Journalism won’t die if you donate. Support Voice of San Diego today!
You may have been seeing a lot of news features lately centered on the USS Midway Museum. The museum is celebrating its seventh anniversary, and they’re pulling out all the stops to build up public support for the museum. There are several reasons for the current PR blitz. One has to do with the future of the Navy Pier.
The key focus of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee on June 1 was on what is going to happen on the Navy Pier.
In 2001 the port and the Midway Museum submitted a proposal to the California Coastal Commission (CCC) to move all the parking off the Navy Pier and locate it elsewhere, then to build a new 5.7 acre public memorial park on the Navy Pier as soon as possible after the Navy transferred title of the pier to the port, which happened in 2003. As part of the 2001 proposal, the Midway Museum was required to collect and bank funds every year that would be used to move the parking and build the new park.
The 2001 Port Master Plan Amendment (PMPA) required the port to conduct an Environmental Impact Report to create the new park on Navy Pier as soon as possible after taking title of the pier from the Navy, which has not happened.
In 2005, the port signed a lease with the Midway Museum requiring that parking remain on the pier, and offering up only 25 percent of the pier for new public park space after the Midway has found another place to park the cars. According to the lease, the Midway is required to submit a plan to build a new 5.7-acre park on Navy Pier next year, after it moves all the parking off the pier.
During the meeting, retired Rear Admiral John “Mac” McLaughlin, who runs the museum, gave a nice presentation on the development and growth of the Midway Museum over the last six years. He pointed out that the museum has been successful in its mission of bringing both residents and tourists down to the waterfront over this period, with visitor counts nearing one million a year. He said that his board of directors knows that they have to help create a great new public park space on the Navy Pier, but said that continuing public parking on at least part of the pier is crucial to maintaining the success of the museum.
The Midway Museum’s request to keep parking on the Navy Pier creates a conundrum for the port. It has promised the public and the CCC that a new 5.7-acre public park will be built on the Navy Pier.
If the port decides to keep parking on the pier, and perhaps build new park space equaling less than 5.7 acres, how exactly will it propose to mitigate that loss of public park space on the pier?
The CCC has already directed the port to create at least 1.25 acres of new public park space on the North Embarcadero west of Harbor Drive as a special condition of approval of Phase 1 of the North Embarcadero Visionary Plan.
Would the park space that would not get built on Navy Pier be moved to some other part of the North Embarcadero, west of Harbor Drive? Where is this new park space west of Harbor Drive going to be located? Is the port going to move Harbor Drive inland or perhaps convert the existing B Street Pier to park space, along with recreational and commercial use zoning, by moving at least two cruise ship berths to some other location along the bayfront?
If the port now proposes to renege on its 2001 promise to the public and the CCC and keep parking on Navy Pier, it will have to explain its change of heart in the new PMPA EIR, and identify another 5.7 acres of space west of Harbor Drive.
Port staff may try to argue that because the port has placed several statues in the G Street Mole Park over the years, that space could now take the place of the promised 5.7-acre public memorial park on Navy Pier.
The problem with that theory is that it ignores the fact that plans for the G Street Mole Park were included in the 2001 Port Master Plan Amendment, and that any effort to count the G Street Mole Park as mitigation for eliminating or reducing the promised 5.7 acre Navy Pier Park would be double counting, which the CCC is unlikely to go for.
The following basic planning principals were put forward by CAC members at the June 1 meeting:
• Nothing should be built on Navy Pier that would block public views from Harbor Drive to the bay over the pier.
• Any parking that remains on Navy Pier should be build below grade.
• If the public park space to be built on Navy Pier ends up being less than 5.7 acres, then the park acreage lost on Navy Pier should be relocated to some other part of the North Embarcadero west of Harbor Drive.
Stay tuned. This is going to get interesting.
Catch up on previous posts about this issue here.
In addition to his other affiliations, Don Wood is a member of the Navy Broadway Complex Coalition, an alliance of local civic organizations dedicated to preserving and enhancing public access to downtown San Diego’s waterfront.