Brookfield Redevelopment and SANDAG Presentations Made at Midway Planners Meeting

by on September 23, 2020 · 2 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

The first item of note about the Midway-Pacific Highway Planning Group is a special meeting that will be held Wednesday, September 23, on-line at 3:00, to decide if  “the CPG wish[sic] to take action to support the selection of Brookfield for the Sports Arena Development.”

The decision to have this special meeting was made at the Midway group’s regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, September 16.  In order to provide as much notice as possible, the meeting announcement was e-mailed in the early afternoon the following day.

Because the group does not have a website yet, distribution appears to depend on email lists.  The link to the meeting is on the emailed agenda and is open to anyone who wishes to attend.  Here is the link:  https://legaltechmg.zoom.us/j/94032280361.

Brookfield and Redevelopment of the Midway

The “Brookfield” referred to in the agenda is the entity chosen by, it appears, the mayor, from among four proposers to redevelop the city’s Midway properties.  This is Brookfield Properties and they are partnered with ASM Global, a sports venue operator.

What has never been explained to the public is why two of the four proposers were declared non-responsive and why this decision was rushed through during this pandemic leaving the public in the dark. Why also is this project being politically shepherded by a lame duck mayor with a few months left in office.

Brookfield and the other proposer the city deemed responsive made presentations at the July 15 Midway meeting.  What Brookfield emphasized then, as they did again on Wednesday, is that they are a local company and they care about the community the most because they are local.

As this reporter noted in the July 21 OB Rag article on the July 15 meeting, a search for Brookfield Properties showed they did not have a San Diego office.  Additionally, they are a worldwide corporation.  ASM Global is even larger and even more global. This point is made only to illustrate that one should listen to these kinds of presentation claims with a jaundiced eye.  The people involved may be local but that is as far as it goes.

Brookfield did another brief presentation at the Midway September 16 meeting and the board appeared to like what it saw.  Brookfield’s proposals are on-line and people can make up their own minds on the substance.  It is plural, “proposals” because there is one concept that assumes the 30-foot height limit is removed and there is another to show what it will look like if the height limit remains in place. Brookfield strongly stressed that people needed to vote yes on Prop E to remove the height limit in the Midway area.

Brookfield said it would be spending the fourth quarter of this year and the first three quarters of 2021 in design and would be soliciting community engagement in the process.

Because the presentation was on the agenda for information only, the group could not take a voting action to support Brookfield.  It is for this reason a Special Meeting had to be called.  It appears this will be a short meeting.

Central Mobility Hub

SANDAG was also in attendance to make a presentation but the final reception was a bit chillier than they probably expected.

What was once referred to as a “Grand Central Station,” proposed for the Navy’s SPAWAR site on Pacific Highway, is now called a Central Mobility Hub, and it appears to be a fait accompli.

Jack Christensen from SANDAG explained that a group of four concepts has been created by five participants. The participants are the airport’s Airport Connectivity subcommittee, SANDAG, the City of San Diego, the San Diego Regional Airport Authority, and the Port of San Diego.

The four concepts as described on SANDAG’s website are:

·      Concept 1 – A Central Mobility Hub at Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR), including a multimodal transportation center with a high-frequency automated people mover (APM) service to a transit-ready area located between San Diego International Airport Terminals 1 and 2. Concept 1 assumes a non-stop, high-speed service to the airport via a one-mile tunnel.

·      Concept 2 – A Central Mobility Hub as described in Concept 1, but instead of a tunnel, service to San Diego International Airport would be provided via a 3.6-mile surface/elevated APM route along Pacific Highway, Laurel Street, and Harbor Drive with intermediate stops at the airport Rental Car Center and the planned development at Harbor Island East Basin.

·      Concept 3 – A Central Mobility Hub at the planned Intermodal Transit Center, which includes a multimodal transportation center with numerous connections to regional transit lines, high-frequency APM service to San Diego International Airport, and an airport-like curb drop-off for auto-based travelers. An APM station would provide service to the airport via a 2.6-mile surface/elevated route along Pacific Highway, Laurel Street, and Harbor Drive, with intermediate stops at the airport Rental Car Center and planned development at Harbor Island East Basin.

·      Concepts 4a and 4b include an extension of the Trolley system to the planned San Diego International Airport transit station with an intermediate stop at the planned development at Harbor Island East Basin.

As can be seen, the first three all involve the Central Mobility Hub.

For now, SANDAG, which basically has no money, has funded preliminary engineering studies and environmental efforts.  But, SANDAG has signed an agreement with the Navy already, which can be seen on SANDAG’s website. The questions to be asked are who is holding SANDAG accountable for this and why is SANDAG involved?  Comparisons with the defunct Centre City Development Corporation, reborn as the also defunct, Civic San Diego, come to mind.

Christensen also explained a related SANDAG effort titled Comprehensive Multimodal Corridor Plans or CMCPs. SANDAG has identified transportation corridors in San Diego to study all forms of transportation. One of these is called the Central Mobility Hub and Connections. Others include the North County Corridor on SR 78, the San Vicente Corridor on SR 67, Sea to Santee on SR 52.

Christensen said the Central Mobility Hub and Connections CMCP study will take place first, which is no surprise considering the momentum of this hub idea.

The presentation focused on the Navy’s old SPAWARS site renamed NAVFAC.  It was explained that Todd Gloria’s bill, AB 2731 was on the governor’s desk to sign.  It essentially a way to create a “clear path” to help the Navy expedite the required processes. In includes judicial streamlining and some serious environmental considerations. The Navy is undergoing its own National Environmental Policy Act review or NEPA, and is exempt from CEQA the California Environmental Act.

SANDAG wants the Navy to include the Central Mobility Hub in its NEPA review, which would allow that project to avoid a CEQA review.  Gloria’s bill is intended to, essentially, help the facility escape California’s own environmental review.  Seems like an odd action for a Californian.  Keep in mind SANDAG has already signed an agreement with the Navy. The environmental study is slated for 2021.

One of AB 2731’s statements caught everyone’s interest in that SANDAG is to get “site control.” The bill states:

“This bill would authorize the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) to obtain site control to support the redevelopment of the Old Town Center site, including a transit and transportation facilities project, in the City of San Diego before completing the environmental review for those actions.”

The issue for the Midway group about this was what would happen to the 30-foot height limit if the Navy relinquishes the property to the city.  Federal property is exempt from the height limit as was shown in the ridiculous court case McMillin won at NTC that resulted in buildings over 30 feet there.  When asked for a clarification of who would have the property, the answer was a series of prevarications that rested on this being a complicated question with lots of possibilities. In other words, no clear answer.

This is an important point because the MCRD property may one day also be relinquished.

When asked about funding for all this effort, Christensen said they can get some state funding and do “outreach.”  When asked if SANDAG had identified funding sources, the answer was no.  SANDAG’s last effort to pass a bond measure failed badly.  Where the money will come from is a big question.

Christensen emphasized that community input was, and is, sought throughout the process.  The Midway group’s chair, Cathy Kenton, was not buying it.  Kenton went into a passionate criticism of the whole evolution of the Central Mobility Hub plan, most notably how Midway was not involved in any of the planning despite many requests to be included. Kenton said “We have been begging SANDAG and the Navy to please give us a seat at the table” to no avail.  Kenton also said “I think you are giving us a bunch of lip service.”

It is easy to understand Kenton’s anger. The Midway group first heard about this plan when everyone else heard did in a news story about the mayor and SANDAG signing an agreement.  Considering that Midway’s new community plan still had wet ink on it after ten or more years of work, it amazed them that they were not included in these discussions from the beginning.  Considering that this hub idea was not included in the community plan, it kind of throws a monkey wrench into the underlying assumptions of that plan.

The rest of the group was in agreement with Kenton’s comments.  SANDAG’s presenters seemed a bit taken aback but should not have been. The Midway group has not been shy about its opinion of SANDAG but the message does not seem to penetrate.  At least it seemed to surprise this group of SANDAG people.

 

 

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Tom Heffernan September 24, 2020 at 2:10 pm

Per City Council Policy 600-24, that statutorily enables our Community Planning Committees, the Committees are advisory to the Planning Commission. They are charged with working with Planning Staff to formulate and implement Community Plans, and with making recommendations to Planning Staff on projects as to their conformance with the Community Plans. When projects conform with Community Plan prescriptions they are approved by right. But when projects deviate from the Community Plan, the discretionary review process commences, starting with the Community Planning Committee’s review and moving up through the process levels depending on the degree of variance.

I wasn’t at the Midway Community Planning Committee meeting, but this might explain why SANDAG staff were taken aback at the committee’s ire. SANDAG was presenting the Mobility Hub as an information item. That is involving the Committee, and I hope that Committee comments were taken under advisement. When an actual project is submitted for review, and if it is at variance with the Midway Plan, the Committee’s statutory role will be formally triggered and the Committee will be able to exercise its responsibility to provide comments and recommendations advisory to the Planning Commission.

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Avatar Geoff Page September 25, 2020 at 9:58 am

Tom, thanks for the informational comment. I do, however, have to differ with you on a major point. You wrote “when projects deviate from the Community Plan, the discretionary review process commences,” Sadly, what the planning group has to say has nothing to do with the review process. If a project comes to a planning board, it is already in the discretionary approval process, ministerial approval projects do not come to the planning boards. The community plans are not codified in the Municipal Code. The city’s plan reviewers pay no attention to the community plans. If a planning board denies a project, the city ignores that action but if the planning board approves a project, the city waves that approval high declaring the community is in favor of the project.

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