Charging that the site of a proposed Navy housing project on Telegraph Point is "inappropriate" and the cost "too high," Rep. Jim Bates (D-San Diego) said Monday that he will ask a House subcommittee to withhold the $15.2 million earmarked for construction of the 200-unit project.
"I oppose the site, but not Navy housing," Bates said during a meeting at Southwestern College that was attended by about 200 area residents who are opposed to the controversial housing project. "The cost is too high, the site is inappropriate, and it's in the furthermost part of Chula Vista," he said. "It's way out there."
Bates said he will ask the House military construction and facilities subcommittee on Wednesday to "fence in" the funds so they can be used to build housing on another site. Withholding the money will prevent the Navy from losing the funds, he said. The panel will meet to discuss Bates' request on April 18.
The 34.3-acre site in eastern Chula Vista became a center of controversy when the Navy announced in November that it had bought the property and was planning to build a housing project. Residents near the site of the proposed project have expressed concern that the military housing will decrease the value of their homes and change the character of the area.
The Chula Vista City Council held a special meeting at that time to allow citizens to voice their concerns about the proposed development, which lies at the northeast corner of Telegraph Canyon Road and Otay Lakes Road. Residents discovered later, however, that the city could do little to halt the project, on which construction is scheduled to begin next year.
Navy Cmdr. Scott Shepard said earlier Monday he has met several times with Bates, but Bates did not discuss withholding the funds. Shepard stressed, however, that the Navy would abide by the will of Congress and is working with the city to ensure that the development is compatible with other homes in the community.
Shepard said the Navy needs 6,000 additional housing units in San Diego County and that the need is growing.
The Chula Vista City Council in February directed its staff to search for an alternative site for the housing project. The staff will present its findings in April.
Councilman David Malcolm said he thinks Telegraph Point is an acceptable site for the housing project.
"Thirty-four acres is a city block," Malcolm said, referring to the size of a site needed to replace Telegraph Point. "No matter where we go, the next-door neighbor will not want the project next to them."
Councilman Leonard Moore said, "I'm not soliciting Naval housing, but they bought the land and they are 6,000 units short."
Moore said that all cities in the county located near naval bases should accept Naval housing projects of about 200 to 300 units. "I think the issue is a regional problem" and that "the cities should accept the challenge," he said.