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Navy

When we search for San Diego roots, we find them in a cozy tangle with the United States Navy. We came here for the weather. The Navy came here for the water. The Navy is San Diego's most enduring tenant, with vast real estate holdings and then of course, the great Pacific Fleet.

The Navy future is clear. Its home port is Norfolk on the east coast, and San Diego on the west. The Navy has been in San Diego longer than most museums, even the zoo.

Seven years from now comes the centennial of the first Navy flight above North Island. Seven years later, it'll be 100 years since San Diego Harbor became home to the Pacific Fleet. Generations of San Diegans respect the Navy, and teach respect. Tens of thousands of us who wore Navy blue have settled here.

I saw San Diego harbor first as a Navy kid in 1944. The train backed into the station. I asked a porter why, and he said, "because San Diego is the end of the line.?

I thought that over for a minute and it sounded good. I walked down to the harbor. I'd never seen so many Navy uniforms, or so many ships.

My orders led me inside a stark mass of concrete at the foot of Broadway that looks much as it did then, just maybe twice as big. It's called the Navy Broadway Complex. The admiral whose flag flies from its rooftop commands the Navy Region Southwest, which stretches across the Southwestern desert, just in case.

Tens of thousands of Navy feet, in shiny black shoes, tramp up and down its concrete stairways, echoing through the halls day and night. Spouses queue at a front counter, hoping for housing, or, against all reason, for news of lovers and family.

In solemn ceremonies upstairs, courts-martial were conducted, sometimes abruptly ending Navy careers. And also men in blue swapped their four gold stripes here for admiral's insignia. In today's inflated market, the Navy values the land beneath this complex at up to half a billion dollars.

The once symbolic need for command offices downtown seems past. Under orders to shrink, the Navy talks of selling that complex and moving like many of the rest of us to a more affordable neighborhood.

But the downtown sector of our harbor-front has grown haughty with high-rise condominiums.

The next step on that venerable Navy site may be what our new downtown does best: Just another condo tower with 10 million dollar views.

What questions do you have about the Statewide General Election coming up on Nov. 8? Submit your questions here, and we'll try to answer them in our reporting.