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San Diego City Council Votes To Put SoccerCity On 2018 Ballot

SoccerCity supporters sit in as the San Diego City Council decides the future of the SoccerCity proposal, June 19, 2017.
Erik Anderson
SoccerCity supporters sit in as the San Diego City Council decides the future of the SoccerCity proposal, June 19, 2017.
San Diego City Council Votes To Put SoccerCity On 2018 Ballot
San Diego City Council Votes To Put SoccerCity On 2018 Ballot GUEST: Erik Anderson, reporter, KPBS

Yesterday was a pivotal day units city to city hall for discussions of the future of the QUALCOMM site. They had previously voted not to hold a special election this year with supporters of the soccer development said was his -- essential. Here's what the city Council voted last night after almost 5 hours of testimony. KPBS reporter Eric Anderson. Thank you. So they had two options to either approve it out right or put it on the 2018 ballot. It was a unanimous vote by all the city council members. Before they made the boat a riveting hearing with a lot of people in the Council yesterday making the case both for and against the QUALCOMM Stadium site. Almost 5 hours of testimony and there was a wide range of testimony as well. The Mayor had wanted have it on a special election this year. Why did they decide not to do that? It gets quite a bit more complicated than just a simple question. It involves funding, there is some political maneuvering involved there as well in the and they did not vote on the special election yesterday but it was an interesting discussion during Council measurements -- Councilman Sherman's remarks. The special election idea had been completely eliminated and it kind of explain what the process is and it was not completely eliminated. It depends when the Council would want the election to be. It depends how much time he must have for the election there are requirements at the state level. What you seem to say the following marks. They will push for. They said after the meeting they will continue to work for it. What is pushing the deadline is this idea of major league soccer expansion. Made it -- major league soccer has to expand by four teams. To this year and to at a later date. They need this folder support to be eligible for one of those expansion franchises. That is why this election is critical. Is there anything that the fans are saying? There were interesting tidbits. Gretchen news and got up at one point speaking for labor in San Diego. They supported if you think back to measure C which was the charger Stadium initiative. They were on board and very public further support of the measure. She ticked off a list about this that were equally applicable to measure C just a few short months ago. Something that they supported and this time around which is not to support it. It was an interesting thing and you also got a chance to see some of these players that got a chance for some of these backward communications. There must've been some reason my labor decided not to support this. What is the back story? There is no labor agreement in advance of this deal. There was not a project labor agreement worked out with the labor unions where they got a certain percentage of the job or the jobs agreed to meet certain labor standards. That's one reason they are not on board. Soccer city folks say they are willing pay the prevailing wage and they are willing to work with labor unions but it has not translated. San Diego state opposed the deal. Remind us about what it is they want that may actually come to fruition in the next year. This was an interesting part of the discussion as well. San Diego state did not get what they wanted this book to investors for two years and cannot quite come to terms on a. You heard some of the frustrations from the Council. They seemed to be pretty frustrated with San Diego state University. One councilman said in his talks with them they would ask for one thing and then another. Let's hear what he had to say. Sit here and say you want this open for public bidding when you were saying the exact opposite is critical at the best. And Jack Gregorio McGinnis pension deficit of $2 billion and then they will tell us it is a really good deal sorry if I will pass on that one. He was talking about Jack McGrory who was the chairman of the fundraising for San Diego University. We want to look at the Council as a body. Some are against this special election. Summer holding up measure L or summer holding up the funding as an issue. I got a sense when I spoke to Chris Ward that there was still some possibility for a resolution. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to cheer San Diego's future for mission Valley. We should not foreclose the possibility of a mutually agreeable plan for the site that brings SDSU and other stakeholders on board in the interest of expedients. They are saying they can come to terms that could be something that they support going forward. A lot of different ways this could go in the next 6 to 12 months. It certainly was not involved there is still some energy to be expended in by the end of this year and we will see what it goes. That was KPBS reporter Eric Anderson.

UPDATE: 2:30 p.m., June 20, 2017

Following Monday's public hearing and City Council vote, San Diego State University issued a statement in response to the decision:

We appreciate the support from the San Diego State University alumni and community members who spoke today at City Council on behalf of a fair and open process. We look forward to working with the City and other key stakeholders to evaluate the best use for the Mission Valley property with the goal of securing a future home for Aztec football and growing the university’s academic and research endeavors, which benefit all of San Diego. SDSU is a growing and thriving institution of higher education that has been part of San Diego for 120 years and we remain committed to working collaboratively with the community for generations to come.

Nick Stone, SoccerCity project manager, also released a statement:

Today, the City Council heard hours of incredibly compelling testimony from hundreds of San Diegans who said they wanted to vote on SoccerCity before the MLS selects cities for the league’s final four teams this fall. We’re proud of the huge, broad coalition of citizens that stood up today against the powerful political establishment who wants to kill the project through delay. The motion the City Council unanimously passed explicitly allows for future consideration of a special election on SoccerCity this year. We owe it to supporters to continue to fight for their right to cast a vote when it still matters.

UPDATE: 8:38 p.m., June 19, 2017

The City Council on Monday unanimously opted to place the proposed SoccerCity redevelopment of the Qualcomm Stadium property in Mission Valley before San Diego voters, most likely for the November 2018 general election ballot.

In so doing, the council left the door ajar for an earlier special election, as called for by the project's developers, led by FS Investors of La Jolla and supporters.

The developers collected enough valid signatures on petitions supporting their project to require the council to either set it for a vote or adopt it outright.

All sides favored a vote, for FS Investors, passage would provide greater legal protections than simple council adoption. They had hoped for a special election this fall — before Major League Soccer makes decisions on expansion franchises — but the council recently ruled out a vote before next year. FS Investors had applied for a new MLS franchise.

"SoccerCity is not the only option for Mission Valley, and we shouldn't buy into rhetoric that says otherwise," Councilwoman Barbara Bry said.

Councilman David Alvarez said he hopes the extra time will allow for a better proposal to emerge, particularly one that addresses the interests of San Diego State University. SDSU boosters contend that the stadium land, available now that the Chargers have moved to Los Angeles, should be used for campus expansion and a smaller stadium more suitable to college football.

Joe LaCava of the Public Land, Public Vote Coalition, urged the council to "take a breath," and open the property up to a competitive process. "What we have now is just a massive land grab," LaCava said. "It's a windfall for FS that would be the largest transfer of taxpayer wealth in San Diego history."

On the other side, SoccerCity investor Steve Altman said his group was the only one that was prepared for the Chargers decision to leave San Diego. The MLS expansion timeline required them to move quickly after the football team announced its decision, he said.

"Unfortunately in this city, and especially in today's divided environment, even the best intentions get mischaracterized and attacked," Altman said. "In an effort to discredit us and our project, the opposition — funded by two very politically connected local developers seeking to protect their nearby projects — fueled the impression that we were just a bunch of greedy land developers trying to make windfall projects at the expense of the city and its taxpayers."

RELATED: SoccerCity Media Push Targets San Diego City Council

If eventually approved, SoccerCity would include a hybrid soccer and college football stadium, a park along the San Diego River, 2.4 million square feet of office space, 740,000 square feet for retail space, 4,800 multi-family residential units and 450 hotel rooms.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer — whose plan to raise hotel taxes to fund expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, homeless programs and road repairs — was similarly delayed by the City Council last week.

He issued a statement that said the council continued a trend of avoiding facing up to some of the city's biggest issues "by shelving a plan that more than 100,000 San Diegans support."

"The council's decision significantly jeopardizes our chance to bring Major League Soccer to San Diego and create a river park at no cost to taxpayers," Faulconer said. "Regardless of whether they personally supported or opposed SoccerCity, council members should have given San Diegans the chance to vote when it mattered the most. Despite the council's delay, I will keep working for the park space, housing and economic benefits in the SoccerCity plan."

In its own statement, San Diego State University expressed appreciation for supporters who spoke before the council.

"We look forward to working with the city and other key stakeholders to evaluate the best use for the Mission Valley property with the goal of securing a future home for Aztec football and growing the university's academic and research endeavors, which benefit all of San Diego," the statement said.

"SDSU is a growing and thriving institution of higher education that has been part of San Diego for 120 years and we remain committed to working collaboratively with the community for generations to come."