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Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2006 | Re: “The Doug Is Not the Problem,”

Scott Lewis‘ commentary provides one view of how we got to where we are with the development of the Navy Broadway Complex. However, it is simplistic to lay all the blame on the City Council.

A major villain in this tragicomedy is the U.S. Navy. After almost two decades of inactivity since plans to redevelop the Broadway Complex were first floated, the Navy suddenly is breathlessly crying wolf with their dire warnings of how closure by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC ) would remove the city’s ability to influence the redevelopment of the property. In fact, the biggest loser if the Broadway Complex were subjected to BRAC would be the Navy itself.

The Navy seems to have morphed from a defender of the country to an avaricious real estate company whose only interest is to obtain a plush new headquarters on San Diego’s prime downtown waterfront site with no concern about whether or not the development of the rest of the site is in the public interest.

Unlike any other developer in San Diego, the Navy believes it has the right to invoke secrecy about every aspect of its redevelopment activities as if it were being run by a paranoid version of J. Edgar Hoover. Trust us they say. Well, why should we after the way we were treated by the Navy as they stole part of Balboa Park to build their hospital in 1988?

Centre City Development Corporation (CCDC) and the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC), the powerful Quango’s that have outlived their usefulness surely are also culpable. As Julie Meier Wright, President of EDC, jetsetted back and forth between San Diego and Washington with contradictory messages of whether the ruling class in San Diego wanted the Navy Broadway Complex in BRAC or not, Peter Hall, then President of CCDC made sure the public was not involved. I remember a CCDC briefing for City Council candidate last year at which Hall feigned ignorance of the redevelopment of NBC even as he testified before BRAC. If the public is lied to, it is difficult for the public to become involved in important civic decisions.

And now we have the “strong mayor’s” Real Estate man, Jim Waring, trying to put a Band-Aid on the Manchester vision of a collection of mundane offices and hotels that he apparently thinks will be of “extraordinary and significant” value to San Diego and the whole region as the 1992 development between the city and the U.S. government requires. No matter that the mayor does not have the authority to do this deal unilaterally or that Manchester doesn’t own the rights to the one acre of the NBC site Waring wants to buy to increase the size of the mandated 1.4 acre park. Or that Waring plans to raid CCDC’s funds for parks in the rest of downtown to achieve this sleight of hand.

Sure the city council has failed to protect the public interest in the redevelopment of NBC but why should that be a surprise? This and previous city councils are used approving development projects (just like bond issues) they either don’t really understand, or the Siren sounds of the Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Partnership fill the air, and lucre fills the campaign chests urging a Yes vote.

So the NBC redevelopment project is something of test for this council as an appeal of any recommendation from the city’s Developer Services Department on whether a Subsequent Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is required to supplemental the geriatric 1990 EIR that is currently the only relevant EIR document for the project is highly likely.

Finally your editorial implies that alternative plans for NBC to the Manchester monstrosity do not exist. He should get out of the office more and smell the roses because he would find a public discussion of alternative plans for NBC alive and well.

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