Deadline nears for public comment on NAVWAR redevelopment project

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SAN DIEGO – A U.S. Navy plan to redevelop its 70-acre Naval Information Warfare System Command campus along Interstate 5 is drawing some mixed reactions with the deadline for public comment approaching.

The effort to reimagine the NAVWAR site has been several years in the making as officials deemed its World War II-era hangars as obsolete and cumbersome for the cybersecurity personnel currently working there. In May, Navy officials presented five different plans for the site and identified a “preferred alternative” featuring some 10,000 homes, two hotels, office space, retail and new military facilities.

All five plans include getting rid of the old structures visible when driving southbound on I-5 near Old Town and each plan has a potential cost in the billions of dollars.

“The Navy welcomes all official comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Navy Old Town Campus (OTC) Revitalization effort, and is pleased to see the level of engagement from the community,” Navy Region Southwest Director of Public Affairs Caitlin Rose Ostomel said in a statement. “The Navy is in dire need of new facilities for Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR) to meet their growing cyber warfare and national security missions.

“This project began with industry and community group engagement in 2018, and the Draft EIS is the most recent step towards getting NAVWAR the facilities it needs.”

But some residents say the size and scope of the potential project is too large for comfort.

“The city wants to create a narrative that people are against development,” military spouse Mandy Havlick said Tuesday. “What we’re against is our neighborhood being destroyed.”

The Navy has said it wants to maximize the value of more than 70 acres during the process. Renderings of potential projects highlight adding high-rise luxury condos and a massive transit system.

Members of ‘Save Our Access’ argue it would eliminate opportunities to create public space along the coast.

“They want to jam so many people there that if you are a private citizen living in El Cajon, Santee or even East San Diego, you have no chance to get to the beach,” activist John McNab said. “This is coastal property; this is not inland property. Coastal property is what makes San Diego special.”

An attorney filed a brief in response to the Navy’s Environmental Impact Statement, saying the city and Navy’s plans will have a crippling effect on San Diego’s quality of life.

“The city’s saying ‘build build build build’ but there’s no requirement or very little for affordable housing and unfortunately our community is tired of being sold out to the highest bidder,” Havlick said. “Our community is here and our elected officials are here to serve us.”

Several officials, including U.S. Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, have spoken out in favor of the NAVWAR redevelopment effort. In a statement to FOX 5 Tuesday, Peters said NAVWAR “has never been more important, but it needs our support.”

“This redevelopment also presents an excellent opportunity to leverage our federal investment to redevelop the underutilized and run-down properties in the area, consistent with the growth called for in the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan,” Peters said. “I intend to work with local authorities so that this federal project can support revitalization. Working together, we can create a new community that’s beautiful, inviting, transit-oriented, walkable, bikeable and which offers ample amenities, park space, public plazas, and desirable retail and recreation.”

Peters added that the Navy, the city and SANDAG must work with planners and architects to meet the Navy’s defense needs and to “create a new and wonderful neighborhood in the Midway.”

“We are not there yet, but we can and must achieve those ends,” he said. “I expect and will urge that all the parties involved to invest the time and resources necessary to come up with a beautiful design the town could be eager to see built.”

Public comment on the NAVWAR redevelopment effort ends Aug. 2. It can be accessed here.

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