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Thursday, Oct. 19, 2006 | For over one hundred years, the Navy has been a great partner and friend to the city of San Diego. This is something we should never forget. There is a want and need for a new office building to replace the aging structure located at the foot of Broadway and Harbor drive. Without a doubt, a new building will enable the Navy to operate more efficiently and effectively, resulting in saving the taxpayers of this country millions of dollars. The issue regarding the Navy Broadway complex should not be about whether the Navy needs this new building; it instead should focus on who will be footing the bill for this new building. Should the federal government or the citizens of San Diego pay for the project?

A developer is offering the Navy a fully built “turn key” office building. The city of San Diego will get a park between the new buildings in exchange for the use of seven blocks of waterfront property for 60 years. Compare this to the Charger’s offer of 30 acres of parkland, $175 million in needed infrastructure and a new stadium. Both the Navy and the Chargers have similar deals. Each project is being financed by the citizens of San Diego without the local government having to spend any actual cash. They differ in that the Charger’s program is designed to benefit the citizens of San Diego, while the other is designed to benefit the Navy. Clearly the Charger’s deal is much more beneficial, yet our city has decided not beneficial enough. This means the Navy project gets a total failing grade.

Some would argue the property known as the Broadway Naval Complex does not belong to the city San Diego. The Navy simply does not have the funds for a new building and if they do not use the land to build an office, the land will revert to the BRAC process. The Navy argues once the land goes under control of the BRAC, there are other government entities which will have priority to the land. This will result in the city of San Diego having even less control over the development of the land.

Those arguments are pure myth.

First, throughout the entire history of the BRAC process, whenever military property located in a city became available and the city wanted the property, the city got the property. The city has a strong argument to claim the property based on the fact that the land was a stipulated gift to the Navy from the city of San Diego for their operational use. The state of California’s mandate for public access and open space near the waterfront would further bolster the city’s claim as the city would be in a better position to create those amenities. Finally, our local elected officials in Washington have enough influence when supported by these claims to make the transfer a reality.

Secondly, if the current project collapses all other government, agencies would know the process could take years and the threat of lawsuits would be ever present. Any government agency with a higher priority to acquire the property would face far more hurdles than the Navy.

The entitlement which allows the Navy to bypass the state coastal commission would disappear. The 1992 development agreement with the city would disappear. Environmental impact studies would be required, coastal commission mandate regulations would have to be met, and a public review are just some of the obstacles a group would have to navigate, all in a hostile environment, if the city, state or the public disagree few government bureaucrats would want jeopardize their careers by taking on this project in such a hostile environment.

The city of San Diego can own and control the seven blocks of waterfront property the Navy does not need. The Navy building should be paid for the same way as any other military installation in this country or around the world is paid for: through the federal government’s budget. To ask the citizens of San Diego to pay for the Navy building is an unfair burden that no city in this country should have to carry. The San Diego Chargers were denied in their proposal, which held substantially more benefits to the city of San Diego. In using that standard, it is unfair that we blindly give away seven blocks of waterfront property.

The solution to this current situation is not denying the Navy its new building. The solution to this current situation is not to argue over the design. The solution is to partner with the Navy and together get the federal funding to build the Navy their building and have the remaining property turned over to local government control. Imagine, if you will, a coalition of stakeholders made up of the city of San Diego, the Port of San Diego, the State of California, Congresswoman Susan Davis, (a member of the house armed service committee) Congressman Duncan Hunter, (the chairman of the house armed service committee) and citizen groups. Working together, lobbying the house, the Navy can get their building and the city of San Diego can have this prime space to make a place for its citizens.

We can argue about how many buildings, building designs, who should develop them, and parks, later. Right now we should be working together on common goals. We should be thinking about finding ways to fulfill everyone’s needs and not be in conflict with each other.

George Driver is president of Partners for Livable Places. He can be reached at sdinfo@livablesandiego.org. Or send a letter to the editor.

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