OCEANSIDE (CNS) - The California Coastal Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to scuttle plans to redevelop the Navy's headquarters in downtown San Diego, finding that both the project and surrounding area have changed significantly since prior approval was granted 20 years ago.
The Navy and a private developer want to tear down the white, four-block-long building that sits between North Harbor Drive and Pacific Highway and replace it with a mixed-use complex featuring military offices, commercial space and a hotel.
The commission's staff recommended that the project be declared inconsistent with California Coastal Development Program provisions that protect waterfront views.
Among the changes to the downtown waterfront over the years have been the opening of the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum and construction of high-rise condominium complexes and hotels that favor coastal locations -- all affecting views of the bay and coastal access, according to staff.
"I believe it is unquestionable there have been significant changes in this project area and this project," Commissioner Esther Sanchez said.
She pointed out "tremendous building" along the waterfront since 1991 that makes the Navy's environmental impact report "outdated."
Sanchez and a couple of other commissioners also pointed out that the threat of terrorism against a mixed-use project involving the military was heightened since the 1991 approval and not addressed in the plans.
Among other things, the staff wants wider setbacks from North Harbor Drive to the structure's walls, public access throughout the project, the use of green building standards, new traffic and parking studies, and a plan to manage employee transportation needs.
The Navy and developer Doug Manchester can redesign the project to meet commission demands, make an appeal or pursue ongoing litigation.
Without approval, the Navy headquarters will remain as is, "fenced-off" and "blighted," and will still limit the public's coastal access, said Paul Webster of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The ruling came on the first of three days of commission meetings at Oceanside City Hall.
Other San Diego issues will be dealt with Friday, including a land-use policy on community gardens recently adopted by the San Diego City Council. Zoning decisions in coastal areas require Coastal Commission approval.
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