‘Circulate San Diego’ Shows Its True Pro-Developer Colors By Supporting Navy’s Densest Development Proposal for Old Town

by on July 16, 2021 · 21 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

The gloves are off! The group “Circulate San Diego” has dropped its environmentally-friendly facade and has now unfurled its full pro-developer colors. It has done this with the group’s recent endorsement of the most dense development proposed by the Navy for NAVWAR or the Old Town area.

Circulate San Diego has come out in public support for the Navy’s preferred Alternate 4. As Jim Perry, Barbara McDonald, and Mary Koto wrote in a recent OB Rag post:

Alternative 4 is the Navy and City’s Preferred Alternative. The existing NAVWAR buildings will be replaced with up to 109 new buildings. There will be up to 35 high rise buildings with a 350 foot maximum (about 32 stories). It includes a new rapid transit hub, commonly called “San Diego’s Grand Central Station.” The hub will join all rail and trolley lines and include a people mover to the airport.

Why does this matter?

Circulate San Diego has been pushing itself off as a pro-environment, pro-housing, pro-biking advocate for years. But now, with their support for the worst option for the community and San Diego, the group can no longer hide behind that veneer.

Phillip Halpern , in a recent San Diego Union-Tribune Op-Ed, partially reposted at the Rag, said this:

Alternatives 4 and 5 — which the Navy and city officials are pushing — are even worse [than other options]. These would replace the existing NAVWAR buildings with as many as 109 new edifices, including 35 high-rise buildings that would be as tall as 350 feet (more than 30 stories) and encompass millions of square feet of commercial, hotel and residential space.

In comparison, here’s what Circulate SD says:

Circulate San Diego supports Alternative 4, the most dense development and the Navy’s preferred alternatives. … The proposal is a bold and welcome contribution to the future of the built environment in San Diego. The Navy’s preferred proposal will bring thousands of new homes, large amounts of office space, and secure a permanent home for an important piece of our national security infrastructure.

The location is prime for new development, with regional transit access via the Old Town Transit Center, including access to both UTC and the Downtown jobs centers. The site is located within the Midway-Pacific Highway planning area, where the City of San Diego’s voters approved an elimination of a longstanding height limit, and the community plan calls for infill growth.

Did you notice how their statement took a swing and wink at the approval of Measure E, “an elimination of a longstanding height limit,…”

This full embrace of Circulate of “the most dense development” is a clear display of their full embrace of San Diego’s developers and the developers’ agenda. Frankly, the group can no longer be trusted to represent the best interests of the citizens of San Diego or of the environment. Their direction is not for the public good but the good of developers’ pockets.

Much of the group’s direction can be attributed to Colin Parent, who is the Executive Director and General Counsel at Circulate San Diego. Colin has been quick to advocate for projects for San Diego but is not so quick to do the same in La Mesa, where he’s on their city council.

Here’s is what CSD says about themselves:

Creating excellent mobility choices and vibrant, healthy neighborhoods

Circulate San Diego is a regional organization formed through the merger of Move San Diego and WalkSanDiego. Circulate San Diego is one of San Diego County’s leading organizations dedicated to advancing mobility and making the region a better place to live, work, learn, and play. Our work focuses on creating great mobility choices, more walkable and bikeable neighborhoods, and land uses that promote sustainable growth.

The Navy’s preferred alternatives are so bad that when presented to local planning boards, their members were shocked. And in response, residents, and business owners in Midway, Old Town, Mission Hills, Bankers Hill, Point Loma, and Ocean Beach formed a coaliiton called “Save San Diego’s Character” to push an aggressive campaign to support Alternative 1, which encourages the Navy to rebuild a suitable facility for NAVWAR in Old Town. They state:

Alternative 1 renovates existing NAVWAR buildings and meets the Navy’s cyberdefense needs, with much lower impacts to traffic, noise, and views.

Jim Perry, Barbara McDonald, and Mary Koto explained the adverse affects on traffic by the worse options:

The effects on local traffic will be drastic. For example, the EIS expects the I-5 northbound on-ramp at Old Town Ave will experience lines over 500 cars long during the morning and evening rush hours, with wait times more than 1.5 hours. The Navy recommends a new I-5 interchange and changes to surrounding surface streets and intersections, but these costs are not considered part of the NAVWAR project. Bottom line: the Navy builds a major new project and the public pays figuratively and literally for the traffic consequences.

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.

Here is CSD’s full statement of support for Alternate 4, from their website:

“Circulate San Diego submitted a comment letter in response to the Navy’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Navy Old Town Campus Revitalization. The proposal is a bold and welcome contribution to the future of the built environment in San Diego. The Navy’s preferred proposal will bring thousands of new homes, large amounts of office space, and secure a permanent home for an important piece of our national security infrastructure.

The location is prime for new development, with regional transit access via the Old Town Transit Center, including access to both UTC and the Downtown jobs centers. The site is located within the Midway-Pacific Highway planning area, where the City of San Diego’s voters approved an elimination of a longstanding height limit, and the community plan calls for infill growth.

Circulate San Diego supports Alternative 4, the most dense development and the Navy’s preferred alternatives. Circulate also gave detailed recommendations that the Navy establish requirements for affordability, parking, and transportation that reflect the region’s goals. ” https://www.circulatesd.org/letter_navwar_site_redevelopment_eis

The public comment period for the Navy’s development projects has been extended to August 2. Please take advantage.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Greg July 16, 2021 at 1:47 pm

“Colin has been quick to advocate for projects for San Diego but is not so quick to do the same in La Mesa, where he’s on their city council.”

Does this statement come with any hard-proof? I am not doubting it, but wondering if there are any actual projects Colin Parent and Circulate San Diego have avoided or spoken against in the City of La Mesa that are similar to what he and the organization support in the City of San Diego?

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie July 16, 2021 at 2:24 pm

Colin’s record stands for itself.

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie July 20, 2021 at 10:08 am

Have not heard of Parent endorsing 35 story high-rise buildings or the loss of 450 parking spaces for a bike lane in La Mesa.

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Avatar Tracy July 16, 2021 at 2:22 pm

Shifty.
But it doesn’t surprise me.

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Avatar Michael July 16, 2021 at 11:36 pm

That kind of sounds like a fun project. It may be nice to create an alternative to downtown office space and have some actual rail transit. Downtown is pretty rough nowadays.

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Avatar Paul Webb July 19, 2021 at 5:49 pm

Fun if you don’t live in Mission Hills, Old Town, Midway, Point Loma or Ocean Beach.

Well, maybe I don’t feel sorry for Midway after the deal for the sports arena property. What goes around comes around.

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie July 20, 2021 at 10:08 am

Hey, the voters of Midway voted against Measure E, although the Midway planning board has been on board since day 1.

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Avatar kh July 20, 2021 at 1:20 pm

BREAKING NEWS!!! Midway property investors support upzoning Midway.

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Avatar OB man July 17, 2021 at 9:21 am

Most of them are like that, there is no facade for those who know. “density” “transportation hub” you know what that means, pack ’em and stack ’em, more cover for real estate interests to make money off of all of us with no increase in parks, schools, hospitals, water, etc etc, sad to see so many well-meaning “eco” people fall for it.

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Avatar Kevin Napolitano July 19, 2021 at 7:46 am

What’s the alternative? The population of San Diego is projected to increase by 60% by 2100. Either we “pack ’em and stack ’em” near transit hubs, or we add 60% more urban and suburban sprawl. That would mean Ramona and I-8 corridor to Campo would turn into suburbia.

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie July 19, 2021 at 10:21 am

KN, your objectification of your fellow humans is breathtaking.

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Avatar Vern July 19, 2021 at 1:26 pm

The Santee Town Center Station is a station on the Green Line of the San Diego Trolley, in the San Diego suburb of Santee, California. The station currently serves as the Green Line’s northeastern terminus and serves as a major park and ride station.

This Transit Center is very well put together!

This is a fantastic suburban area to begin NH’s “pack ’em & stack ’em” plan.

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Avatar Vern July 19, 2021 at 1:27 pm

KN’s Plan!

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Avatar Jake Ryan Raigoza July 17, 2021 at 7:27 pm

progress is mooving forward

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie July 19, 2021 at 10:22 am

“mooving” in like the mooing of cows.

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Avatar Jake Ryan Raigoza July 19, 2021 at 9:49 pm

:)

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Avatar George July 19, 2021 at 11:45 am
Avatar Geoff Page July 19, 2021 at 2:20 pm

I just love beautiful prose and thought proving, and evoking, language found in Tweets. What a wonderful way to express a well thought out opinion. In Bizarro World.

Twitter itself should be banned.

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie July 19, 2021 at 2:25 pm

I knew it was coming … the counter-attack. Circulate is claiming their “goals” are shared by every mainstream environmental group in San Diego.

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Avatar Paul Webb July 19, 2021 at 6:16 pm

I’m speaking as a former Executive Committee member of Sierra Club San Diego. Yes, the SC does indeed support infill development and greater residential densities, but a tweet about SC positions does not do justice to the SC’s position. In its position paper on housing, the SC calls for development within an urban growth boundary. Do we have one of those? No. Unlike Portland, which established an urban limit line, that has been rejected out of hand every time it has been proposed. It also calls for respecting the rights of low income and other vulnerable communities. Do we see anything like this in the Navy’s proposal? No, as yet we do not.

I would also add that the Sierra Club’s promotion of higher density infill development does not necessarily translate to a wall of high rise towers, but rather thoughtful, well planned development. Just saying “density,” “infill” and “transit” doesn’t mean you get to do whatever you want.

And please remember this: the driving force behind this isn’t good intentions aimed at solving a housing “crisis” that has been decades in the making and which results from bad planning decision after bad planning decision, but rather it is about getting enough development to give the private developer a profit after paying for the Navy’s buildings. Don’t we have a defense department budget for that?

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Avatar Geoff Page July 20, 2021 at 10:04 am

Well said Paul, thanks for providing an experienced perspective.

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