SoccerCity Takes on SDSU West in Debate: San Diego Summarized | 10-8-18
Welcome to San Diego Summarized where each week we examine headlines from around the city:
This week’s summary is centered on the Politifest event that the Voice of San Diego hosted this past Saturday. Attendees were treated to a crash course in some of San Diego’s most pressing political topics, with panels on subjects running from housing policy to cannabis tax talk to the ever-urgent Mission Valley stadium saga to the future of San Diego itself.
The event itself was a rousing success and several attendees spoke afterwards of their rejuvenated enthusiasm for democracy.
One of the more highly anticipated panels was a debate between the proponents of Measures E and G, the SoccerCity and SDSU West initiatives. SoccerCity project manager Nick Stone and local land use expert Marcela Escobar-Eck argued in favor of Measure E, while disgraced former city manager Jack McGrory and local communications professional Laura Fink supported the Measure G option.
This debate came with a slight twist in the form of Howard Blackson, who argued that should neither initiative advance past the November election, life would go on just fine, and we the people of San Diego would have the opportunity to workshop what to do with this site in a long and drawn out public process.
The full audio from the debate can be heard here, but let’s take a look at a few of the more interesting points that came up.
After a brief introduction of each initiative, the discussion got underway in earnest. With just four weeks until the election, this event provided a major platform for both sides to appeal to an audience that was largely skeptical of both plans.
SoccerCity launched publicly in January of 2017 shortly after the Chargers announced relocation plans for Los Angeles. The Nick Stone and his fellow investors plan to buy/lease the entire 166 acres where the SDCCU Stadium sits as well as the former Chargers training ground just north of the stadium.
The SoccerCity project aims to redevelop the Mission Valley property into a thriving new live/work/play community, complete with 60 acres of parks, 4,800 housing units, office and classroom space for businesses to conduct research and operations (presumably with SDSU faculty and students) and a brand new stadium to house the group’s Major League Soccer expansion team that could also be used for SDSU’s football and other athletic activities.
The plan itself was conceived and developed by FS Investors, San Diego State University and the Mayor’s office over the course of a few years, before falling apart at the last minute when other forces at SDSU became involved. In the time since the launch of SoccerCity, SDSU West has emerged as an alternate option in Mission Valley. The argument for SDSU West as a separate initiative is that SoccerCity does not adequately meet the needs of the university. The debate at Politifest centered around that discrepancy and went from there.
According to Stone, the university has the right to eminent domain over at 35 acres it chooses, anywhere on the site.
“They have to buy what is there but they don’t know if they need office, housing etc. so they have the right of eminent domain over the existing stuff,” explained Stone to me on Friday ahead of the debate.
One other talking point is the City Attorney’s analysis that explained that the SoccerCity team is not legally obligated to actually obtain an MLS expansion team, and as such there is a possibility that there is no new sports team that comes to San Diego.
There are a whole host of reasons why this is a false flashpoint, but in the extraordinarily unlikely event that the investors from SoccerCity are not granted an expansion team, their lease agreement with the city of San Diego defaults and SDSU steps up, much like a second in a duel or next-of-kin would if the primary party is unavailable.
“To show you just how collaboratively we were working with the university, our initiative says that should we not provide a MLS team, therefore are not the qualified leasee, we step out of the way and the university steps into our shoes and can build, just like we would, what they want there,” explained Stone. “This characterization of higher education vs soccer is not what happened. This is a question of which of the two initiatives is better for the tax payers because SDSU’s stated expansion needs of 35 acres are met in ours and I’m sure are met in theirs.”
Jack McGrory and Laura Fink went to great lengths to deflect and dodge questions, including circulating a wickedly clever bingo card that highlights what the No on E campaign labels as lies from the SoccerCity group, but when pressed on what exactly is insufficient about the 35 acres offered to them by SoccerCity, came up with no answer at all.
McGrory and Fink also failed to adequately detail the financing for the SDSU West plan, which would see the university buy a portion of the Mission Valley site for a TBD dollar amount, direct the city to fund the build out of a river park, and build a stadium, housing units, two hotels and some office/classroom space, much akin to SoccerCity.
I’m not going to rehash the entire debate which you can listen to here or watch online at the Voice of San Diego’s facebook page, but for me, the big question is how are people feeling about the issue?
With one month until the election, what do you want the future of Mission Valley to be? Does it matter at all to you how the situation got to where it is today? Do you think we have time to let these two initiatives fail and take it from the top once again?
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San Diego Unified opened the Living Lab in conjunction with the Ocean Discovery Institute in City Heights over the weekend