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Navy, SANDAG Agreement Pushes San Diego ‘Grand Central Station’ Closer To Reality

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The San Diego Association of Governments signed a memorandum of understanding with local U.S. Navy officials Tuesday to collaboratively draft a redevelopment plan for the Naval Base Point Loma Old Town Campus.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 The navy has agreed to work with SANDAG, the agency responsible for transportation planning in San Diego County on the redevelopment of the site, commonly known as spay war. The agreement was announced this morning, San Diego, Mayor Kevin Faulkner said the redevelopment of the site could lead to the navy's expansion in San Diego. So what does that mean? It means the creation of more jobs and according to mayor Faulkner, that's not all.

Speaker 2: 00:27 It's also a golden opportunity. As you've heard me talk on numerous occasions, a golden opportunity to explore building what some of the world's greatest cities have already done what we deserve here in San Diego. We will be closely examining through this agreement the possibility of creating a transportation hub to finally connect the trolley to the airport. This agreement is a very positive step in the right direction.

Speaker 1: 00:57 KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen was at this morning's announcement and is here with details. Andrew, welcome. Thanks jade. The location of the navy bases prime real estate in San Diego. Remind us where it is and what's currently there.

Speaker 3: 01:11 It's about 70 acres right next to the I five freeway on the eastern edge of the midway district. Uh, so right across the freeway from old town, it currently houses nav where it used to be called spay war. They changed the name to Nav war, so it's a, the navy's information more for operations. Um, they maintain communication satellites and intelligence technology and the building was built during World War II. So the space is definitely outdated and it's under utilized and the navy is really ready to upgrade it. Um, it's prime real estate because it's just a few miles away from downtown on the trolley vine, a few miles away from the airport terminal and it's right next to the freeway. Of course. Uh, the city also recently approved community plan updates for the midway district and old town. So, uh, the potential, uh, for thousands of new homes coming to this area is very real. And the naval base redevelopment could really help catalyze the transformation of the surrounding neighborhoods.

Speaker 1: 02:04 And the navy and SANDAG announced this morning they signed an agreement regarding the redevelopment of the site. What exactly have they, they agreed

Speaker 3: 02:11 to basically just to continue talking more closely. The [inaudible] are not legally binding, they're just kind of a statement on the, you know, that they'll make good faith efforts to continue cooperation. The navy has its goals, it wants to modernize its facility. It wants to of course maintain the security around it and maintain easy access for its employees. And SANDAG has its goals of creating this a San Diego grand central station that would house current and future or transit operations. And also as the mayor, uh, you heard mentioning there potentially a rail connection to the airport. I spoke with a SANDAG executive director has sonic Radha. He said he'd like to see 10 to 15,000 homes part as part of this project, uh, 10 to 15 million square feet of office space. And so the MOU is just basically a statement that we hope we can continue talking and actually merge our visions together.

Speaker 3: 03:01 That would certainly change the landscape out there. This transit hub would possibly be part of a redevelopment of the entire site that the navy would farm out to to other companies or another company. Talk to me about that. Yeah, so the navy will, and they make clear in the MOU that they're the ones to select a developer and a plan. So there's no guarantee that it will include sandbags. Vision of a transit hub. SANDAG also won't be acting as a developer, it's just consulting with the Navy on how its ideas could be incorporated into this project. So I'm SANDAG will also be working on the environmental clearance for the project and they say that they're going to be starting that very soon. But you know, and of course if mts is operating there, the the operators of the transit in the county, they would be operating out of this area as well.

Speaker 3: 03:49 How important is this location to SANDAG is future transit plans? Hassan Karada that as I mentioned, that the new executive director of SANDAG really wants to make transit to the airport as fast or if not faster than driving to the airport. That obviously fits in line with the regional environmental goals of reducing our dependence on cars and, and uh, mitigating climate change. Uh, he came up with this idea of San Diego grand central station pretty soon after he started this job, but back in December. And of course the transit plans for SANDAG are much bigger than just this location. He wants to build a rail throughout the county, um, more high speed bus networks through the neighborhoods. Uh, but you know, this is kind of a, a mega project and I think it's something that he's using as a way to draw people's attention to the potential for improving transit in San Diego County.

Speaker 3: 04:40 And what has to happen for this memorandum of understanding to turn into a full fledged agreement. As I mentioned, the SANDAG, we'll work on environmental clearance for the project. The laws are a little bit different because it's federal property, so the navy is not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act, but there are some environmental regulations that have to be taken care of. Um, the navy then has to select a developer. We should also mention just last week a, the airport authority announced an agreement with its airline partners to spend more than $500 million on improving transportation to the airport. So the airport authority is involved in these discussions, if it, if it indeed includes a rail connection to the airport. Um, yeah, I think we're several years away from seeing really a concrete plan about what's going to happen here. I've been speaking to KPBS reporter Andrew Bowen. Andrew, thank you. Thank you, jade.

Speaker 4: 05:32 [inaudible].

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.