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Office Tower Near Airport OKd After Trim

Times Staff Writer

The San Diego City Council Tuesday approved construction of a 10-story office building 80 feet north of the approach corridor to Lindbergh Field--after the developer agreed to trim the height of the building by 39 feet.

The proposed office tower, which in the past has aroused concerns over safety from the Air Line Pilots Assn. and the San Diego Unified Port District, will be 130 feet tall under a compromise between the city and the developer approved in a 7-0 vote. Its final design must be approved by City Architect Michael Stepner.

The pilots association and the Port District have dropped their objections to Cheng Development’s plans for the 336,102-square-foot office tower on the block bounded by 4th and 5th avenues and Kalmia and Laurel streets, which was repeatedly approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to a Planning Department report and Councilman Bob Filner.

Company Protests

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The proposal did, however, bring objections from Vincent Bartolotta, attorney for Alesio Investment Co., which owns the adjacent 5th Avenue Financial Center that houses Mr. A’s restaurant.

Bartolotta told the council Tuesday that the new structure will pose a hazard to both commercial and private aircraft by adding to the terrain another high-rise structure that cuts into pilots’ safety margin.

“Our concern isn’t just with the height of the building, it’s with the lateral side movement,” Bartolotta said. “It wouldn’t take something as big as what flies in and out of (Lindbergh) to eat up 80 feet in a minute.”

Bartolotta said private pilots who bank around the east and west sides of his building may strike the new structure, particularly in bad weather.

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Fears Discounted

But David Mulliken, an attorney for Cheng Development, said that, although the building will be 80 feet from the edge of the approach corridor, it is 1,580 feet from the center line used by commercial pilots.

Private pilots fly above all the multistory commercial and residential buildings in the area, and could not hit the Cheng office tower without first slamming into existing residential structures of similar height east and south of the proposed building, Mulliken said in an interview.

“To stand up here and say safety is still an issue is just flat irresponsible,” Mulliken said.

The FAA ruled in March that the building, then proposed for 190 feet, would not pose a hazard. But, when the pilots association and the Port District appealed that decision, the FAA told Cheng to remove decorative spires planned for the top of the structure and again ruled that the building is not a hazard.

The pilots association again appealed but later withdrew its objection. The Port District withdrew its opposition on the condition that the building be trimmed to 130 feet, Filner said.


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