SoccerCity Project Part Of Special Election Debate
The San Diego City Council will reconsider a special election for the mayor's convention center expansion project on Monday, a decision that holds implications for the multi-billion dollar SoccerCity redevelopment plan.
SoccerCity backers want to repurpose the 166-acre Qualcomm Stadium site and the Murphy Canyon land where Chargers Park now sits.
FS Investors is looking to demolish the existing stadium, tear up the parking lot and rebuild the area. Plans include 4,800 homes, commercial space, a 40-acre river park and a sports stadium with at least 23,000 seats. Chargers Park would become a soccer academy.
The sports stadium is a key component for the developers bid to land a Major League Soccer franchise. The professional soccer league is expanding by four teams soon and close to a dozen cities are competing to win the rights to have a team.
MLS will decide by the end of the year. League officials said it will not award a franchise to a city that does not have a firm commitment to build a stadium. That facility would have to be up and running by 2020.
FS Investors are clear: no team and there is no SoccerCity development.
The SoccerCity project is not on the city council docket until June 19. That is when city officials will publicly debate the project's merits.
San Diego City Council District 8 member David Alvarez said he supports putting SoccerCity on the ballot, but not until November 2018.
"This decision is a pretty big one. We don't have the land like this to develop in San Diego and in the core inner part of the city. This is a pretty big decision. I think we should have the best deal possible," said Alvarez.
Alvarez wants San Diego State University to be part of the project.
The school pulled out of two years of talks with FS Investors saying their needs were not being met. University officials expressed a desire to gain a bigger share of the Qualcomm property to expand their campus and academic mission.
And then there is the matter of Measure L. The voter-approved charter change calls for referendums and initiatives to be placed on November ballots during regular elections. That is when turnout is highest.
"Do we want a few San Diegans to make a decision or do we want a majority of San Diegans to make a decision. That's ultimately what this comes down to," Alvarez said.
Not everyone thinks waiting is the right move.
Council member Chris Cate said Measure L permits initiatives to be added to special November elections.
"People should have an opportunity to hear this on its merits. Each item on its merits. And if we don't have a special election called for I think that will not allow us to have that full vetting that each item does deserve," Cate said.
The District 6 council member is looking forward to that discussion on Monday because he has already gotten a taste of the debate from his constituents. He expects a spirited dialogue.
"There are a number of folks on all sides of this issue. Some who do not support it because they feel that the project would be too dense for that area. Some love it because of the density of it and what it brings and the vitality of that area that would come from that proposal. Some like it because of the sport. Some don't like it because of the sport," Cate said.
The SoccerCity plan does not die if the measure for a special election fails on Monday.
The council can decide to revisit that issue anytime over the summer.
The project itself also escapes an up or down vote June 19. That's because the signatures gathered by supporters only give the council two choices, approve the project outright, or put it on the November 2018 ballot.
The council would have to approve a separate item to add the SoccerCity measure to a special election this November.