February 06, 2006
Living ‘At ease’
Barracks built by private firms could provide luxuries for sailors
By Gordon Lubold
Times staff writer
When it’s built, there will be a coffee bar with wireless Internet capability, a game room on the mezzanine and a movie theater.
The expansive lounge on the high-rise buildings’ first floors will include an outdoor area dubbed a “courtyard living room” and, at the request of enlisted members, two horseshoe pits.
And when the newest enlisted barracks project is built on San Diego’s 32nd Street Naval Station, its occupants will have their own bedrooms and share a 900-square-foot apartment suite with just one other person.
The project, called Pacific Beacon, even has a theme: “At Ease.”
It’s safe to say that these enlisted barracks would be a far cry from what most single soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are used to today. But if the $300 million Pacific Beacon project becomes a success story under the Defense Department’s privatized housing initiative, projects like it could become commonplace — and offer a glimmer of hope to single enlisted men and women who could someday be livin’ large on the military’s dime.
“Moving into Pacific Beacon will be just like moving into the nicest Class-A residential building in San Diego,” said Jesse Nelson of Clark Pinnacle, a development firm based in Bethesda, Md. “It’s not your typical military housing, that’s for sure.”
Privatized housing is already paying huge dividends for military families. Since the Pentagon directed the services to start their own programs in the late 1990s, thousands of homes have been built for each service by the private sector through a mix of private and public funding.
The Marine Corps, for example, contributed $264 million in fiscal 2005 toward $1.3 billion in total development projects.
A defense housing official said the Air Force is “not engaged” in the issue of privatized barracks, but the Army is watching the Navy’s work with great interest.
The Army has included privatization of 200 senior bachelor enlisted and officer quarters in a broader Fort Irwin, Calif., Residential Communities Initiative project, an Army official said. The initial focus of that project is family housing privatization; the barracks portion probably will not happen until late 2008.
Another project involving 200 sets of privatized bachelor quarters at Fort Drum, N.Y., is awaiting Defense Department approval, the official said.
Private over public
Under privatized housing, a company owns and maintains the building and makes its money through payment of Basic Allowance for Housing from the service member.
As a result, many families enjoy brand-new homes, some built in the “new urbanism” style that has caught on in the private marketplace.
Units include new appliances, spacious walk-in closets, more bathrooms and garages that can actually fit a sport utility vehicle — and still have storage space.
But until now, the focus has been on privatized family housing, largely because some military officials don’t believe privatizing barracks will work.
That has left single troops waiting for barracks upgrades to come under conventional funding plans — and since money is tight, that process is slow. But many hope the Navy’s experiment with privatizing barracks, which includes another project in the Norfolk, Va., area, will give some solace to the naysayers.
“We have experienced some outstanding success stories with the family housing side of the PPV business and hope to achieve the same success with the unaccompanied housing program,” said Bill Pearson, head of the Navy’s Installations Command in Washington.
“But it is too early to determine if we will achieve that same level” of success, he said.
Navy officials said privatized barracks will work for single sailors much the same way they do for families. Sailors will be referred to the project, sign a lease and start receiving housing allowance to make their monthly lease payments, which will include utilities.
In Norfolk, the service will turn over seven existing buildings to a private company during the next year that include 1,313 beds in 722 units, said Dawn Baronner, program manager for the project. But there are also plans to build new barracks that would house at least 1,450 single sailors — each with his own room.
Baronner believes privatized barracks can succeed.
“I think there is some will there to see what we can accomplish,” she said Jan. 18. “Where it goes from there, I don’t know. But there’s a lot of interest.”
Marine Commandant Gen. Mike Hagee is interested, but he’s far from sold on the idea. Hagee told Marine Corps Times last fall that he’s looking into privatized barracks, but he does not think the idea will work for the Corps.
“We cannot use, in general, [public-private ventures] for bachelors,” he said.
The chief concern is that under privatized housing, the military must guarantee occupancy. That is not an issue for families, since dependents remain behind when troops deploy. But guaranteeing occupancy in housing for single members is difficult under today’s deployment pace, when barracks potentially would be empty for extended periods. That would force private companies to rent to civilians in the interim, and the whole process could become messy, officials said.
“What we are looking at is, could we do some sort of bachelor PPV for the bases and stations, assuming that the Navy is successful?” Hagee said. “I have asked the guys and gals to take a look at that.”
Nelson said his company recognizes that managing properties for families is different than for single service members.
“This is a night-and-day difference between managing families,” he said.
But, he added, the demand for housing in San Diego is too strong to let the occupancy issue become an obstacle.
“There will always be single sailors here needing a place to stay,” he said.
I knew I was getting out too early...
Sounds good to me, they deserve it.
USN finally getting their shit up to USAF standards huh, good for them.
So who are going to be the new occupants? Sailors that are assigned to ships (junior ones not married generally live aboard)? Or the ones not assigned to Sea Duty and already have a place, albeit not as nice?
So why not, those folks deserves to live a little at the expense of Uncle Sam.
Good, it is deserved. Some (most) of you may not realize that this still doesn't do much for the unmarried enlisted assigned to ships, especially the most junior sailors, because they still have to live onboard in conditions worse than just about any barracks.
I have been out of Navy life at a joint command for a couple of years. Any fleet types have an update on the initiative to move more enlisted sailors assigned to ships into barracks?
There will be a catch. I know how they operate.
Probably gonna have hourly white-glove room inspections.
The TV / Movie theater will be secured 1830 - 2200 for Field Day.
Said theater will be closed after 2200 / Taps for quiet hours.
Visitors will be admitted after a special request chit is ran through NAVSTA San Diego's chain of command, via the Sailor's tenant command's (e.g. SIMA, FIWCPAC, etc.) chain of command--where it will get lost. After the sixth attempt, the visitor will have to attend a mandatory BEQ safety briefing. Visitors will have to depart NLT 1830 due to field day.
NAVSTA Everett has some really nice barracks, er Bachelor Enlisted Housing. When I made E5 on my ship, I took the BAH $$$ option vice getting put on the waiting list for the barracks. The appeal was being able to have chicks stay overnight, own firearms and do whatever I wanted (within reason / the law). NAVSTA San Diego is in a shitty area for the single Sailor to live out on the economy, so this is a step in the right direction.
In related news, the Marines on Okinawa are getting running water that won't shut off in the middle of a shower.