Navy Unveils New Plan to Redevelop Downtown Base

Times Staff Writer

In a long-awaited unveiling, the Navy on Thursday showed off its preliminary plan for a sweeping redevelopment of its 16-acre downtown base and supply center just yards from the water’s edge on San Diego Bay.

The proposal, one of the key elements in the continued resurgence of downtown, envisions the construction of two hotels, three office buildings, a maritime museum and a 5-acre ceremonial park at the foot of Broadway.

The most dramatic aspect of the proposed development is its size. However, it is significantly smaller--by almost 40%--than the proposal the Navy made public public three years ago in a concept that shocked city officials.

But, even with the reduced size, it is a sprawling project of 3.25 million square feet. Instead of being gigantic, however, it is merely enormous.


Another indication that the Navy has listened to the concerns of the city is that the proposed high-rise buildings, some potentially reaching as high as 26 stories, are slender towers grouped away from the waterfront and confined to the rear of the Navy’s property along Pacific Coast Highway.

And, in contrast to the off-limits nature of the current Navy facility, the plan calls for three streets, E, F and G, to be punched through to Harbor Drive, providing pedestrians and vehicles more access to the bay. A 180-foot-wide public promenade would be built on G Street as it cuts through the project between Harbor Drive and Pacific Highway.

In two further changes, the Navy has converted 71% of what was previously above-ground parking into underground parking for a project that, in all, will handle 3,000 vehicles and has scaled back the idea of having a major retail center. Instead, the complex would have only minor retail uses.

“The community spoke and we have listened,” said Capt. Wayne Goodermote, the officer in charge of the so-called Broadway Complex project.


Later, in comments to the Broadway Complex-Bayfront Coordinating Group, a committee of local officials and developers formed largely in response to the Navy’s original proposal, Goodermote said, “What we have now is a wall . . . where no pedestrians can get through the site and there are no views. The wall that is there now is what we’re preparing to tear down . . . for pedestrians, views and public use.”

Reaction to the Navy’s plans were generally favorable, though some said the proposal is so large and complicated that it will take some time to properly analyze it. Given the fine-tuning, approvals and selection of a developer yet to be done, the first spade of dirt on the project wouldn’t be turned until 1992, at the earliest. And the project is so large that Navy officials say it will take 8 to 15 years before all phases of the project are finished.

“The heartening thing is the sensitivity of the Navy,” said Ernest Hahn, head of the Centre City Planning Committee and developer of Horton Plaza. He said the thin towers called for in the plan will preserve view corridors to the bay. “What we’ve found is that it’s the bulk of the buildings as opposed to height” which tend to wall off the waterfront, he said.

“For a first blush,” Hahn said, “it’s pretty well done.”

San Diego City Councilman Ron Roberts, who is chairman of the Broadway Complex committee, said the concept represents “far greater sensitivity than any of the private projects so far that we’ve seen.”

But Roberts said he is “hesitant to endorse it in every respect” until he has studied it more. He said there is the possibility of making it better by, for example, making the proposed 5-acre park bigger and more specialized.

The park, dubbed “Harbor Green” by Navy planners, will require the San Diego Unified Port District to contribute about 1.5 acres of its Lane Field property across Broadway from the Navy buildings. If such an arrangement isn’t possible, the Navy’s project will be more dense, by about 250,00 square feet of office space, and will have only half an acre of open space.

Details to Be Worked Out


Don Nay, the port’s director, said such an arrangement is possible, but said details of the “contribution” must be worked out.

“I don’t think anything here (in the Navy’s plan) is impractical or impossible to do,” Nay told reporters. “I don’t think anything that they show here is a sticking point.” The park would also require a narrowing of Harbor Drive and the closing of Broadway at the bay.

The concept proposed by the Navy is the work of ROMA Design Group of San Francisco, the same architectural and land planning firm the city of San Diego hired to study alternative sites for a new City Hall. ROMA has recommended that the city build a monumental Civic Center complex called “Capitol on the Hill” at the eastern end of downtown.

ROMA president Boris Dramov said Thursday that many of the design and land-use concepts the city is trying to implement for downtown went into the Navy’s proposal. Among those elements, he said, was concern for inland areas of downtown, such as the Marina residential neighborhood, and how they relate to the bay.

Dramov said another planning concern was that the Navy property be redeveloped as an activity center for all the public, not just tourists. “The keynote is better access to the whole waterfront,” he said.

Value of $400 Million to $500 Million

The entire project will have a value of $400 million to $500 million, Capt. Goodermote said. Originally, the idea behind the entire plan was for the Navy to trade development rights on its 16 acres to private developers, who in turn would develop for the Navy 1 million square feet of free office space.

But the scale of development required to make that happen was called “unreasonable” by a previous Navy official responsible for the project, Cmdr. Eugene Talmadge. Instead, the Navy will pick up 20% to 25% of the cost to build its offices, an amount that Goodermote said Thursday is roughly equal to what its now paying in rent.


What’s more, Goodermote said, the Navy will need the city’s help to keep the density down, primarily by the city giving the Navy some of the taxes generated by the private development, and to improve to the proposed park.

The breakdown of the project--bounded by Broadway on the north, Pacific Coast Highway on the east and a realigned Harbor Drive on the west and south--is as follows:

- Hotels--The Navy’s original plans called for 2,650 hotel rooms built over about 2 million square feet. The new proposal envisions 1,500 rooms encompassing about 1.2 million square feet. The hotels probably would be built first on two square blocks at the southern end of the project, between E Street and Harbor Drive, closest to Seaport Village.

Height of the hotels would range from about 4 stories to 18 stories, with a maximum height of 250 feet.

- Navy offices--The Navy wants 1 million square feet on the block between E and F streets, across from its deep-water pier on Harbor Drive. While structures on the Navy’s 16 acres would be razed, the Navy has proposed keeping one, called Building 12. The idea is to essentially gut the 450,000-square-foot structure and renovate it, mainly because it would be expensive to demolish.

The plan is to build a 24- to 26-story building away from the waterfront and on the part of the block next to Pacific Coast Highway. The maximum height of the building would be 350 feet. At the bottom of the Navy building would be a 55,000-square-foot maritime museum.

- Private offices--This is where size of the development will be contingent on creation of the 5-acre park. If the park is built, requiring the Navy to contribute a little more than an acre to the project, the private high-rise office will be about 650,000 square feet. This would put it at a maximum height of 300 feet, or 20 to 22 stories.

If, however, the park isn’t built, the size of private offices would expand to about 900,000 square feet, the extra office space being built on the reclaimed parkland. The original plan called for about 1.1 million square feet of private office space.

The new plan has traveled a quite a distance since 1986, when the Navy’s first consultant, the Goodkin Group of San Diego, proposed that the Navy consider a total development of 5 million square feet, including eight 400-foot-tall buildings.

For several years, the Navy has wanted to consolidate many of its far-flung regional administrative operations into a “corporate headquarters” on its choice bayfront land. But the Navy buildings on the property, including offices and warehouses, are squat, old and in disrepair. One building was constructed in 1921, and the most recent one in 1946.