A Casual Conversation with a Complete Stranger
I recently had a casual conversation with a stranger while out at a fundraising event for a candidate running for office in the 2018 November election. While the conversation opened up with the typical pleasantries and commentary about the venue and the various beers on tap, as we discussed our shared appreciation for San Diego and what brought us to town in the first place, we eventually came across the topic of the Mission Valley stadium site saga when upon learning that my new friend was a recent-ish SDSU grad, I asked him if he had an opinion on the whole SDSU West vs SoccerCity debate.
His responded strongly in the affirmative and proceeded to tell me he was “all in” on SDSU West.
We had previously agreed that neither of us knew anything about American football (the Steelers were playing some team I don’t recall can’t be bothered to search for), and in fact my new friend cares very little for sports of any kind.
He explained that his initially unwavering support for SDSU West was grounded in the ‘fact’ that SoccerCity was just a corporate land grab where the investors behind it would obtain the land around SDCCU Stadium for cheap and then make tons of money from developing it. He indicated his belief that SDSU, under the SDSU West Initiative, would pay closer to fair market value for the land and would have better outcomes for the student population of both today and the future, while simultaneously combatting San Diego’s housing shortage.
He then asked me if I had a different opinion, based on the presumably pained look on my face as I listened to him parrot things that he’s heard over the last couple of years.
I asked him if he’d ever heard of the Voice of San Diego. He said no, so I recommended two pieces written over a year apart that go a long way toward, in my opinion, shedding some light on how we got to the place we’re now in. One was about the developers who swarmed to shoot down SoccerCity’s attempt at a 2017 special election and the other was about the timeline of events that led up to the schism between some of the city’s more wealthy and influential people.
As with all things in life, there is more than one side to every story, and I felt it was important to establish some common ground before attempting to have a robust discussion on a complex issue with a complete stranger.
I also recommended an interview I myself had conducted earlier this year with the man who leads SDSU’s Lavin Center of Entrepreneurship. Turns out my new friend had actually taken a class from Bernie Schroeder in his time on the mesa and we shared a few jokes about Bernie’s mannerisms.
The part I think is most telling in my chat with Bernie is when he describes the evolution of the Center and the influence that former president Elliott Hirschman had on molding previously separate divisions together in order to forcibly synthesize creativity and give SDSU students a leading edge over products of other institutions of higher learning.
This is the same Elliott Hirschman who constructed the deal that fell apart between SoccerCity and SDSU once Fred Pierce and other members of SDSU’s real estate alumni base got a look at it and realized they were cut out of the deal as it was.
In an effort to spare my new friend any more of my babbling, I pulled up there and we changed the subject. I didn’t want to get too deep into the weeds about who owns what properties in Mission Valley and where opposition funding is coming from for the No on E campaign that is more vocal and more vicious than either Yes on E or Yes on G campaign.
I thought it was far too early to drown this random dude with the details described in the SoccerCity commitment letter that exceeds the thresholds set out in the initiative itself and would be legally binding in the event that Measure E passes on November 6th when votes are cast.
Most people don’t care about the details.
Most people don’t really care about context or nuance or truth even.
Most people have no idea about the Climate Action Plan that San Diego has committed to and is serious danger of falling short of.
Most people who have an opinion about Mission Valley at all just want to see something get done that does away with the largest parking lot west of the Mississippi River and makes San Diego a better place to live.
While I too want what most people want, I think I want a bit more than political spin and bullshit talking points. I want substantive progress in this city. I want MLS in San Diego and I want San Diego State University to have a home for its students, faculty and football program. I want housing that is built along transit lines that make it logical to take the trolley and get rid of my car.
I actually don’t care that much about a park but I do love taking pictures and parks are decent places to do that kind of thing.
More than anything though I want people to know what they’re doing when they go to the ballot on November 6th. My new friend didn’t even realize there were two ballot measures and that he could actually vote yes on both of them!
Anyway, for those of you wondering, I didn’t get his contact info, so I’ll probably never see him again, but we parted ways with clink of our glasses and a handshake and a better understanding of what San Diego means to each other. Not terrible for a casual conversation with a stranger.