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The Navy and developer Doug Manchester have until Jan. 1 to have a deal inked and on the desk of the Pentagon’s Office of the Inspector General before the 14.7-acre parcel, which houses the headquarters for Navy Region Southwest, is shuttered.

The property would then be up grabs, with priority given to other agencies in the Department of Defense and the federal government at large before the locals – be it the city of San Diego, county, port district – gets a crack at it. This process is spelled out in the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure legislation, known as BRAC.

That worries some who think the prime piece of real estate could be taken out of the Navy’s hands – only to host some other bureaucratic function when community leaders and residents are hoping that the property becomes a landmark for San Diego, the same way the opera house is to Sydney.

But reader Don Wood of La Mesa, who has been following the Navy project closely, said he hasn’t “seen any reason why we should live in mortal fear of BRAC.”

After all, he said, the Naval Training Center in Point Loma was available for bid to other federal agencies before the property was handed over to the city for the purposes of economic development. The city then awarded the former base, which was closed in the 1993 round of BRAC, to the Corky McMillin Cos., who developed it into Liberty Station.

“It’s a waterfront property that the military owned and that the military turned loose,” Wood said.

Jill Votow, spokeswoman for the Navy’s BRAC program, said that Wood was correct: No other federal agencies picked up the NTC property, which allowed the city to receive and reuse it.

The only difference between those two BRAC rounds, Votow said, is that a public agency would be more likely to have to pay fair-market value for the property, whereas the city received NTC for free. However, the city of San Diego and other agencies could receive a public benefit discount, she said.

The redevelopment of NTC has generated some controversy, but Wood said that the plans were a product of City Hall and not BRAC.

“If you believe the city didn’t do the right thing there, shame on them, but the BRAC process itself didn’t cause the problem,” he said.

Under the current situation, the city’s only input comes through the Centre City Development Corp.’s charge to make sure that the Manchester plans line up with a 14-year-old development agreement.

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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