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Plans for a massive high-rise development along the waterfront were hit with a big setback Wednesday.

Here’s the Union-Tribune:

The California Coastal Commission unanimously voted Wednesday to declare the Navy’s downtown redevelopment project “inconsistent” with state law, effectively sending it back to the drawing boards.

The project has been in the works for two decades.

But the coastal commissioners, agreeing with staff, said conditions downtown and the development’s details have changed so much since their predecessors approved the redevelopment in 1990 that it is no longer consistent with the state coastal act.

Legal issues have dogged the project for years. From our archives:

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Shortly after the Navy and (developer Doug) Manchester inked a lease, activists filed lawsuits in federal and state courts alleging that the planned transformation of the Navy Broadway Complex would have more drastic consequences on public safety, traffic congestion and earthquake prevention on the area than authorities had predicted after earlier studies. The state Coastal Commission is insisting those changes require Manchester to apply for a new permit, which provoked Manchester to sue.

Other lawsuits involving the developer’s refusal to pay for the city’s legal costs and the Navy’s insistence that the juiciest details of its contract with Manchester be kept secret also came about in 2007.

The project’s an example of what our Scott Lewis called a “swapsidy“:

… the Navy plans to build a sparkling new headquarters on the Navy Broadway Complex. But why spend the money, the admirals wondered, when you could give away most of the property rights on the land to a developer in exchange for that builder’s commitment to build the headquarters?

Activists have fought to “have an iconic structure or grand bay-front park established on the four-block stretch to create a walkable destination for the public to enjoy,” we wrote in 2007.

Some reaction from Twitter to the news:

Dan Rottenstreich, political director for Unite Here Local 30 San Diego hotel and hospitality workers’ union: “Its unanimous! Coastal Commission finds changed circumstances at Navy Broadway! Public waterfront access lives to fight another day!”

Dave Rolland, editor of CityBeat: “So, what’s next for Navy Broadway? Does Navy start over and try to make Manchester plan consistent? Can San Diego wrestle that land back?”

William Hamilton, a development and planning consultant: “@sdut A forgone conclusion. Have 2 admit design is pretty prosaic. Let’s hope this rejection leads 2 a better project. Not death of project.”

Dagny Salas is the web editor at You can contact her directly at or 619.550.5669.

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Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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