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Navy's environmental review of NAVWAR property kicks into high gear

An aerial view of the Navy’s 70-acre NAVWAR property in the Midway District.

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By JENNIFER VAN GROVE | The San Diego Union-Tribune | Published: February 26, 2020

SAN DIEGO (Tribune News Service) — Local, national and even senior-ranking Navy personnel are collectively pushing forward with an ambitious analysis of the 70-acre NAVWAR property in the Midway District in anticipation of releasing a draft environmental report this summer.

The group effort, which is being characterized as an atypical flattening of federal bureaucracy, is meant to expedite completion of the environmental impact statement, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act, ahead of redevelopment of the property.

Monday night, the Navy concluded a month-long public scoping period for the effort known as the Navy Old Town Complex Revitalization project. Community members, who will have an opportunity to weigh in on project specifics at a later date, provided preliminary feedback on their priorities and concerns.

Workshops and comment letters suggest a high level of interest in the transportation and traffic impacts associated with redevelopment, the cultural and historic significance of the existing World War II-era hangars, the potential existence of hazardous materials in the soil and the security of Navy systems, said Caitlin Ostomel, who directs public affairs for the Navy Region Southwest.

"The Navy is pooling resources to analyze issues raised during the public scoping period in addition to issues already identified by the Navy," she said. "We're moving so quickly because security needs and mission needs are a high priority."

The environmental review is an early part of a joint effort with the San Diego Association of Governments to turn two, large plots of federal land, separated by Pacific Highway, into an airport-serving transportation hub that also includes new Navy facilities, housing, retail and private-sector office space. The site is currently used by around 6,000 Naval Information Warfare Systems Command staffers and contractors who operate and defend the largest network in the world from within buildings that are considered obsolete.

The formal, federal review process seeks to define the development parameters of what's currently a high-level idea. In its report, the Navy will analyze five options of varying uses and density for its NAVWAR property.

The agency is shooting to release a draft document for public review in July, with a final version to follow in the fall. The endeavor is expected to culminate with a determination on a development plan before the end of the year.

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