San Diego City Hall / Photo by Sam Hodgson

Regional planners have been working for just shy of three years on a plan to build the hub of their new, expanded transit system at the Navy’s obsolete NAVWAR facility in Old Town.

Now, though, SANDAG is unveiling an alternative plan that would put the region’s primary transit center downtown. It would still provide the transit connection to the airport that motivated the plan in the first place. 

Late Thursday, Andrew Keatts broke the news of the downtown alternative, which SANDAG staff is describing to the agency’s board during a Friday meeting. The NAVWAR proposal isn’t dead, but SANDAG is now focusing on the downtown vision, which includes the current home of City Hall, two state-owned blocks currently up for redevelopment, and a full block in between those two locations that SANDAG is already acquiring.

“We’re not ending NAVWAR, but just to be very frank, we’re a proud military town, and we want the military to thrive here, but if the Navy doesn’t move faster – we signed (agreements to work with the Navy) when I started, and obviously COVID has disrupted that,” said Hasan Ikhrata, SANDAG’s executive director. “But at the same time, we want to move and finish environmental and cut the ground, and they’re still discussing, you know, the value, and it’s just – I think NAVWAR makes a great deal of sense, but the Navy as a partner needs to be willing to move faster.” 

The agency has also sharpened its focus on another alternative, where the Port of San Diego could offer up its existing headquarters along Harbor Drive. 

Click here to read Keatts’ story on the rapidly changing situation.

Related: It’s a busy time at SANDAG. Keatts also reported Thursday that the agency’s board leadership is expected to announce it does not support the agency’s proposal to charge county residents for every mile they drive as part of the plan to pay for $160 billion in countywide transportation projects over the next thirty years.

That will be a significant rebuke to Ikhrata from the Democratic majority that runs the agency’s board, including Mayor Todd Gloria, who holds the largest vote on the board, since votes are weighted by each city’s population.

It’s unclear what that opposition means for the 30-year transportation plan that’s going before the board for final approval next week. That plan needs to be adopted by the end of the year, per state law. And it needs to demonstrate significant greenhouse gas emissions reductions, also per state law. There’s not enough time to re-do the plan in a week (or a month), given the required environmental reviews and public review time required of it. And it may not be possible for the plan to pass the state’s emissions reductions mandate without the driving charge, though the agency hasn’t shown its math on that question yet. And there’s the lost revenue from cutting the charge, too.

The Plan to Turn the Downtown Library Into a Shelter Is Back

San Diego’s Old Central Library / Photo by Megan Wood
San Diego’s Old Central Library / Photo by Megan Wood

For more than eight years, the city’s former downtown library has sat empty and for most of that time, advocates have urged the city to consider making it a homeless shelter.

The city has decided against welcoming homeless residents there in years past but now, our Lisa Halverstadt reveals, the possibility is back on the table.

City officials are assessing whether the old Central Library and several other city facilities could be suitable shelter sites at Mayor Todd Gloria’s urging. It’s not clear when — or whether — the city will move forward with any of those options.

A Gloria spokesman acknowledged the building has long been beset with challenges — after all, city officials have cited a slew of issues with the site in the past they decided made it a no-go — but said the mayor is determined to expand the city’s shelter capacity.

About those challenges: In 2017, the Faulconer administration told Halverstadt that it would take about $5 million in upgrades to make the old library habitable. Then there’s a quirky 1899 deed restriction Halverstadt uncovered last year that requires that the property house a public library and a reading room that ground a would-be office developer’s plans to halt.

Worth recalling, though: The city today houses hundreds of shelter beds at Golden Hall, a facility it previously — and repeatedly — deemed an unsuitable shelter location.

Read Halverstadt’s story here.

Photo of the Week

Francisco Rubio COVID 19 Death San Diego
Jackie Rubio, Matthew Rubio, Katrina Rubio and Francisco Rubio hold a photo of Francisco Rubio III on November, 28, 2021. Rubio died of COVID-19 complications earlier this year. He was 21 years old. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

If we’ve learned anything this year, it’s that the pandemic is far from over.

Over the past week, my colleagues have been examining the first year of the pandemic in San Diego and uncovered more details about those who passed away.

I had a chance to photograph some of the families who lost loved ones.

While the goal of every photo assignment is to try and get the best shot possible for the story, my main priority shifts during these situations. First and foremost, I make sure the subjects feel comfortable and safe. I sit there and listen to their stories and experiences. “Tell me more about your son. What was he like?”

For me, those moments are worth more than the perfect photo. I have nothing but gratitude for the families who welcomed me into their homes and shared their stories. 

Read our series Year One: COVID-19’s Death Toll here

In Other News

This Morning Report was written by Andrew Keatts, Lisa Halverstadt, Adriana Heldiz and MacKenzie Elmer. It was edited by Megan Wood.

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