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Governor Signs Bill Speeding Plans for San Diego Transit Center Development

Transportation Hub Part of Larger Mixed-Use Overhaul of Navy Tech Of

A "grand central station" connecting travelers to the San Diego airport is part of a larger planned redevelopment of a U.S. Navytechnology research campus. (San Diego Association of Governments)
A "grand central station" connecting travelers to the San Diego airport is part of a larger planned redevelopment of a U.S. Navytechnology research campus. (San Diego Association of Governments)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a bill into law aimed at speeding environmental reviews for an expansive U.S. Navy technology research facility in San Diego, where officials are also looking to build facilities providing travelers with long-sought direct access to the city’s airport.

“This bill represents a unique opportunity to protect the existing 5,000 Navy jobs from relocation, create a 21st-century transportation system in San Diego, and provide desperately needed economic stimulus to our local economy in the wake of COVID-19,” said Assembly member Todd Gloria, a San Diego Democrat who authored Assembly Bill 2731, in a statement.

The new law removes some project review steps otherwise required under existing California environmental regulations, and allows the San Diego Association of Government, or SANDAG, a regional planning agency, to use the Navy’s current ongoing environmental analysis of the project site in place of what would normally be a new state-level review, under certain conditions.

The law also requires courts to resolve any environmental litigation that might arise in response to the transit center project within 270 days. The new law takes effect Jan. 1, and the Navy said ina statement that it expects to complete its environmental review process in early 2021.

This year, the Navy signed a formal exclusivity agreement with SANDAG involving plans to redevelop the Navy’s aging technology research and procurement campus known formally as Naval Information Warfare Systems Command.

The 70-acre campus is 3 miles north of San Diego International Airport, in the city’s Old Town neighborhood, and consists primarily of repurposed aircraft hangars from the 1950s and 1960scurrently housing cybersecurity professionals.

The Navy and SANDAG are preparing to accept proposals from commercial developers to build new Navy technology office while adding new private-sector office, retail, residential and open-space elements. The parties are also planning a new regional transportation hub intended to connect transit riders directly to the airport, a service long sought by local tourists and business travelers.

Regional planners are examining several concepts for what could be a $4 billion “grand central station” transit center and expected to choose one before year’s end. The general plan is to bring riders of the San Diego Trolley light-rail system from throughout the region to the transit hub, where they would then access new bus or rail shuttle services connecting directly to the airport.

The San Diego Association of Governments has estimated that a new transit station combined with some type of “people mover” airport connection could increase local transit ridership among airport-bound travelers from the current 1% to between 15% and 34%. Another aim is to significantly reduce vehicle traffic on roads adjacent to airport terminals and the nearby downtown area.

SANDAG officials did not immediately respond to a request from CoStar News for comment on the bill’s signing into law. The governor’s office did not comment beyond a statement listing the bill among several that were signed Tuesday.

The Navy, among San Diego’s largest employers and space occupiers, has long been looking to update its local tech security-focused operations and is preparing to move its Southwest regional administrative operations this month into a newly built headquarters office building on the downtown San Diego waterfront.

By: Lou Hirsh | CoStar News

October 3, 2020

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