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OK, so we have this:

It’s the headquarters of Navy Region Southwest. It’s ugly and it’s old and it sits on top of some of the most valuable land in San Diego – if not the best plot of land on the West Coast. The Navy doesn’t like it. We don’t like it. For 14 years, we’ve had an agreement with the Navy on how to change it.

The agreement is simple: We’ll allow the Navy to make a deal with someone to build a new, nicer headquarters. Nobody will build something like that for free, obviously, so they’ll get the opportunity to build and then lease a bunch of commercial space around the new headquarters.

The Navy made a deal with developer Doug Manchester to implement this development agreement.

Forget about Manchester, the city’s deal with the Navy is a bad development agreement that nobody seems to like.

Here’s what the mayor’s land-use czar, Jim Waring, just told me:

“I don’t like the development agreement. I don’t think the development agreement results in the best possible project for the Navy, for the city of San Diego or for the developer,” Waring said.

But he also said the city should live up to the deal. As I pointed out yesterday, the city has over and over again reaffirmed its commitment to the Navy Broadway agreement.

“At some fundamental level, the integrity of the city and its processes is critical to the city’s recovery from its current crisis. The city entered into a contract with the Defense Department. We could say that we weren’t here when the deal was made but we are the city and the city will be here when we’re gone. You have to operate with integrity,” Waring said.

That was a moving and well-put statement, but at the end of the day, we’re, I presume, most interested in whatever is in the long-term best interest of the city as a whole. Can’t the city change its mind?

I asked Waring if this deal was in the long-term best interest. Should the public support it or should we try to kill it?

He muttered something indecisive.

So I asked him again: The people of this city are right now wondering what to think about this agreement. Should we try to blow Manchester’s deal up and let the pieces fall however they may after a complex and extremely uncertain bureaucratic process decides what to do with the valuable land? Or should we try to make Manchester’s deal as good as possible.

“Speaking for myself, I like the 2A option. I think it reduces the density and improves the space,” Waring said.

The “2A option” is Waring’s plan to have the city purchase from Manchester part of his planned development and turn it into a small park.

Is he just afraid that Doug “where’s-my-lawyer” Manchester will just sue the city if it scuttles the plan?

“We haven’t said ‘Gee, we’re going to do something to avoid an allegation of a breach of contract,’” Waring said.

So that’s the Mayor’s Office: “The deal stinks, but it’s a deal we made and here’s a way to make it taste a little better.”

There’s a lot more to do on this. I absolutely am obligated to answer the question that this whole thing is based on: If we kill this deal, what happens?

I’ll do my best to find out.

SCOTT LEWIS

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