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Navy Broadway Project Challenged In Federal Court

Aired 9/10/12 on KPBS News.

A community group that wants to see more public space on San Diego’s waterfront will appear in federal court Monday to challenge a major development on the downtown waterfront. The Navy Broadway project includes a new Navy headquarters for the Pacific Fleet.

It’s a David and Goliath story. Three non-profit groups will file briefs in federal court in San Diego this morning in hopes of significantly modifying a major development for the downtown waterfront.

The Navy, which was given the land back in the 1920s, has hoped to build its new headquarters near the foot of Broadway since the 1980s. It selected San Diego developer Doug Manchester in 2006 to build it for them and develop the rest of the bay front site. But the economic downturn has made financing for the project hard to come by, and potential investors are discouraged by the on- going legal challenges.

Artist's rendering of Doug Manchester's proposed redevelopment of the Navy Broadway Complex.
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Above: Artist's rendering of Doug Manchester's proposed redevelopment of the Navy Broadway Complex.

One of those challenges comes to a head today. A group called the Navy Broadway Coalition has long fought for more public open space and fewer high- rise hotels on the iconic bay front site. There is a good reason why Manchester originally called the project “Pacific Gateway” -- some call it San Diego’s front porch.

Cory Briggs, the Coalition’s attorney, said a military headquarters in the middle of downtown is a threat to public safety.

“They’re going to build hotels around it,” Briggs said, “You’ve got the county offices nearby, cruise ship terminals, all sorts of civilian facilities surrounding what the Navy says is going to be the world headquarters for the War on Terrorism. It’s going to be the headquarters of the Pacific Fleet, and they refuse to do any analysis to tell the public what the risk is.“

An amicus brief in the case argues earthquake faults running under San Diego Bay appear to culminate under the site of the new headquarters building.

Congresswoman Susan Davis authored legislation that gives the Navy options to build the headquarters building on a Navy base, financed by other development on the waterfront.

The Navy refused to comment until the federal judge rules on the case. However they said the new headquarters would not be used for the war on terrorism. They described the functions of the headquarters as coordinating support for the operating forces in the southwest region.

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