What is in a Name?
The words used in naming, marketing and promoting of the SDSU West Campus Research Center, Stadium and River Park Initiative are illegal.
The State of California Educational Code Section 89005.5 explicitly states that both the group that is the Friends of SDSU and the entire SDSU West Initiative are illegally using names belonging to the State of California. This use of the SDSU name is presumably to insinuate a full endorsement by the university of the land grab campus expansion project in Mission Valley, sponsored by the Friends of SDSU.
“No person shall, without the permission of the Trustees of the California State University, use this name, or any abbreviation of it or any name of which these words are a part, in any of the following ways:
To designate any business, social, political, religious, or other organization, including, but not limited to, any corporation, firm, partnership, association, group, activity, or enterprise.
To imply, indicate, or otherwise suggest that any product, service, or organization is connected or affiliated with, or is endorsed, favored, or supported by, or is opposed by the Trustees of the California State University or any educational institution administered by the trustees. The permission of the trustees is required before any name listed in this subdivision may be used for any commercial purpose.”
The Education Code concludes with the assertion that “every person violating this section is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
San Diego City Council member Scott Sherman first brought this issue to light in a memo sent to the City Attorney in late March.
Contrary to the opinions of certain individuals, violations of the law do carry consequences. For the 50 members of the SDSU West Steering Committee, that means misdemeanors all around.
While it is ever-so-slightly plausible that the Friends had no knowledge that they were actually committing a crime when they embarked upon their quest to obstruct SoccerCity, the reality is that since the infringement has become public knowledge, the Friends of SDSU have, to their own peril, largely dismissed the severity of their infractions. Civilian supporters of the SDSU West Initiative have also largely poo pooed claims that there has been any meaningful wrongdoing from the Friends.
That is their prerogative.
However, what happens to the other parties who are connected to this illegally named ballot initiative? What of the City of San Diego’s culpability in this situation? Sherman’s memo to City Attorney Mara Elliot asked these same questions and more.
Could the City of San Diego and individual Council members be held liable for placing an Initiative on the ballot that violates California Education Code § 89005.5?
In the event that the City Attorney determines that the name of the initiative is illegal, is it possible that the entire initiative may be thrown out, and the Friends will need to rebrand and recirculate their newly-named-Mission-Valley-land-grab-Initiative?
If that is the case, it is hardly a death blow to the expansion hopes of the SDSU faithful. The SoccerCity Initiative collected the requisite signatures to qualify for the November ballot in just 12 days, and includes all manner of expansion options for the university. The SDSU West Initiative took about 85 days the first time around, and technically there is still time for signature re-gathering if the Friends decide to persist with putting forth an alternative option.
With the deadline to submit signatures still some ways away, the Friends of SDSU may opt to hedge their bets and begin recirculating a new petition that is actually in accordance with the law. This time though, they may want to re-think the mechanisms that govern then actions of their proposal. A recent analysis by the City Attorney found that there are numerous questions invoked but not answered by the proposal.
Suring up some of those concerns seems like a prudent course of action for the Friends to take.
The SDSU West Initiative relies heavily on the voters trusting that the 13.5 page document that leaves so many fundamental questions unanswered is in the best interest of SDSU and in theory, all of San Diego. That trust is built on the back of the Friends adopting the SDSU name and spraying it far and wide for anyone sympathetic to the Aztecs to rally behind.
Without the spear and shield of SDSU, it is hard to distinguish the group of backers of this initiative as anything other than the cabal of San Diego's old guard developers that they are, who are merely running interference on a larger more complete and comprehensive option for Mission Valley and all of San Diego.