Midway Planners and Councilwoman Campbell Disconnect Over ‘Grand Central Station’

by on February 24, 2020 · 2 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

The highlight of the Midway-Pacific Community Planning Group’s monthly meeting February 19 was an appearance by District 2 City Council member Dr. Jennifer Campbell.  But, there appeared to be a serious disconnect between Campbell and the Midway group on the topic of the old SPAWARS site on Pacific Highway.  The Navy has renamed it NAVFAC.

Campbell was asked about the site and talked about the “Grand Central Station” transit center idea that SANDAG and the lame duck mayor are pushing.  The Navy and SANDAG and the mayor have signed some exploratory documents in this direction. Campbell seemed upbeat about the project and called it a win-win for the Navy and San Diego.  This was where the disconnect was apparent.

The Midway group has expressed its displeasure, repeatedly, with how the city has handled everything about this transit center idea, beginning with the group learning about it through the news media like everyone else.  The city never communicated with Midway about a major project that falls within the planning group’s area.  It doesn’t sound like much has improved in the months since the mayor and SANDAG made their public announcement.

Cathy Kenton, chair of the Midway group, went so far as to say “In my opinion, we have been specifically excluded, we are very disappointed.”  Kenton has spoken up several times at the monthly meetings, since first learning of the project, about involving them in the discussions. The mayor has truly demonstrated the worth he places in local planning boards by ignoring the Midway planning board.

Most planning board meetings and some town council meetings, have an agenda item called government reports or something like it.  Midway lists ten of these but normally only a few attend.  The Mayor’s representative never shows up at the meetings.

Campbell was asked if she knew what process was followed that allowed the lame duck mayor to sign anything like this and why there was no public input, but she was not able to answer.

On a positive note, Campbell mentioned there was “scoping” meeting being held that evening at the Liberty Station Conference Center that people could attend and have some input.  The problem was the meeting was from 4:00 to 7:00.  That is one of the worst time frames for a public meeting on a weekday. Parents are getting kids home from school and feeding them, walking dogs, and coming home from work themselves.  The meeting was not well advertised either.

Josh Coyne, the District 2 representative who attends the meetings regularly, explained to this reporter that Campbell meant to express excitement at the idea of redeveloping that old property not necessarily just the idea of a transit center.  Coyne said there are a number of ideas about how to redevelop it but so far, all anyone has heard about is the transit center idea.  It was suggested that Campbell be a little clearer on that because it did appear that she was behind the Grand Central Station idea.  And the Midway group is very leery of the idea, at least with what little they have been able to learn so far.

A SANDAG representative attended the meeting.  Gia Ballash introduced herself and said she would be attending the meetings regularly to keep the group updated on the project.  While that seemed like a generous offer on SANDAG’s part, it also seemed to solidify the idea that SANDAG’s and the mayor’s plan was a fait accompli.  SANDAG is not one of the agency groups on Midway’s usual list of 10 governmental reports so the decision to attend regularly now is directly attributable to the transit center idea.  It appears that SANDAG at least, unlike the mayor, feels a need to curry favor with the Midway group.

When the representative from Todd Gloria’s assembly office spoke, she made a point to try and allay fears that the transit center was a done deal.  That seemed unnecessary coming from a member of the state assembly.  But, knowing that Gloria may well be the new mayor, this attempt to soothe the board just raised the suspicions of this reporter.

Sports Arena Area, the RFP and the 30 Foot Height Limit

Campbell was asked about the Sports Arena and explained that there is a Request for Proposals or RFP out now for ideas from developers about what to do with the city’s land.  The area is described as a “blank slate” open for ideas. While the entertainment venue is envisioned to be a part of the mix, there is never an outright promise it will be.

One of the items on everyone’s mind was the 30-foot height limit.  The board believes it needs to be modified to allow taller buildings in the Midway area, which is pretty far from the coastline.  With taller buildings, they reasoned, there would be more land available for parks and open space that would not be so if they were limited to 30 feet. Campbell did say that it would take a ballot measure to make such a change.

There are short-term and long-term leases in the mix.  Short-term leases are for the Sports Arena itself and Dixieline Lumber.  The Sports Arena was to be taken over by the Anaheim Group, but they pulled out.  The AEG Group is the apparent new operator.  The RFP is for redevelopment that will involve long term leases, but no specifics were given.

Midway Post Office project

A board member asked about the Midway Post Office project and it was learned that the residential development part of the project is moving along with a plan to build 677 units.  The commercial part of the project is moving more slowly with the old building having been sold a third time.  The plan has always been to keep the existing building and reuse it for commercial space.

7/11 store on Midway relocating

There was an extended discussion about a 7/11 store on Midway relocating about 1,000 feet away to a new spot.  The main issue appeared to be that they were moving into a different census tract with a higher crime rate.  The SDPD has concerns and may want conditions on alcohol sales and hours of those sales, among other things.

The representative for 7/11 described the changes they will be making such as providing fresh food items.  The most interesting change will be coffee machines that will contain coffee beans.  The beans will grind and then brew providing a fresh cup of coffee that 7/11 believes will rival Starbucks for quality at a much lower price.

Annual Elections

And lastly, the Midway-Pacific Planning Group will be holding its yearly elections before its March meeting and is encouraging people to run and to vote.  Contact Cathy Kenton at MPHCPG@gmail.com for additional information on how to apply as a candidate.  The voting will take place at the Bay City Brewery on Hancock street Wednesday March 20 at 2:30 p.m. One seat was filled by appointment at the meeting when Dixieline manager Ted Teran was seated by a board vote to fill a vacated seat.  All planning boards hold elections in March to fill regularly recycled seats.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Tom Cairns February 24, 2020 at 4:24 pm

One issue the planners and city might look at is what is happening with New York’s Grand Central Terminal. The homeless have been using it as a place to crash, hang out, etc., to the point of disrupting business. Something to consider, and what additional costs might end up being incurred if it’s built.

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Avatar Geoff Page February 25, 2020 at 11:42 am

Tom, just to be clear, the Midway planners have been left out of any discussions. Your comment is well taken but needs to be heard by SANDAG and the lame duck mayor. If there is ever a chance for public input, that is a point to be heard as if the experience with the new downtown library isn’t educational enough for them.

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