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Navy To Hold Public Meetings On Potential NAVWAR Redevelopment Into Transit Hub

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Speaker 1: 00:01 The plan to build a transit hub with a connection to San Diego's airport is taking a major step forward. The Navy and SANDAG is regional planning agency. SANDAG are working together to develop a transit hub on the site of the nav war facilities in the midway district and have signed an agreement to redevelop the 70 acre site, but much more work remains to be done this week. The Navy will begin holding a series of meetings to get the public to weigh in on the proposal. Joining us to talk more about the project is San Diego union Tribune reporter Jennifer van Grove. Jennifer, welcome. Thank you for having me. So can you start by telling us about the current nav war site and the vision for this project? What does it entail? Yeah, so the current site is, I think it's exactly 72 acres and it's split. There's one large site which pretty much everyone in San Diego is familiar with.

Speaker 1: 00:51 They've driven past it, it, it's those airport hangers along the five freeway and then across, I believe it's Pacific highway, my beginning of my street song, there's a a parking lot that's also a part of this site. And so, um, the Navy has a sense 2018 wanted to redevelop this, um, property, uh, or, or, or rather get new headquarters for the cybersecurity personnel that worked there. So there's about 5,000 or 6,000 people that work on site today. Half are full time are full time and the other half are contractors. But the problem is they are obsolete. The facilities are obsolete for what they are used for their world war II era hangers. They were there, you know, for aircraft, uh, for building aircraft. They are not designed for the type of work that's being done there. And so the Navy, um, initially put out what's called a request, um, for interest to see who would be interested in building us a new headquarters possibly on this site, possibly on another, you know, Navy parcel in exchange for either leasing or owning our property and kind of getting to do whatever they want because there are no coastal height restrictions.

Speaker 1: 02:00 Although, although I should say the Navy and SANDAG are certainly, we want to be sensitive to the community in and around the site. So what do they want to do with the property? What does the, the project entailed in? Well, so we don't really have a project yet. So we know two things. We know SANDAG wants a transportation hub that includes some sort of people mover to the airport and then the Navy wants new headquarters for its personnel. Beyond that there is no project. And so that's kind of where this arrangement between the Navy and SANDAG comes in. Right? So they can, they signed an exclusivity agreement, um, in January and now they're collectively moving forward. There will be some sort of term sheet as far as like who's going to be taking over the property and when, and then SANDAG responsibility will be to go out to private developers and say, what can you build us on this site?

Speaker 1: 02:53 They believe however it can support housing, it can support retail, it can support office that's complimentary to the cybersecurity work already been done by the [inaudible] workers. So where does the airport connection come in? Well, you know that it's a parallel process and obviously there's still a lot of like local action that needs to be taken on that. But as we know, SANDAG has orchestrated the airport connectivity subcommittee. I think it's been disbanded, but that committee, um, was kind of working together, are bringing people across San Diego together to kind of come up with a cohesive vision. And so there is a consensus that we should do a people mover what that looks like. Um, and whether it's the final way forward, we don't know. But the idea would be to put some sort of people mover on this property. So you would take transit from around the County.

Speaker 1: 03:46 To this hub then take the people mover as a direct connection into the airport site. There would be some sort of, um, terminal on airport property that then would direct you to terminal one or terminal tail. And tell us about the importance of this agreement. Does this mean it's a done deal? Well, it means that the Navy's relationship and SANDAG relationship is a done deal. It's ex, it's, it's exclusive. So the Navy has kind of canceled their request for interest, which I mentioned earlier. And they're working exclusively with SANDAG. Does it mean the project will come to fruition? No, there are so many approvals. You have the environmental review at the federal level that is starting right now. Then you have the state level, um, environmental review, which has Sonic throttle with SANDAG has, has kind of suggested, and maybe they'll, they'll try to get a pass for that.

Speaker 1: 04:38 I'm not sure how they do that truthfully. But, um, and then you have approvals that are required by know city council and the FAA and all sorts of other governing bodies. So we're a long ways away from knowing what this is and when we'll see it. But I think if you talk to Navy leadership and SANDAG leadership, the fact that they're so aligned and working together so closely is just a positive, a sign of what's to come. And you know, SANDAG has already used 50 million just to study the feasibility of this project. Is there any sense of how much it will cost and where the money will come from? That is like the best question and obviously I continue to ask it of them. I don't think that full 50 million has been spent. I do know his son told me that they'll probably go back to their board in April and ask for more funding just for, it's for planning style.

Speaker 1: 05:33 And this is apparently a very expensive process to undertake. Um, the people mover, airport, uh, connection plus transit hub, preliminary estimates put that, you know, $4 billion or greater and that doesn't include, you know, the Navy facilities or any sort of private development. And so we're talking billions upon billions of dollars here. And where the money is going to come from is a huge question Mark. Um, the airport does have some money to kind of help fund some airport related projects, but we don't know how much is going to go to this endeavor. Um, and how much will go to other projects. The Navy will hold two public meetings on the transit hub project starting this Thursday and next Wednesday, February 19th from four to seven at the Liberty station conference center. I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune reporter Jennifer van Grove. Jennifer, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you.

The Navy will hold its first meeting Thursday from 4-7 p.m. at the Liberty Station Conference Center. Public comments can also be submitted online.

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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.