Measure E Aims To Reshape San Diego’s Mission Valley
Monday, October 15, 2018
Credit: FS Investors
A La Jolla-based investment group hopes to transform San Diego’s Mission Valley stadium property into a vibrant urban village that’s centered around a professional soccer team: SoccerCity. But voters will have to approve Measure E for that to happen.
The timing to announce a major redevelopment for the Mission Valley stadium site in 2017 couldn’t have been better. San Diego was still stinging from Dean Spano’s decision to move the Chargers NFL franchise to Los Angeles.
Longtime Chargers fan and San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts did not mince words on the January day the team announced it was leaving.
“I hate this day,” Roberts said as he struggled with his emotions.
“It’s just,” Roberts said as took a long pause as tears welled up in his eyes. “For me and my family. It’s a big deal.”
A few weeks later, at a hastily convened news event, FS Investors went public with its plan to make professional soccer the impetus to reshape the Mission Valley stadium site.
“And we’re really excited to start to talk about bringing a lot more professional soccer to town,” said Nick Stone, a SoccerCity investor.
Months of private discussions between FS Investors, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and San Diego State University officials were finally out in the open and the multibillion-dollar redevelopment project was in play.
Soccer fans filled the deck of the USS Midway Museum as the investors, the mayor and Major League Soccer officials talked about the attempt to bring an MLS expansion franchise to San Diego.
Curious about the other Mission Valley redevelopment proposal on the ballot? Click here to see more about Measure G, the plan to sell land to San Diego State University .
“We are a city that looks forward. We are a city that innovates. We are a city that recognizes rising tides,” said Faulconer.
A soccer stadium is a requirement to land an MLS team and the aging Mission Valley facility is too big and too old. The SoccerCity redevelopment plan calls for a new multisports stadium that would seat between 24,000 and 34,000 fans. The facility could also host the SDSU Aztec football team. FS Investors hoped the school would share the cost of building the stadium in exchange for ownership of the facility in five years and access to more than 40 acres of Stadium property land.
“We’ve talked with FS probably going on two years,” said John David Wicker, SDSU athletic director. “And had discussions with the mayor on what is important to San Diego State University, and that’s not just a football stadium.”
The school was interested in a larger share of the 166-acre stadium property. Talks between SDSU and FS Investors did not go well and by May the school ended negotiations citing irreconcilable differences.
That divorce did not stop the push to get the more than 3,000-page SoccerCity measure on the ballot quickly.
Soccer fans packed city council chambers that summer asking for a special election in the fall of 2017. Backers argued the chance at an MLS expansion franchise was at risk. Those pleas were unpersuasive and, in the end, the council demurred. SoccerCity would get on the ballot, but not until November 2018.
The SoccerCity project encountered more headwinds from the San Diego City Attorney’s office. Mara Elliott questioned whether the initiative overstepped its authority, and she asked a judge to remove the measure from the fall ballot.
The courts declined that request, setting up a battle for public opinion. That battle is being fought on local airwaves.
U.S. soccer star Landon Donovan serves as a pitchman in one television spot.
“Hey, wanna see the future?” Donovan asks an actor.
“Yeah,” the actor said.
Majestic music plays as renderings of the SoccerCity project flash on the screen, including images of soccer.
Soccer is the focal point of the multi-billion dollar redevelopment plan that seeks to create a sports and entertainment district in Mission Valley.
“Would we have rather it happened a long time ago, sure. But the great part is we now have a chance to communicate with the average voter and say why this is so much better for the city,” said Nick Stone.
FS Investors calls the project unprecedented.
The redevelopment would tear down the existing stadium and push to have a new multi-sport stadium built quickly. And it is still a possibility because there are still two possible MLS franchises available.
“Not only is the sport great. It’s the first time that somebody has come forward with a proposal for that site, that adds a sport that doesn’t cost the taxpayers anything, and that is such a rare distinction relative to what people are used to,” Stone said.
SoccerCity backers propose paying for the new facility by developing the rest of the site and the old Chargers Park off Interstate 15 just north of the stadium.
The plan calls for construction of 4,800 homes with a percentage meeting the city's affordable housing guidelines.
There is retail, commercial and office space.
In addition, the plan has money for a river park, hotel and even land set aside if an NFL team wants a stadium site within five years.
An independent analysis by the Regional Economic Development Corp. found the SoccerCity proposal could have an annual $2.8 billion impact on the region’s economy. That comes along with 26,000 permanent jobs.
And an analysis by the San Diego Taxpayer’s Association found the SoccerCity plan would generate just over $4 million in tax revenue for the city of San Diego, more than twice what the report estimates SDSU West plan, Measure G, would generate.
“Oh, and by the way, we add something that’s fun and exciting. We create an entertainment district. We bring Major League Soccer to town. And we build and maintain a River Park,” Stone said.
In order to prevail, Measure E will have to get more votes than SDSU West’s Measure G, which proposes selling a portion of the stadium site to San Diego State University.
The measure with the most votes over 50 percent wins. If neither measure reaches the 50 percent threshold, both fail.
Measure E asks city of San Diego voters to approve a massive redevelopment project in Mission Valley.
Editor's Note: KPBS is a service of San Diego State University. NPR independently reviewed this story for balance.
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