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Coastal Commission Votes Down Plans To Redevelop Downtown Navy Headquarters

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pointed out "tremendous building'' along the waterfront since 1991 that makes the Navy's environmental impact report "outdated.''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