Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group in July chose not to select among five proposed alternatives for redeveloping the Navy’s NAVWAR site, opting instead to comment on the project’s environmental study from the perspective of its recently updated community plan.
“We have a relatively new community plan update and it’s our position that any project being developed within Midway needs to conform to the spirit of the community plan,” said MPHCPG chair Cathy Kenton about their City-approved community plan update, which took effect in November 2018.
“The frame, the lens, we’re looking at this through is from our purview as the officially recognized community plan group and through the vision from our community plan, our guiding document. If you read it (community plan) you know we don’t think it (EIS) fits very well.”
“The Navy’s position is that our community plan can be changed to accommodate this project,” added Kenton.“And that is certainly an option. But this plan has been heavily vetted, heavily worked on, and we’re coming at it from the standpoint that we would rather not just change the plan.”
Kenton said Midway Planning Group has declined requests by nearby planning groups to join with them in taking a consensus position on the Navy’s five proposed alternatives for redeveloping NAVWAR’s 70.5-acre World War II-era Old Town Campus at 4301 Pacific Highway.
Midway planners recently formed an ad hoc subcommittee chaired by board member Dike Anyiwo to draft the group’s position on addressing the draft EIS for the Navy OTC Revitalization Project. “We wanted to dive a little deeper into this,” said Anyiwo. “Since then, we’ve refined our position in a 13-page final draft document.”
Kenton said the subcommittee’s response to the Navy’s environmental statement was to “compartmentalize various different components” of the draft EIS in responding to it. “We’re trying to not try and tell the Navy what they should do,” she said. “But rather, hold up our document (community plan) governing land use in determining how to react to it.”
That Midway Planning Group document reacting to the Navy EIS, at press time, was still undergoing final revision and unavailable for public review and comment, which will come soon.
“We resisted the urge to choose one of the five options that the Navy has put out there,” said Midway planner Judy Holiday. “We evaluated the entire environmental study based on our vision in the community plan we adopted. It really isn’t up to us to choose anything. We wanted to just compare what they’re (Navy’s) suggesting, to see if it would work with what we see as our plan’s vision for the community.”
“We’ve been working with your community on addressing the issues in a way that is going to have the most effect,” noted Greg Geisen, project manager for NAVWAR’s revitalization effort. “We’ve had a team to help us develop an overarching EIS to provide an umbrella under which we can make decisions. Whichever alternative is chosen will be a starting point. What it will look has not been determined. It will not happen overnight.”
“There’s always a tremendous temptation for something like this to take on a personal nature,” noted Midway planner Kurt Sullivan. “The suggestion to focus on how various alternatives compare with our community plan that was worked on for so many years is very sensible and analytical. That overall message is well done and a tremendous work product.”
The Navy has proposed five alternatives in its OTC Revitalization Project to redevelop NAVWAR, which supports more than 150 Navy programs for command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence. The five alternatives are far-ranging in scope, with the least-impactful alternative envisioned being Navy-only redevelopment of NAVWAR facilities. That would not involve mixed-use development or a transit center on OTC.
The other four alternatives propose far greater redevelopment including up to 10,000 new residential units, 2,058,750 square feet of commercial space, two hotels with 450 total rooms, 433,750 square feet of retail space, and an on-site transit facility at OTC.
The Navy prefers Alternative 4: public-private, higher-density, mixed-use development with a transit center and an estimated 30-year build-out. Thus far, in public forums hosted by the Navy on its OTC Revitalization Project, local residents and planners have expressed a marked preference for the Navy-only redevelopment alternative, arguing it will increase existing traffic congestion, and that proposed high-rise buildings would threaten viewsheds in the historic Old Town area.
The urbanized Midway-Pacific Highway Community, between Old Town and Point Loma, consists of the central Midway area, the Pacific Highway corridor, and the U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot. Midway has a commercial core with numerous shopping centers and the former Sports Arena and includes an extensive industrial/warehouse area plus limited residential.
The Navy’s Draft EIS Preferred Alternative is not a final decision. The Navy wants to receive public comments to make an informed decision. The Navy may select any of the five alternatives studied in the EIS. The final selection will be documented in the Record of Decision.
The draft environmental impact statement assessing all five alternatives on the NAVWAR OTC redevelopment proposal is out for public review and can be seen at navwar-revitalization.com.
The Navy’s draft EIS public comment period for NAVWAR OTC redevelopment will end on Aug. 12.