Peninsula Planners Take on Navy’s Redevelopment Plans, Riverwalk SD, and a ‘Bicycle Boulevard’

by on June 22, 2021 · 7 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

The Navy’s plans for the old SPAWAR site, a developer’s plan to add 4,300 residential units and a 93-acre park in Mission Valley, and a “Bicycle Boulevard” were the highlights of the Peninsula Community Planning Board’s regular monthly meeting, Thursday, July 17.

The Navy

The Navy has been shopping its Environmental Impact Statement for the plans to redevelop the old SPAWAR site- renamed NAVWAR – for weeks.  The first public presentation was at the Midway-Pacific Community Planning Group’s meeting in May and it was described in detail in The OB Rag’s May 24 account of that meeting.

The PCPB presentation was the same as the Midway presentation with some minor variations.  The show consists of a lot of information about all that the Navy has done, and is doing, for San Diego and what a good neighbor the Navy is.  Once that part was over, the details of the five alternate proposals were described again.

The PCPB reactions were the same as most who have seen the Navy’s proposed alternates, especially the Navy’s favored alternative.  Alternate four is the densest, by far, of all the alternates and has provisions for a building height of 350 feet or 30 plus stories.  Alternates four and five plan for buildings that tall because those two alternates also include the “Grand Central Station” that SANDAG wants to build.

The footprint for the Grand Central Station, referred to as a transit hub, is 315,000 square feet in the Navy’s alternates four and five. Alternates two and three show building heights of 240 feet and do not have a transit hub.  Adding a transit hub to the redevelopment directly results in another 110 feet of building height.

The important takeaway from all of this is that the Navy’s EIS is out for public comment until July 13.  Comments have to be in writing and can be submitted on-line. https://navwar-revitalization.com/ Comments can also be made orally at the next on-line public forum June 23 from 5:30 to 8:00 pm.  The Zoom meeting address and telephone numbers are on the website.

The “public meetings” are not what the name implies.  The first meeting was held June 8.  It consisted of another presentation of the same material after which the Navy took public comments and questions.  This was where the word “meeting” was deceptive.  A meeting implies a discussion between interested parties.  There was no discussion.

After each person asked a question, the Navy’s representative thanked the questioner and said the question would be answered in the “final EIS.”  Those who attended the meeting expecting a discussion were disappointed.  There was little reason to attend the on-line meeting when a question can be submitted by mail, on-line, or by telephone.

The most telling comment from the Navy’s representative was what he said about how the questions would be answered in the “final” EIS.  In other words, the Navy is taking questions and will answer them as they see fit and that will be it, no further discussion, or any discussion for that matter.  This has all the earmarks of a box checked so the Navy can say they solicited public opinion.

The Navy, San Diego’s benefactor it seems, is doing the city a disservice and they are speaking with forked tongues about it.  On the one hand. they admit they like alternate four that maxes out height and density because it will make bidding on the right to develop the site that much more attractive to developers.  On the other hand, when people express dismay about the height, the Navy tries to temper that by saying the EIS is only intended to provide as large a development envelop as possible and that there is no certainty that development will ever maximize those possibilities.

If a developer finds the site attractive, because the Navy got an approved EIS that allows for that density and height, why would the developer not want to maximize the possibilities? What would deter them? Despite all the talk about San Diego, the Navy is going to do what the Navy wants despite any public opinion against their plans.

The proposed development would significantly affect a large part of the city.  The Navy talks about mitigations such as realigning intersections and other expensive options, all of which would depend on someone else to fund and implement.  In other words, the problems they will cause will have to be fixed by someone other than the Navy.

Riverwalk SD

According to the presenter for the developer of Riverwalk SD, Peter Shearer, the massive development on the western end of Mission Valley has already been approved by the city council.  It was not clear why they were making a presentation to a planning group about an already approved project.  The name evokes certain bucolic images that contrast with how much they plan to cram into the project.

The best way to describe the developer is to let the developer do it:

“Hines is a privately owned global real estate investment, development and management firm, founded in 1957, with a presence in 240 cities in 27 countries and $160.9 billion¹ of assets under management—$81.7 billion² in assets for which Hines serves as investment manager and $79.2 billion³ representing more than 172.9 million square feet of assets for which Hines provides third-party property-level services.

Hines has 181 developments currently underway around the world, and historically, has developed, redeveloped or acquired 1,450 properties, totaling over 485 million square feet. The firm’s current property and asset management portfolio includes 622 properties, representing over 256 million square feet. With extensive experience in investments across the risk spectrum and all property types, and a pioneering commitment to sustainability, Hines is one of the largest and most respected real estate organizations in the world.”

Hines’s website does not have a San Diego address.

Hines will develop 200 acres in Mission Valley that are currently used as golf courses.  They call their development a “Transit Oriented Village.” It will consist of:

  • 4,300 residences of which 10% will be affordable, or only 430 residences
  • One million square feet of office space
  • 152,000 square feet of retail space
  • 97 acres of parks and open space
  • Trolley station

As far as developments go, devoting almost half of the available acreage to a new park seems to be a generous act. However, considering that much of the area lies in the Mission valley flood plain, it is possible that the land devoted to park development was not feasible to build on.  This may explain the planned density for the land they do intend to build on.

For more information on the development go here. to https://www.hines.com/properties/riverwalk-san-diego.

Bicycle Boulevard

The PCPB considered a proposal by board member Nicole Burgess, a local cycling advocate, to designate a route in Point Loma as a “Bicycle Boulevard.” The letter stated:

“The Peninsula Community Planning Board (PCPB) requests that the City of San Diego designate a Bicycle Boulevard as an updated amendment to the community plan. The Bicycle Boulevard would connect Liberty Station from Laning to Rosecrans West, right on Poe Street, left on Locust to Nimitz Boulevard.

These streets are in very poor condition and should be reconsidered for resurfacing and at that time, it is recommended that traffic calming, signage and street marking improvements be made to support safe walking and biking in the area.

Optional consideration is to make a right onto Newell from Locust and a left onto Evergreen to Nimitz. Space would need to be created through bushes with proper access, but this could be as a longer vision for improving this intersection as Evergreen to the west has been reclassified to a Bicycle Boulevard already and would be the direct access.”

This same letter was presented to the board two months ago and was sent back to the Traffic and Transportation subcommittee. One of the things lacking was a map that showed the route described in the letter. The PCPB subcommittee added two maps.  One was done using Google maps and the other was a map print out with a proposed route hand drawn with a marker. The problem was that there were now two routes, which caused confusion.

Also lacking in the PCPB’s proposed letter was any definition of what a Bicycle Boulevard is.  As it turns out, the term “Bicycle Boulevard” is a specific designation and was found in the city’s master cycling plan.  There is a description and a graphic illustrating some streets and the types of changes that could be made for a bicycle boulevard.  The changes would be much more substantial than just adding pavement markings and signs and would affect the residents on the affected streets.

Here is how the master cycling plan describes bicycle boulevards:

“Bicycle boulevards are local roads or residential streets that have been enhanced with traffic calming and other treatments to facilitate safe and convenient bicycle travel. Bicycle boulevards accommodate bicyclists and motorists in the same travel lanes, without specific vehicle or bicycle lane delineation. These roadway designations prioritize bicycle travel above vehicular travel. The treatments which create a Bicycle Boulevard, heighten motorists’ awareness of bicyclists and slow vehicle traffic, making the boulevard more conducive to safe bicycle and pedestrian activity. Bicycle Boulevard treatments include signage, pavement markings, intersection treatments, traffic calming measures and can include traffic diversions. Bicycle boulevards are not defined as bikeways by Caltrans Highway Design Manual; however, the basic design features of Bicycle Boulevards comply with Caltrans standards.”

When asked if the subcommittee had made an effort to talk to people on these streets about this idea, the answer was no. A reasonable person would think anyone proposing such a possible list of changes to someone’s streets would have thought to ask those people first. That is not, however, how some segments of the cycling community operate.

As the discussion continued and the mood did not seem to be immediately favorable, Burgess abruptly made a decision to change the design from a bicycle boulevard to a bicycle route.  This lesser designation comes with some pavement markings and signage only, which will have little effect on the residents along the streets.

The last paragraph of the letter stated that “Evergreen to the west has been reclassified to a Bicycle Boulevard already.” At the June 8 subcommittee meeting discussing this, Burgess was asked about the dotted line on Evergreen on her hand-drawn map. She said “We added it to our community plan as a bicycle boulevard.”  At first, she said two years ago and then said maybe four years ago.  The only way to add something to a community plan is by amendment and the last amendment is dated in 2011.

When questioned about this later, Burgess suggested looking through meeting minutes from four or five years ago. It was pointed out that, since this was her claim about Evergreen, substantiating the statement was her responsibility.  As of press time, nothing was produced.  If something is produced, it will be included in a comment to this piece.

Other News

  • In an unusual move, the chair, Fred Kosmo, unilaterally changed the July meeting from July 15 to July 22.  There was no discussion and no vote on this action, which there should have been.  But, no one said a word.
  • Kosmo also announced the grand opening of the Monsaraz Hotel on Rosecrans and stated he was invited to the opening and planned to attend.  What Kosmo did not mention was that this project was one of the ones the city’s Development Services Department allowed to measure the 30-foot height limit from inside of new planters the developer placed next to the building.  This is not a project the PCPB should be celebrating because of that tactic;
  • Board member Korla Eaquinta announced that the proposed developer for the Sports Arena project, Brookfield, is out.  The previous administration tried to pass a doomed project through ignoring state law and it has all fallen apart.  The main issue was not offering the land to developer’s of affordable housing;
  • The board voted to change its ad hoc Environmental subcommittee to a regular standing subcommittee.

 

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Sam June 22, 2021 at 11:39 am

I’m a little surprised at how much office space this project is committing to considering the current vacancy rate in office buildings, especially in Mission Valley. Also, considering how much push back is out there pertaining to going back into the office, I foresee a lot of zombie office buildings in the not too distant future.

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Avatar Geoff Page June 22, 2021 at 12:24 pm

That caught my eye too, Sam. I think we are going to see a lot of office space being changed to residential in the future. They are already allowing conversion of the retail portions of “mixed use” projects to residential space because that concept has failed miserably. I am suspicious of that huge amount of office space figure.

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Avatar Sam June 22, 2021 at 2:21 pm

Not to mention all the office space that is being proposed at the NAVWAR site. Seems risky to me.

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Avatar Paul Webb June 22, 2021 at 5:20 pm

To be fair, Geoff, Fred asked if there were any objections to changing the date. The calendar this year, with the first on a Thursday and with the Forth of July holiday, left little time for subcommittees to meet (after providing required public notice) and get their recommendations to the board in time to publish an agenda, provide public notice and have time for meaningful review. Perhaps it should have been placed to a vote, but it seemed like a very sensible suggestion and no one objected. I personally was grateful to Fred for having given it thought before the meeting.

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Avatar Geoff Page June 22, 2021 at 6:29 pm

Paul, the reasoning for changing the meeting date is not the issue. There are 13 people on the board and they were not asked their opinion of the change. That is not how planning boards are supposed to operate, no one person makes decisions for everyone else. And, technically, it probably should have been put to a vote. Just because the reasoning seems sound to one person does not mean no one else need be asked their opinion of the change. It is a slippery slope to let any one person decide when and where to follow the set procedures. There has been plenty of this in the PCPB’s past and it never turned out well.

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Avatar korla eaquinta June 23, 2021 at 10:32 am

How generous is a donation of park land at Riverwalk when it is in the flood plain and IMHO, is just left over, non usable space.

The June 8 “meeting” was a disappointment. Following are the written comments I submitted on the NAVWAR Revitalization. Note they did answer questions at the PCPB meeting.

I participated in the June 8th presentation where my testimony was recorded but this is such an important issue I wanted to get it down in writing. I am supporting Option 1 where the Navy does nothing and does NOT change the height nor density here. I want to support the Navy and hope that you can upgrade your cyber systems to continue to protect those you serve and stay current and relevant but NOT at the expense of this beautiful area. I believe the government should pay for that and NOT a public/private partnership where some developer comes in and makes a lot of money off the backs of the local people.

My comments are: This is too dense. This is too high. I worry about contaminants in this area and think this site might be a Superfund.

Significant and Unavoidable Impact it UNACCEPTABLE in ANY circumstance!

thank you,
korla Eaquinta

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Avatar Geoff Page June 23, 2021 at 12:24 pm

Yes, they did answer some questions at the meeting but these were not substantive. Mainly, they clarified the “envelope” approach to the EIS because at every meeting, people react badly to the extreme density and extreme height. The Navy has said repeatedly that only questions in writing or oral questions submitted at the public meetings, that are recorded by a court reporter will be considered. Why there was a need for a court reporter during a recorded Zoom meeting was a puzzle.

Your last comment, Korla, “Significant and Unavoidable Impact it UNACCEPTABLE in ANY circumstance!” hit the most egregious part of the EIS. The Navy is saying, yes, there will be “significant” impacts but, hey San Diego, sorry, these are unavoidable. Well, the fact is, these are avoidable if they don’t go through with this mess.

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