Todd Gloria Becomes the Main Man Behind the SANDAG-Navy Deal on Former SPAWAR Property in the Midway – One Month Before Election

by on October 2, 2020 · 12 comments

in Military, Ocean Beach, San Diego

Today we learned that on the heels of Gov. Gavin Newsom putting his signature on Assembly Bill 2731 just yesterday, Tuesday  – which pushes forward the whole SANDAG – Navy deal on the old SPAWAR property -, San Diego mayoral candidate and assemblyman Todd Gloria, is taking over as the lead politician on the project, with Faulconer only around another month or so.

(I know it’s not called SPAWAR officially any more but how can we give up such a great name – Spawars – short for space wars? Besides, I bet there’s only one person on the OB Rag who knows what the current name is.)

The signed bill removes, as the San Diego Union-Tribune touted, “much of the red tape associated with the environmental review process required by the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA.” And there’s more:

With the action, the San Diego Association or Governments (SANDAG) can use the Navy’s environmental analysis of the site as a substitute for the state review, so long as certain conditions are met. The bill also fast-tracks any CEQA-related legal challenges to the proposed transit center, requiring the courts to resolve litigation in 270 days.

… Now, thanks to AB 2731, the parties won’t have to duplicate environmental studies. “What this bill does is create a certainty of process. That means that the mobility hub will continue to have to meet the requirements of CEQA, but it will be able to do it under expedited review,” Gloria said. “It’s that certainty of process that will help this project… go through the normal processes, just in a shorter amount of time.”

The Navy had planned to issue its environmental impact statement for the project site by December, but now has pushed back completion into next year.

Never mind that the Navy and SANDAG have yet to agree on the exact sale or lease terms for the property, “although” as U-T writer Jennifer Van Grove explains, “deal particulars were expected to be hammered out earlier this year.”

If the environmental impact study and statement had to be pushed back, presumably due to the pandemic, doesn’t it follow that any agreed-upon price would also have to be postponed? I mean, how could SANDAG negotiate a deal without knowing the impacts on the environment? How could the agency pencil in its costs if it’s not known what kind of price-tag will be on any mitigation efforts? Or will the Navy handle that? What am I missing?

Navy spokeswoman Caitlin Ostomel is quoted:

“The Navy is still working on the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Navy Old Town Campus (OTC) site at Naval Base Point Loma. Our next big milestone is the 45-day public comment period for the draft EIS in early 2021. The Navy is committed to preparing a thorough environmental document that carefully considers the technical studies conducted and public comments received during the public scoping period held earlier this year.

At any rate, Gloria is pushing the project along – as time is of the essence. Heck, the Navy could even back out of the deal if it took too long. Time is of the essence, Gloria told the U-T, (see?) because as Van Grove quotes Gloria, “of the Navy’s urgent need for new facilities and its ability to move personnel somewhere else if it can’t get the workspace it needs.” Somewhere else? The Navy loves San Diego, and vice versa.  Well, don’t forget, after revisions, he and Toni Atkins sponsored the bill.

But for the expedited EIS, as Van Grove recounts, “The time savings could equate to years, maybe even a decade or more when considering the 14-year period between the Navy’s 2006 agreement with Manchester Financial Group for a new downtown headquarters and the building’s completion this month, Gloria said.”

From the U-T:

The proposed NAVWAR revitalization represents a joint effort between the Navy and SANDAG to turn the military’s obsolete cyber-security campus into an airport serving transportation hub that includes all-new Navy facilities alongside housing, retail and private-sector office space. The general idea is that SANDAG would build new offices for the Navy’s information technology workers. In return, the regional agency would get the remainder of the expansive property to use for the transit center.

Currently, the Midway District complex formerly known as SPAWAR hosts the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command and Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific divisions. It’s home to around 6,000 workers, a mix of full-time Navy personnel and contractors wno work in World War II-era Hangars.

The federal and regional agency partnership was cemented with an exclusivity agreement in January. That was quickly followed by the start of the Navy’s federal environmental review, as mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act. SANDAG has also already committed $50 million in funds to support planning efforts.

There are other obstacles for the project – known and unknown – including financing and various approvals at the local and federal level. There are the known unknowns but then there are the unknown unknowns to consider.

But with Gloria as the main man on the project, in the middle of an election campaign where he’s throwing nasty attack ads at this opponent, Barbara Bry, everything’s under control. I’m so relieved that he’s not pumping the project cuz he wants to be mayor, even though it’s only 4 weeks to the election.


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Joni Halpern October 2, 2020 at 1:36 pm

Perhaps it is time to remind San Diegans that the California Environmental Quality Act, which is now vilified as the premier obstacle to resolving all urban problems through unfettered development, has been the only tool the public has had to fight for livability of our city. Quite apart from this project to replace the SPAWAR facility, San Diegans have fought for the protection of their environment for decades, preserving canyons, fragile ecosystems, natural beauty (wherever it can still be found) and neighborhood quality of life. When we abridge or virtually eradicate CEQA so we can push through multi-billion dollar developments, we cripple CEQA when it is needed to protect our own neighborhoods, our communities, our city.


retired botanist October 2, 2020 at 6:02 pm

And I’ll add to that: California is incredibly lucky to be one of the few states in the nation to have this additional level of environmental review, flawed and side-stepped as it is. I think Oregon also has an equivalent (and maybe Washington). When a project has any federal overlay, a similar review (EIS rather than EIR) is required, and sometimes these two review processes are combined in a joint EIR/EIS document. I have seen EIS override EIR many times, especially in instances when sensitive habitat is involved (think Pendleton, Coronado silver strand, MCAS Miramar with its vernal pools, highways, etc. etc .) and even local dam projects which must respond to FERC regulations…
CEQA has a lot of problems, and in many cases results in litigation. But it is the only vehicle in which the public actually gets to participate in comments, and under which otherwise neglected interests ( like NA lands, community aesthetics and other elements that are often get swept under the rug), have representation and consideration.
“Fast-tracking” is just another name for avoiding!! Preserve CEQA, it is the only comprehensive address that citizens have in protecting theirs lands, environment and community best interests.


Chris October 2, 2020 at 4:02 pm

SPAWAR -Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center


Frank Gormlie October 2, 2020 at 4:47 pm

Chris – am aware of the official military name, dude. I like mine better – more accurate.


Chris October 2, 2020 at 5:19 pm

Copy that. I like it better too.


Chris October 2, 2020 at 4:06 pm

The new name is NAVWAR – Naval Information Warfare Systems Command.


Pete R October 2, 2020 at 4:26 pm

Have you ever been inside the current warehouses? It’s a decrepit cube farm, and the Navy is literally trying to run some of the world’s most advanced IT/cyber operations from it. The space is barely functional and falling apart more every day. So there’s no question that the Navy needs a new headquarters for NAVWAR.

The question is, where will it be? This is 6,000 local jobs, expected to grow to 9,000 in the next decade. Plus a ton of supporting contractors who locate here to be close to NAVWAR.

If regulatory or political obstacles are too great in San Diego, don’t think the Navy won’t move whole operation. Places like Georgia or Texas would welcome them with open arms.

So I don’t really get why you’re angry at Todd Gloria for trying to keep thousands of good jobs here, while cleaning up the ugly and depressing NAVWAR site. That seems like a win-win.


Frank Gormlie October 2, 2020 at 4:46 pm

Actually, I worked in one of them during college when Convair was running them; talk about decrepit! No AC of course, hotter than hades, grinding aircraft wing parts.


Paul Webb October 2, 2020 at 5:26 pm

From my point of view, it’s not about keeping the navy jobs here. Let’s face it, we are a navy town and we might as well keep good paying jobs here if we can. It’s about the process, the way this is being ramrodded through with scant environmental review due to expedited CEQA and NEPA processes. It’s about not just building the structures the navy needs, but extensive additional development that the area just does not need. It’s about the multi-modal transit center, again being ramrodded through with little public input, that no one has actually showed a need for. Bullet train, not coming here. Trolley/people mover to the airport? Where is the $4 Billion for that going to come from (BTW, not making that number up, that’s what LAX’s is going to cost).

The navy says they don’t have the money, that’s why it has to be turned over to a private developer, with extraneous, non-navy development. Whatever happened to that trillion dollar infrastructure bill Trump promised in his campaign? This would be a good place to spend a few federal bucks.


retired botanist October 2, 2020 at 6:12 pm

I’ll ditto that, Paul, and see my comment to Joni’s above.


Geoff Page October 5, 2020 at 12:56 pm


The issue is not the Navy or Navy jobs leaving. The Navy will get a “free” building, as it did downtown on Broadway and Harbor Drive. They have no intention of leaving. The issue is the transit center. They are avoiding the CEQA review for that, which will have far more of an effect than an office building that will just be housing the employees already on site and maybe a few more. And, don’t give Gloria credit for “cleaning up the ugly and depressing NAVWAR site, he has nothing to do with that.


Lora October 6, 2020 at 11:56 pm

SPAWAR -Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center


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