters as well as a hotel and retail and office space.

The Navy has spent 20 years trying to get permits and financing for the project. It plans to use profits from commercial development to replace their old Navy headquarters with a new building on the downtown waterfront.

But the state's coastal commission decided that too much has changed since they approved the original plan, and it no longer complies with the California Coastal Act. Coastal Commissioner Martha Mclure said she is disappointed in the federal government's position on the project.

"I think it's extremely unfortunate that the United States government and the United States Navy aren't working to honor California development, because we lead the world in example in how we can have environmental access, environmental protection, and economic forward motion," Mclure said.

The Navy had no immediate response to the decision.

The Navy and a private developer want to tear down the white, four-block-long building (pictured) that sits between North Harbor Drive and Pacific Highway and replace it with a mixed-use complex featuring military offices, commercial space and a hotel.

The commission's staff recommended that the project be declared inconsistent with California Coastal Development Program provisions that protect waterfront views.

Among the changes to the downtown waterfront over the years have been the opening of the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum and construction of high-rise condominium complexes and hotels that favor coastal locations -- all affecting views of the bay and coastal access, according to staff.

"I believe it is unquestionable there have been significant changes in this project area and this project,'' Commissioner Esther Sanchez said.

She pointed out "tremendous building'' along the waterfront since 1991 that makes the Navy's environmental impact report "outdated.''

Sanchez and a couple of other commissioners also pointed out that the threat of terrorism against a mixed-use project involving the military has heightened since the 1991 approval and not addressed in the plans.

Among other things, the staff wants wider setbacks from North Harbor Drive to the structure's walls, public access throughout the project, the use of green building standards, new traffic and parking studies, and a plan to manage employee transportation needs.

The Navy and developer Doug Manchester can redesign the project to meet commission demands, make an appeal or pursue ongoing litigation.

Without approval, the Navy headquarters will remain as is, "fenced-off'' and "blighted,'' and will still limit the public's coastal access, said Paul Webster of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The ruling came on the first of three days of commission meetings at Oceanside City Hall.

Other San Diego issues will be dealt with Friday, including a land-use policy on community gardens recently adopted by the San Diego City Council. Zoning decisions in coastal areas require Coastal Commission approval.

City News Service contributed to this story.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | November 2, 2011 at 8:36 p.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

I have to chuckle, two of our cities most vile parasites - Carl DeMaio and Doug Manchester - have been trying to pull a fast one here by walling-off our waterfront with outdated 1991 development plans.

Maybe Manchester and the Navy are too cheap, too lazy, or just simply don't give a hoot about anyone but themselves, but whatever the reason for their refusing to bring these plans into the new millennium - I'm glad they got it handed to them by the Coastal Commission today.

Don't get me wrong, I want to see that site developed and I am not happy with the blight that exists there now.

But, I want it developed *right*.

This is no ordinary piece of land, this is our city's front porch and perhaps the last major chance we have of creating a world-class iconic piece of architecture on our downtown waterfront.

Let's make it something interactive, something dynamic, something that magazines and postcards will forever show as symbolizing the great city of San Diego.

It always saddened me that such a prime piece of land was given over to Manchester to develop. Manchester is notoriously known for unimaginative mediocre high-rises that are about as architecturally stimulation as a Howard Johnsons or Motel 6.

Both he, the Navy, and Carl DeMaio have their own agendas that include lining their own pockets (in the case of Manchester and DeMaio) and building a headquarters without regard to the people of San Diego (in the case of the Navy).

It seems like the Navy likes to use SD for their own purposes, but they doesn't really care about us as a city.

I'm really curious why they are opposed to re-visiting these plans that 20 years old.

Even if they don't give two cents about San Diego's waterfront and building something iconic, even if they balk at environmental impacts, even if they want a fortress-like headquarters and could care less about access for locals on the site, even if all those are true - why do they not care about the increased threat of terrorism on major coastal government structures?

I would really love to hear their response to this, but just like when they crash planes into houses in our community, getting information or any kind of reaction out of them will be like pulling teeth.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | November 3, 2011 at 4:56 p.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

I'm glad the opinons of the Navy you present here seem to be confined to a few 'special' citizens. Most of us don't want the Navy to stop "using SD for their own purposes" and move somewhere else with a lower cost of living and cheaper land.

For my part, it's a federal facility. Form follows function, as it should. Get the lowest price structure that meets all the requirements and use whatever money is left for the next most important thing on the list of stuff to be fixed or upgraded. If we ever find ourselves with lots of money to spend, sure let's prioritize bulding aesthetics, but until then let's get the job done and move on to something else that's in desperate need of work.

Don't want to honor the original approval, fine. The work that went into the original proposal can get redone when there is the time, money and interest. Until then leave things the way they are.

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