Recent photo of barracks
In my Sept. 23 “Presently Tense” column, I wrote about my attempt to get a progress report from the Navy on the masking of NAB Complex 320-325, a set of barracks at San Diego's Naval Amphibious Base that form the shape of a swastika when viewed from above.
The barracks, designed in that shape unintentionally by architect John Mock and constructed between 1967 and 1970, came to global attention after 2005, when Google Earth images of the complex were distributed virally, leading to complaints from the Anti-Defamation League, Rep. Susan Davis and others.
In 2007, Navy spokesperson Scott Sutherland told The Los Angeles Times that the Navy did “not want to be associated with something as… hateful as the swastika” and would allocate approximately $600,000 in the 2008 budget to remodel the buildings, hiding the symbol.
After my column appeared, CityBeat received photographs taken of the complex by a source—who regularly flies over Coronado and wishes to remain anonymous—revealing that no changes had been made to the structure.
Following numerous requests for an explanation, the Navy e-mailed CityBeat a brief explanation of why nothing has been done. Commander Glenn Shephard, assistant regional engineer at Navy Region Southwest, said in that “at the end of fiscal year 2009, the near-term plan to allocate $625,000 to affix a canopy, visually connecting the rooflines at the southwest corner of the complex, was deemed not effective by the Navy's project development team.”
Shephard's statement doesn't explain why a project that was supposed be funded in the 2008 budget wasn't deemed unfeasible until the end of 2009.
He didn't provide any criteria for “effectiveness,” but it seems fairly certain that the team determined the proposal to connect the rooflines at only one corner would not make the structure look significantly less like a swastika.
Shephard said that “the effective solution is to make roofline canopy connections at all four quadrant locations at the complex.”
The use of rooftop solar panels, under consideration in the original plan, has apparently been scrapped—Shephard's statement makes no mention of them.
Under the new design, not only would canopies be used to turn the swastika into a square, but, also, the four outer gaps would be filled in with four floors of barracks rooms, with all rooflines connected.
However, because “this effort will require development of a new project… [that is] currently unfunded within the Navy's military construction program… it will have to compete for Navy construction programming funds,” Shephard explained. “The new project documents are expected to be completed by the end of 2009.”
Shephard says the proposed “long term project” will compete for funding in the Navy's military construction program for 2011.
Back in 2007, when the Navy announced it would modify the structure, Morris Casuto, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, praised the plan and told The Los Angeles Times that he was glad the Navy was “doing the right thing.”
Now that the future of the plan to mask the swastika is uncertain, Casuto is disappointed, but still hopeful. “Putting the project into the process [of having to bid for funds] endangers the fix,” he said. “I would have been happier if the Navy had been more forthcoming… and had explained why only in late 2009 was the first project deemed ineffective… and why the initial canopy project wasn't begun. It would have been a start, and any additional changes would then cost $600,000 less to implement.”
But Casuto believes in giving the Navy the benefit of the doubt.
“Lots of honest people are overwhelmed with work,” he said. “I'm willing to wait and see.”
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Would you like your online comment to be considered for publication in our print edition? Include your true full name and neighborhood of residence.