San Diego Business Journal

A federal judge on May 28 ruled in favor of a developer and the U.S. Navy, saying their plans to redevelop a 14.7-acre, four-block waterfront site in downtown San Diego can proceed without further environmental review.

The California Coastal Commission had sued the Navy and Manchester Pacific Gateway over the defendants’ intent to the redevelop the Navy Broadway Complex, also known as Pacific Gateway, a 3 million-square-foot, $1.3 billion project.

The case involved a redevelopment plan that began in the late 1980s, for which the Navy conducted an environmental impact assessment in 1990 that preceded a development agreement in 1992. Since then, plans were put on hold and a round of military base closures prompted the Navy to modify its plans and move to implement them, including choosing Manchester in 2006 as its redevelopment partner. In late 2006, however, the Coastal Commission told the Navy that it considered the changes to the redevelopment plan significant enough to require another environmental assessment.

The Navy disagreed, saying the plan did not propose any substantial changes to the project as proposed in the 1990 consistency determination. It said “the minor changes … made to the project will not result in substantially different effects to coastal uses or resource,” according to the background section of the ruling by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

The Coastal Commission revisited the issue beginning in August 2011, and in December 2011 it adopted the finding that the project was no longer consistent with the California Coastal Act, leading to its lawsuit in January 2013. Both sides filed motions seeking summary judgment in their favor.

“The court concludes that the actual and perceived changes in the scope of the project and in the relevant downtown area are not, either individually or cumulatively, substantially different than originally proposed,” Miller wrote in his ruling, while instructing the clerk of court “to close the file.”