The Morning Report
San Diego news and info
you need to take on the day.
At its Dec. 13 meeting, the San Diego Unified Port District Board of Port Commissioners adopted an update to the Port’s COMPASS Strategic Plan and Values. One of the core values the board adopted for 2012-2017 in its meeting on Dec. 13 is “Integrity,” noting that “Integrity is consistently honoring agreements and acting truthfully, honestly and ethically.”
The Port Board’s true commitment to that particular value is going to be tested by the Midway Museum early this year. At an upcoming board meeting, the board will be asked by the museum to renege on written commitments the Port and the USS Midway Museum made to the public and the California Coastal Commission before the carrier was brought to San Diego.
First, a little history. Before the USS Midway was brought here, Coastal Commission staff took a position opposing the move, noting that berthing the huge Midway aircraft carrier on the San Diego’s downtown embarcadero would block public views and access to the bay. Things looked bleak for the Port and the nascent Midway Museum.
So, before the Coastal Commission had a chance to vote on the proposal, which included a Port Master Plan Amendment (PMPA) and a new Coastal Development Permit (CDP), the Midway and the Port made a proposal to mitigate the loss of access and views created by berthing the carrier on our downtown waterfront. They proposed that as part of mitigation for berthing the carrier at the Navy Pier, the Port and the Midway Museum would move parking off the pier to a new site and would build a new public veterans memorial park covering the existing deck of the entire 5.7 acre pier.
In addition, the Port committed, in writing, that it would preserve public views of the bay over the Broadway Pier, in perpetuity.
These commitments were memorialized in a mitigation plan incorporated in a written 2001 Port Master Plan Amendment and CDP, which the Coastal Commission then approved, paving the way for the carrier to be brought here.
The PMPA required that the Port and the Midway Museum plan and construct the new public veterans park when the Navy turned title to the Navy Pier over to the San Diego Unified Port District, which occurred in 2003. To assuage mistrust on the part of the Coastal Commission, when the 2001 PMPA and CDP were being considered, the Port adopted the goal of constructing the 5.7 acre public park on the existing deck of Navy Pier as a special priority of its Port Master Plan.
Instead of honoring that commitment to the letter, the Port signed a long-term lease with the Midway Museum allowing the museum to use the pier for parking, and other lease elements that violated both the Port Master Plan Amendment and the Navy Pier CDP. The lease requires that by 2012, the Midway Museum must provide the Port with a design and financing plan to move parking off the tidelands and build a new public park on only part of the Navy Pier. (See the revised agenda for the November 8, 2011 Board of Port Commissioners meeting.
In 2009 the Port reneged on its written commitment to preserve public views over the Broadway Pier when it built a new cruise ship terminal on the pier, blocking public views over the pier to the bay.
On November 8, the Midway Museum brought a proposal to the Port Commission. The proposal would renege on the museum’s commitments to the public and the Coastal Commission. It would violate the PMPA and the CDP that allowed the Midway to be berthed at Navy Pier.
Instead of building the promised public veterans park on the 5.7 acre existing deck of Navy Pier, the Midway is now proposing to build a new two story tall parking garage on the deck of the pier. On top of that parking garage, the Midway proposes to create space for a new band shell for the San Diego Symphony Pops orchestra and top it off with a pair of giant (500′ tall”) “sails,” which it calls “Wings of Freedom.” For comparison, the new “sails” would be as tall as the waterfront Hyatt Hotel towers, the tallest building in downtown and the tallest building on the California tidelands.
Google Earth Renderings predict that the new parking garage would block almost twice as much space as public view space as the Midway carrier does now. The proposed 500’ sculpture would further block this view.
Public reaction to the sculpture can be found on multiple local media outlets. The comments have been mostly negative and critical of the design.
It has become obvious that the Midway Museum was working on its parking garage and sculpture concept for many months before bringing it to the Port Board on November 8. The museum could have unveiled the idea before the Port’s North Embarcadero Port Master Plan Amendment Citizens Advisory Committee last summer, but chose to keep the details of the concept secret until the November 8 Port Board meeting.
After springing the idea on the board, the Midway Museum then held three of its own “public” workshops, mostly attended by museum employees and volunteers. At the last workshop, the museum director asserted that the Midway’s current lease with the Port does not require the museum to contribute a dime to redeveloping the Navy Pier, but said that the museum and its supporters will help the Port with fundraising if the Port goes along with their proposal.
So the Port Board’s consideration of the museum’s request will be an interesting event. The board is going to be asked to renege on commitments the Port made in writing to the Coastal Commission and the public.
The public and the Coastal Commission will be watching to see if the board lives up to its COMPASS values or ignores them. The Midway Museum’s proposal is inconsistent with the clear commitments that the Port has already made. The board should direct the museum to go back to the drawing board and come back with a proposal that fully adheres to the written commitments the Port and the museum made to the Coastal Commission and the public when the carrier was brought to San Diego.
Correction: This blog post originally stated that the San Diego Unified Port District Board of Port Commissioners would discuss previous agreements regarding the Navy Pier on January 10, 2012. We said, “The Port Board’s true commitment to that particular value is going to be tested by the Midway Museum on Jan. 10” and “So the Port Board’s January 10 meeting will be an interesting event.” It has been corrected to say “early this year” and “So the Port Board’s consideration of the museum’s request will be an interesting event” respectively. The original post also stated, “Google Earth Renderings predict that the new parking garage would block almost twice as much public view space as it does now.” It has been changed to “Google Earth Renderings predict that the new parking garage would block almost twice as much public view space as the Midway carrier does now.” The original post also stated that the core values were adopted in a closed session meeting on December 13. This is not accurate and has been removed. It was discussed in the regular, open meeting on December 13. We regret the error.
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.
Want to contribute to discussion? Submit a suggestion to Fix San Diego.