Midway Planners In ‘Shock’ After Navy’s Presentation of 5 Options for NAVWAR Site

by on May 24, 2021 · 51 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

The Navy gave its very first public presentation of its potential plans for redeveloping the old SPAWAR site on Pacific Highway to the Midway-Pacific Highway Planning Group, Wednesday, May 19.

The details of the Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, were recently made public and reactions have been intense because of the density and building heights in some of the alternates the Navy’s EIS contains.

The Navy has five possible alternate plans for the site, some of which include buildings 240 feet tall and others with buildings 350 feet tall. That difference of 110 feet, it turns out, would be required on two of the five alternates because two of the alternate plans incorporate 315,000 square feet for SANDAG’s “Grand Central Station” project. When there is less room to build on, the solution is to build higher.

The possibility of buildings 350 feet tall would be a direct consequence of SANDAG’s push to build a Grand Central Station on the site.

Before relating what the Navy had to say, a little review is helpful because the naming gets confusing.  The project consists of two properties collectively named NAVWAR and also referred to as the Old Town Campus (OTC).  The old SPAWARs site, the collection of huge buildings on Pacific Highway that were used to manufacture bombers in WWII, is called OTC Site 1.

OTC Site 2 is the property behind Walter Anderson’s Nursery and bordered by Midway Drive. It looks like a large parking lot with some military vehicles parked on it surrounded by a cyclone fence. The proposed developments involve both sites.

Speaking for the Navy was Greg Geisen who repeatedly emphasized two things, that the buildings would not necessarily be as tall as the presentation showed and that the Navy is yearning for public input.

Unfortunately, it seems most agencies have learned to play the game of “public input.” They make a big deal of showing they have an elaborate process to take public comments. Box checked.  But, often it is just for show as the outcome is preordained, like Campbell and her deal with the travel industry about vacation rentals.

The building height was clearly a sore point that Geisen addressed immediately with a ready explanation.  He said the Navy’s EIS was intended to provide as large a development “envelope” as possible. This would ensure that the Navy would never need to go back and amend its EIS.  It did not mean that 350-foot tall buildings would ever be built, he said.  But, he could not give any assurance that buildings would not be that tall.

The Navy’s explanation did not satisfy anyone.  Most people would have a hard time trusting a public agency and the military has the ability to do whatever it wants, and usually does.  The public would probably be more accepting of the proposals had they not included such tall buildings and so much density.

Five Proposals

The Navy refers to Alternate #1 as the “Do Nothing” option. They are clearly not in favor of this option. The “Do Nothing” refers to develop or not – it does not mean to actually do nothing. This alternate involves some millions in expenditures to demolish one of the big buildings, upgrade the existing facility, and spend money on maintenance.  These millions would come from the federal government.

Geisen made sure to emphasize, as does the Navy’s PowerPoint show, that our tax dollars would pay for Alternate #1, while none of the other four alternates would cost the taxpayers anything. The message was that Alternate #1 is clearly folly.

The following table compares the plans for residential, commercial, retail, hotels, and a transit center uses of the five alternates. The Navy’s preferred alternate is #4, which is shaded in the table. Alternates #4 and #5 are the only two with a transit center and building heights of 350 feet. Alternate #4 has the highest density for every use category too.

Altogether, the Navy’s site is about 3.3 million square feet, around 70 acres.  Obviously, the square footages in the table do not represent the square footage of the property.

The Navy requires 1,694,268 square feet for its operations consisting of the following:

  • 845,326/SF – Secure office space
  • 29,156/SF – Secure auditorium space
  • 24,172/SF – Warehouse
  • 165,614/SF – Lab space
  • 630,000 – Parking

Two observations. The 630,000 square feet of parking was the same on every proposal.  One would think, with the addition of a transit center, that number could have been significantly reduced in alternates #4 and #5. It was not.

Geisen explained that the Navy plans to move a lot of operations now housed in the existing buildings to other bases including Miramar and Naval Base Point Loma.

“Key Resources Analyzed” in the EIS

The Navy’s four “Key Resources” are:

  • Traffic & Transportation
  • Air
  • Visual
  • Cultural & Historic.

The analysis of impacts to traffic and transportation determined there would be a significant impact if any of alternates #2 through #5 were chosen. Hopefully, they did not spend a great deal of time and money on that analysis or the “mitigation” strategies they laid out.

To mitigate the traffic and transportation impacts, they had three suggestions. The first was to “modify intersection layouts.”  Looking at the site, it’s hard to see what intersection modifications could be made in this constrained location to help handle the huge volume of traffic the development will generate.

Mitigation idea number two was to have Caltrans revise the freeway interchange.

Mitigation idea number three was simply stated as implementing projects that were in the Midway community plan.  It is hard to imagine the community plan would have anything in it that could help mitigate traffic and transportation impacts from a project that did not exist when the community plan was put together.

The mitigation strategies were not only weak, they all depended on other agencies doing something, like Caltrans.  There was no talk of providing funds for Caltrans to revise its interchange or the city of San Diego to modify intersection layouts.  SANDAG has priced the Grand Central Station alone at $4 billion and wants a bond to raise the cash.  Where will the money come from for the mitigations? This is not the Navy’s problem.

The other “key resource” worth noting was “Visual.”  When the first copies of the Navy’s presentation surfaced, the section dealing with the visual impacts garnered the most attention.  The 3D animations showing the building heights of four development alternatives set into the surrounding real estate were shocking.

Interestingly, the pictures in the Navy’s presentation to the Midway group were distinctly different.  The bottom half of the five pictures of the five alternates was full of trees.  The buildings were much smaller scale and farther off in the distance. There pictures produce much less of a reaction in the viewers, which is, of course, the point. Which version is the most realistic?

The visual impacts were characterized as “significant and unavoidable.”  An amazing combination of just three words that actually say, we know this will be a serious visual impact on San Diego but we are going to do it anyway.

The did try to suggest what they called “minimization measures.”  Not mitigation for some reason, minimization.  These suggestions were:

  • Building number limit
  • Building height limit
  • Stepping down building heights
  • Creating building gaps
  • Constructing fewer towers
  • Create plazas, streets, and spaces “campus like setting”

Certainly, these ideas could help “minimize” the impacts but that will depend on whether or not doing them has an impact on developer profits.

The remaining steps in the Navy’s EIS process are the public comment period, until July 13, publishing the final EIS in late 2021, and publishing a Record of Decision also in late 2021.  Geisen emphasized repeatedly that comments have to be in writing to be considered.

At the beginning of the meeting, Geisen said, “I’m not allowed to take public comment in the NEPA process orally at today’s meeting or any other. The only time I can do oral engagement is at designated ones where I have a court reporter to make sure it is accurate.” It seems that a Zoom meeting recording was not considered to be as accurate as court reporter.

To make public comment and find more information, go here

There was not much discussion once the presentation was over.  Because there was so much to look at, and because Midway only has one more meeting before the public comment period ends, they formed an ad hoc subcommittee to study the project. The subcommittee will develop whatever comments the group, as a whole, wants to deliver to the Navy, or comments of individual group members.

Chair Cathy Kenton did express some dismay at the 30-year buildout timeline for the development work.  The idea of construction going on for 30 years was daunting and she wondered if that buildout timeline could be shortened.  This will depend on private developers; there is really no way to influence how long it all will take.

Suffice to say, the Midway group was in shock.  They have been anticipating development of the city’s Sports Arena land for years and visions of what that might have looked like, as seen in the development proposal, were tantalizing.  Then, the development came to halt because of the state’s affordable housing law.

While that effort stalled, Midway was surprised with this huge new development.  Surely the Navy’s revelations about plans for the property will have an effect on the proposal to redevelop the Sports Arena property.  The two projects will be competing with each other for residents, businesses, and hotels.

If the Grand Central Station actually happens, Midway could look like the downtowns of many small cities when a WalMart is built on the outskirts if town.  With all the transportation at the Navy property, all the action will be at the shops, restaurants, and residences there. This could be a problem for Midway’s future.

SANDAG’s Grand Central Station EIR

In parallel with the Navy’s EIS, SANDAG has an Environmental Impact Report out for comment, specifically for the transit center project. This has been out for some time and the public comment period ends Friday, May 28.  Comments can be made here  Central Mobility Hub Engagement Site.

San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture

Tracy Dezenzo, of the Ocean Beach Planning and a commissioner on the Arts and Culture commission, provided information about a “toolkit” to help residents and organizations navigate the application process for placing murals within the public right-away. She explained that the city requires any artwork proposed for city property, or property under the city’s jurisdiction, to be reviewed by the Commission for Arts and Culture and be approved by the city.

Dezenzo provided the following link for information on the mural application process and toolkit to get started:  Here   She also provided her contact information: Tracy Dezenzo, Commissioner for the SD Commission for Arts and Culture tracyld10@cox.

{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

Gravitas May 24, 2021 at 11:07 am

Geoff: Your work on the “Grand” Central mess and the OB Pier collapse are super. The information is invaluable and usually hidden from view. Thanks for the updates and the relevant sites to click on to try to address the problems. Two big issues….traffic and water!


Geoff Page May 24, 2021 at 12:36 pm

Thank, Gravitas, it is good to know the information has value for you. Maybe we should all begin referring to it as the Grand Central Mess, has a nice ring to it.


Don Wood May 24, 2021 at 3:28 pm

Ironically, Alternate 1 may be the only legal route the Navy can take to redevelop the site. In the 1980s, when downtown developers came up with the idea of letting a private developer redevelop the Navy’s Navy Bayfront Complex at the foot of Broadway, it turned out to be illegal without new legislation by Congress. Under pressure due to fears that the Navy might lose control of the base under the BRAC process, The Navy and downtown developers got then Senator Pete Wilson to push a special interest bill through congress, which required that before the Navy could lease the site to any developer, it had to sign a development agreement with the city and CCDCD specifying how many buildings could be built on the site, along with building heights and densities, setbacks and setbacks, etc. Only after that bill passed and a development agreement was signed could the Navy send out invitations to bid, which resulted in the Navy signing a 66 year lease with developer Doug Manchester, a major contributor to Wilson.

I believe that if the Navy wants to pursue alternatives 2-5, it will have to convince congress to pass new legislation allowing it to do so. Absent that, building alternatives 2-5 might very well prove to be illegal and subject to court challenge.


Bee Berggren May 26, 2021 at 8:29 am

An excellent article by Geoff Page regarding the looming Naval assault on our city/community, and a ray of hope offered by Don Wood.


Robert Davis May 27, 2021 at 3:24 pm

There have been so many entities on this site over the years (government, gov contractors, Convair, General Dynamics, Spawars) along with lease backs and the lists goes on and on. Will anyone or company who made huge profits be held accountable for the costs to clean up their messes. It certainly SHOULD NOT be San Diego taxpayers but it looks like that is exactly what is going to happen.


korla Eaquinta May 24, 2021 at 5:21 pm

Comments were made at last week’s PCPB meeting about “superfund.” Following is google info on superfund. Wonder what the Navy has been doing there and will it prevent any development?

Superfund’s goals are to: Protect human health and the environment by cleaning up contaminated sites; Make responsible parties pay for cleanup work; Involve communities in the Superfund process; and.


Geoff Page May 24, 2021 at 6:47 pm

That is a great point to bring up. Over my many years working construction around the county, I’ve worked on every military facility. Every one is seriously contaminated. They used to build bombers at the site, which should guarantee this site needs cleaning up also.


Paul Webb May 25, 2021 at 11:04 am

Having been directly involved in the clean-up of the NTC landfill after the land transfer to the airport, I concur with Geoff. I have yet to see a military base (having grown up in a Navy family and spending a lot of time on Navy bases) that does not have contamination issues. The usual practice in past years was to douse whatever you wanted to get rid of with diesel, set it on fire, dig a trench and and bury anything that was left.

A side note, I once had some very difficult dealings with an east county property owner. I investigated his past to determine just who I was dealing with and found that he had been accused of fraud in relation to the environmental clean-up of a military base in the desert Southwest. He gathered up the contaminated material and left it in one place and declared the project complete. His defense? The contract documents did not specifically require him to transport and dispose of the material in a appropriate EPA approved facility.

God only know what’s left in the ground at the Navwars site.


Geoff Page May 25, 2021 at 11:29 am

I had a project on North Island years ago. I noticed an odd facility and asked about it. It was a hole in the ground lined with heavy timber on three sides, maybe eight feet deep. The fourth side was a ramp down into this pit. Turned out it was fuel dump. Fuel trucks with leftover fuel or fuel contaminated with water would back down the ramp and dump what was left in their tanks. The bottom of the pit was just sand.

The Miramar concrete runways cover a floating layer of jet fuel. The ground in that area is underlain with a layer of very hard red caliche covered with some soft soil above that can be a few inches to a few feet. It traps the fuel. One company that had to cut into the runway to place some lights said the fuel shot up at them when they penetrated the concrete.

I’m sure the Navy knows as much about what the ground contains as does the all-seeing one.


Sadie May 26, 2021 at 2:22 pm

I wonder if since the Navy changes command so often, the contamination from fuel and bomb assembly, just isn’t addressed. Does the pit on North Island still exist? Hope not.


Geoff Page May 26, 2021 at 3:24 pm

Sadie, the problems aren’t addressed as long as the problems remain on the Navy’s property. They can choose to do nothing and that’s what they do. But, when the contamination goes to private property, they do have to act.

The worst most recent example were the leaking fuel farms on the Point Loma Sub Base. That plume was headed to the bay and they had to scramble to stop it, if they actually did. Then, there is the boat channel that borders Liberty Station, that clean up has yet to happen. No one should ever assume ownership of military land without a full investigation of the grounds below it.

I’m guessing that old pit is gone by now. No smart phones in those days or I would have taken a shot.


Sadie May 26, 2021 at 3:36 pm

About 10 years ago, I was at the Navy Base PL one night and they had to close off Rosecrans St, inside the base, due to a fuel leak. That concentrated fuel was running across Rosecrans St & nobody was around to stop it. After about an hour or so they stopped it, but not sure how they mitigated it. The road was closed until the next day. I had the feeling that since not many knew, not much was done.


Don Wood May 27, 2021 at 4:18 pm

And all that fuel running across Rosecrans was probably running into city storm drains and out to sea.


Sadie May 27, 2021 at 5:46 pm

This was on base property, east of fuel tanks, so I think it just crossed Rosecrans Street with direct access to the water, or could sink in & hit water. Don’t know that there are city storm drains there.


Sadie May 29, 2021 at 11:01 am

Growing up 50-60’s I used to see black smoke from North Island. We thought it was fire training. Maybe what we were seeing was the toxic fuel pit fire?


John McNab May 31, 2021 at 10:02 pm

It is not only the toxins on site that the EIS skims over. The Navy is also responsible for the superfund site in Mission Bay where SeaWorld sits east to the freeway as toxins from the now NAVWAR site were dumped there. Legally any disposition of the property needs to include cleanup by the Navy of the Mission Bay dump.


Geoff Page June 1, 2021 at 9:29 am

Good point, John, that is a very important connection.


Judy Swink June 3, 2021 at 6:39 pm

John McNab and Gary Page – The Mission Bay Landfill is NOT a toxic site no matter how much John insists it is. It was a municipal landfill from 1952-1959. Several hundred thousand dollars were spent during 2002-2006 for an engineering firm which specializes in analysis of landfills for toxic substances. The RFQ was for an Environmental Site Assessment and specified that there be research of City and corporate records from local industries to determine if there were toxic substances discarded in the landfill, followed by numerous test wells to determine if there were in fact toxic substances in the landfill plus a more accurate determination of the actual boundaries of the landfill.

I was a member of the Mission Bay Landfill Technical Advisory Committee which consisted of a number of “civilians” like myself plus representatives from pertinent City and County Departments, from San Diego Baykeeper and from the Regional Water Quality Advisory Board. I have digital copies of the final report and technical appendices for anyone who would like me to send them copies.

The result was that there were no toxic industrial substances or materials identified in the municipal “sanitary landfill” (garbage & trash from the City’s trash pickups) no matter how much some continue to claim that it is a toxic landfill.

In the 1950s, there were no laws constraining industry from disposing of toxic materials and, based on records from those industries, such materials were basically buried in trenches on site or elsewhere off site, consistent with the comments by Geoff Page and Paul Webb about how the Navy disposed of such materials. If the Navy had disposed of toxins in the Mission Bay Landfill, evidence would have shown up in at least some of the test wells. It did not.


Geoff Page June 3, 2021 at 7:10 pm

Judy, thank you very much for all that information. Over the years, I have heard from many people that there was a toxic site in that area but I did not know anything beyond that. This is the first time I’ve read a very credible account about the site investigation.

The first time I heard anything about the Navy supposedly dumping stuff there was in these comments. Considering the proximity, I thought it might be possible but considering the size of the NAVWAR property it seemed odd that the Navy wouldn’t just dispose of materials on the site. As I related, I’ve seen this at other military facilities. When you consider how long these places have been around, it is a certainty they are polluted.

I’m curious to see if anyone has any information that is contrary to what you’ve offered here, but I’m guessing probably not. Thanks again.


Judy Swink June 4, 2021 at 11:31 am

Thanks for your comments, Geoff. I have a digital copy of the Final Report which I’d like to send you if you would Message me with your email address. Same offer to Frank if he no longer has his copy, distributed to Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) members on CDs.

Both the draft for comment and the Final Report were distributed to the RWCQB (a rep. participated in TAC meetings); Ca. Dept. of Toxic Substances Control and the Ca. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. I’m not certain if copies were sent to US Fish & Wildlife Service, Ca. Dept. of Fish & Game or the U.S. EPA although they are referenced in the Report.

If you’d like a copy, I would point you at Section 4.4: Summary of Technical Issues/Data Gaps Addressed by SCS Workplan [workplan developed by TAC] and its informative subsections, Section 10: Conclusions, and Section 11: Recommendations. I would extract them for you but it’s a Secured Document so it’s all or nothing.


Geoff Page June 4, 2021 at 11:36 am

Sure, I’d like to see a copy, Judy, thanks. Send it to lund2356@gmail.com. Thanks.


Frank Gormlie June 4, 2021 at 6:49 am

Judy, maybe it’s time to drag those old reports out, as I have a slightly different recollection of the results; I was also a member of the Technical Advisory Committee.


Judy Swink June 4, 2021 at 11:46 am

Yes, I remembered that you were on the TAC representing the OB Planning Board (if I recall that correctly). I have most of the documentary material “at my fingertips”, in digital format including the final report. I’ll be happy to email it to you; I have your email address. Just say the word.

You and I will have to continue to differ on the conclusions regarding presence of toxic substances at South Shores that are hazardous to human health.

While there have been anecdotal reports of toxins disposed of by local industry or the military, no documentation was located despite in-depth research by SCS. It seems far more likely that solvents and other toxins disposed of by the military would have been adjacent to the aircraft factory (now known as SPAWAR) in the government-owned area between Pacific Highway and Midway Boulevard rather than trucking it over to Mission Bay (for which there is no evidence).

Within the landfill, negligible amounts of COPCs (Contaminants of Potential Concern), in a very long list of COPCs tested for were found. Arsenic was detected in the landfill cap at the same levels found in soils around SD County. One more serious toxin identified was Mercury in two of the test wells, at 10′ depth, thus not hazardous unless excavation occurred. Overall, it’s a Sanitary (i.e. household waste) landfill.


Paul Webb June 4, 2021 at 12:15 pm

Maybe this will finally put to rest rumors that have been floating around regarding toxic substances at the old land fill killing construction workers working on the south shores area of the park. These came up during the NTC landfill remediation project, along with one citizen activist who claimed in a comment on the EIR that recruits at MCRD died as a result of toxic fumes from the landfill. Because it was a comment on an EIR, I had to do extensive research to determine if this actually happened. I could find no evidence that such a thing occurred.

That all being said, the military has had a terrible history of failing to deal with toxics in a responsible fashion, and we should be wary of what may lie under the buildings at NAVWARS. They have done much better recently than in the past, but I worry about what might happen when the ground is disturbed at NAVWARS.


Judy Swink June 4, 2021 at 12:56 pm

I doubt it will put to rest the belief that the Mission Bay Landfill is toxic. There are some who will never accept that it is not.

The worker did not die as a result of hydrogen sulfide gas release while working on excavation for the South Shores boat ramp. SCS followed up on that and confirmed that the individual and 2 others, though taken to the hospital following the incident at South Shores, the individual in question died from a massive heart attack several weeks later. His death certificate did not cite exposure to toxic chemicals as cause of death. This is in the final Report as well as in an interim report to TAC or verbally at a TAC meeting, I no longer remember.

Your concerns re the NAVWARS site (I assume this includes the property opposite the old main P.O.?) are reasonable. The water table, from what I’ve read, is quite near the surface in that area. The post office building, a concrete monolith, has been reported as sinking but I don’t know that factually. I do know that MCRD is fill land over former mud flats and that Barnett Ave. once was named Tide Street due to flooding at some high tides.


Frank Gormlie June 4, 2021 at 3:14 pm

The worker’s family settled out of court for $10,000 after suing the city. If there had been absolutely no connection, why would the city even settle? My view is confirmed by your statement that at one well, no digging or excavation could occur below 10 feet, which could be generalized. I agreed with the final report, Judy, I don’t know if you recall, I just don’t have the breathless ability to say all is good at the site. There was a group of environmentalists who resigned from the TAC because their evidence of spiking could not be confirmed by the study. I was not in that group. I also have the material. I think our difference now is in emphasis. Please continue to make comments on projects around us – and hey, how about doing a monthly column?


Frank Gormlie June 4, 2021 at 3:16 pm

Paul, they were more than unsubstantiated “rumors”, mi amigo. See my comment below. I looked up the court case of the worker and as I said, his family settled for $10K, which was not loose change in those days.


Paul Webb June 4, 2021 at 3:24 pm

To Frank and Judy – I stand corrected. After reading Judy’s explanation I do now recall the incident with the hydrogen sulfide.

Maybe someone will now provide evidence of MCRD recruits dying from the NTC landfill. Then I will believe that every thing I think I know is wrong – which might actually be the case!


Judy Swink June 4, 2021 at 3:29 pm

Sometimes settlements are made to avoid the far more costly process of extended litigation.

Two members of the TAC resigned before a vote on accepting or not accepting the study was taken on Aug. 4, 2006. That resulted in their not having a vote re accepting or rejecting the report, a seemingly counterproductive action on their part. Neither they nor a couple of others we can name will never anything that doesn’t support their own belief about the landfill.

Thanks for the invitation to do a column but still not interested. I have more than enough to occupy my time during my retirement.


Don Wood May 24, 2021 at 5:28 pm

The Navy’s EIS states, without evidence, that the active Rose Canyon earthquake fault runs very near, but not on the NAVWAR site. It says that if at some later date it turns out that the fault actually runs beneath the site, the Navy will comply without all federal and state laws, without specifying what those laws require or say.


Paul Webb May 26, 2021 at 12:11 pm

The Alquist-Priolo maps show the rose canyon fault running across the bay and right up to the edge of the airport approximately where the former Commuter Terminal is located. From this point north the fault is not mapped as the entire area is old mud flats that have been filled in. I believe that this may be true for some or all of the navy property as well.

The most common way to deal with faults is to not construct buildings across them (think Fault Line Park and surrounding buildings in East Village). However, because this area is on fill with a water table very close to the surface, I would imagine liquifaction would be an issue. I’m not a geologist or an engineer, but I remember with horror what happened to the Marina district in San Fancisco during the Loma Prieta earthquake.


Roy McMakin May 25, 2021 at 6:41 am

Seems to me the Navy should develop their NAVWAR site for their purposes. Perhaps they could also build themselves a new hospital there and give back the land they appropriated in Balboa Park, and maybe add some Navy housing.
Given their site is one of the lowest areas along the coast (being part of the estuary of the SD River) the Navy will know how to make it work when the sea level rises.
And the rest of us should focus on making downtown denser and better, there’s a long way to go to achieve that.


Geoff Page May 25, 2021 at 10:17 am

According to the Navy’s spokesperson, Mr. Geisen, San Diego is the largest concentration of military in the whole world. True or not, that is impressive. Yet, instead of doing something for themselves as you suggest, they don’t want to spend any money. They want their new facilities cost-free. PPPs, Public Private Partnerships were developed to help agencies, cities, counties and the like, who had available land but no money. The United States Navy is not a poor agency by any means. And, this land belongs to the whole country, not just San Diego. I personally think private development like this should not be allowed at all. Don’s infornation is encouraging, this may not happen at all. Hell, even selling the land at market value and returning that money to the Federal budget would be a better idea and fairer to all.


Don Wood May 26, 2021 at 12:12 pm

San Diego isn’t called “the Gibraltar of the Pacific” for no reason. It is certainly one of the largest concentration of Naval facilities in the United States. For that reason alone, it is target #1 in both Chinese and Russian war plans.


Sadie May 25, 2021 at 3:36 pm

Density should be further from the coast. If there is hazardous contamination, building will surely disrupt and cause groundwater and air contamination.


Charles Best May 25, 2021 at 10:03 am

Thank you for the news.


nostalgic May 25, 2021 at 12:48 pm

When the old Convair facility was NAVELEX and remodeled, do I remember that the Navy COULDN’T get rid of it because of the contamination so they just kept it and remodeled it? How many years ago, I don’t remember. Buildings were effectively built inside the huge hangars. More than 40 years ago.


Geoff Page May 25, 2021 at 1:23 pm

Yes, I remember that site too, badly contaminated. I worked on a pit shoring project inside one of the buildings.


Robert Davis May 27, 2021 at 3:26 pm

Why isn’t this an EPA superfund site???


Paul Webb May 28, 2021 at 9:07 am

Just another thought – when the airport authority acquired the old Teledyne Ryan facility on North Harbor Drive it also acquired a massive contamination site. The site had PCBs, hexavalent chromium (think Erin Brockovich), lead, solvents, asbestos, etc. I wanted to hold my breath any time I went into any of the buildings. I would imagine that the old Convair plant would be no different.


sealintheSelkirks May 29, 2021 at 9:20 am

My dad after Korea got a job at Convair and said he worked his way up to being the Chief Stock Clerk for the company before he switched years later into the SDSU teaching program and became an English teacher. I wish he had written down what he occasionally talked about but one item that has stuck in my brain all these years was how proud he was of tracking down a used nuclear-powered engine (sub or ship I don’t remember) that had gone missing from the inventory before he was hired. So there were highly radioactive items (probably labeled secret I would assume) that were also in that building which I’ve noticed have not been talked about. As a side note, the engine was sitting outside in a lot somewhere in San Diego with a bunch of other used junk. Which probably also became radioactive I would assume…

And I agree with Robert Davis, why isn’t this a Superfund site rather than a potential densely-packed residential area? When has building anything on seriously toxic poisoned ground ever worked out? I keep recalling articles about how kids were afflicted just playing in their family yards where nobody could figure out why they were getting sick until somebody tested the dirt they were playing in.

And it’s a liquefaction earthquake zone! I mean, how stupid do you have to be to want giant high rises planted in a shake & bake zone? Notice how everything about this Midway gentrifying bamboozle just gets stinkier by the moment. It’s like walking in pig poop and if you’ve ever lived downwind of that you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about!

And those that will profit from all this managed to crush the beach area 30 foot height limit at the same time! How does it feel to have the wool pulled completely over one’s eyes?

Honestly, it really doesn’t sound like anything should be built there. It’s a toxic sickness zone just waiting to happen…and with the ground being dug up the dust in the air will spread it for miles and people will breathe it in and…oh my. This isn’t going to work out well in the long run I’m thinking.



John McNab May 31, 2021 at 10:06 pm

Kenton and company should not be in shock about this plan. They only need to look at what happened to property owners in East Village to see how redevelopment was not designed to profit existing property owners but only the well-connected who run the city. Kenton and company will get steamrolled if current redevelopment plans as envisioned downtown go forward.

They would do much better to consider the value of using the 200 acres in the district for a destination park.


Geoff Page June 1, 2021 at 9:31 am

That would be a great idea, John. The city never got the great park that Liberty Station could have been. The NAVWAR site would be a good place to do that as well, it would break up all the mess that currently surrounds the site.


Paul Webb June 1, 2021 at 9:59 am

You know, I initially had planned to take the high road and not mention the Midway Planners in any way, but, hey, all’s fair in love and community planning.

I really love the irony of a planning group that has essentially forced a plan update that accommodates an incredibly large development that will have huge impacts on San Diegans, particularly those who live/work/recreate in adjacent communities, due to the overwhelming scale of development, being shocked by a massive development on its border. What goes around comes around, as the saying goes.

I wish that we could take a deep breath and come together as a city and thoughtfully determine what our future form will be in a comprehensive manner, rather than having these blockbuster development proposals like the sports arena and NAVWARS plans come along without any meaningful public involvement. As it stands, the entire coastal area is going to look like Mission Valley (or possibly Hong Kong, if the Navy gets its way). Is this what we want?

Between the folks in Sacramento effectively outlawing single family residential development and the folks in city hall rendering zoning meaningless, I dread thinking about what our future will be like. I have never seriously considered leaving San Diego, but there may come a day…


Geoff Page June 1, 2021 at 11:28 am

I’ve had the same thought about leaving San Diego some day but I have no idea where I would go. There is simply no more comfortable place to live in this country than San Diego and the coast specifically. I’m cursed with having seen the rest of the country and nowhere else can you find a climate this pleasant. But, maybe suffering some humidity and some bugs will be preferable one day to living with what we see coming.

The difference between the Midway meeting after the height limit was lifted compared to this last meeting was like night and day. And it was easy to see why.


sealintheSelkirks June 1, 2021 at 12:41 pm

Yeah, Geoff, until the water piped from the Colorado River dries the hell up. Nevada has had contracts with companies who ‘paint’ out the white bathtub ring behind Hoover Dam because it’s so low so the tourists aren’t disturbed by it…but then nobody is paying much attention to that. But people should to this because it’s definitely in-your-face:

As California’s Drought Worsens, the Biden Administration Cuts Water Supplies and Farmers Struggle to Compensate

The driest year in four decades for the state’s water supply hub is hitting its richest agricultural valley hard.


I got out having had enough by the mid-1980s and have moved to three different mountain ranges in the last 33 years. All had their positives and negative sides that’s for sure. Been in these mountains 18 years this month…



Geoff Page June 3, 2021 at 11:21 am

All I can say, seal, is that you have one thing over me, you can live without the smell of the ocean in the air. I actually envy you being able to live in the mountains, it sounds beautiful. But, it will never be enough for me.


Sadie June 1, 2021 at 8:34 am

I agree with John NcNab. Something like Boston Common would be great! Something with green grass, trees, benches, and maybe a small lake.


Tessa June 1, 2021 at 3:07 pm

I don’t intend to leave San Diego, though I’ve had a couple of trial runs elsewhere that convinced me to stay.
That said, it seems a shame that intelligent leadership and solid planning – with the special interests held in check – is lacking. Does the beautiful weather make minds “go soft” here?
I see great commentary here in the Rag, with some dedicated citizens on the case in a diligent way. However, even the citizen input seems to constantly face an uphill battle. When might the city turn the corner on provincial and small bore thinking?


Paul Webb June 1, 2021 at 3:17 pm

Tessa, your comments are spot on. What we need are civic leaders. What we get are politicians.

I sometimes wonder if the root of the problem is the fact that most of our “leaders” run for office after having been paid staff to other politicians. It seems the career path is from political office staff to political office holder to higher office, with no actual job skills beyond the political and no experience in solving real world problems. There has to be a better way.


Don Wood June 2, 2021 at 4:09 pm

Political staffers get elected because no other qualified candidates tend to run for public office. partly because (very generous) mayoral and city council reps salaries aren’t very well known, partly because they already like their private sector jobs which in some cases pay better. We did get one or two educated, capable and knowledgeable candidates elected in November. Let’s see if they can avoid getting corrupted by this mayor and the lobbyist crowd at city hall. Barbara Bry fit that bill, but took herself out of elected office by running for mayor during her first term.


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