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San Diego City Council Debates SDSU Mission Valley Deal

A rendering of the SDSU West project, April 27, 2018.

Credit: San Diego State University

Above: A rendering of the SDSU West project, April 27, 2018.

San Diego City Council members Monday debated the finer points of the deal to sell the city's Mission Valley stadium property to San Diego State University, as the two sides inch closer to a final agreement.

The main points of the purchase and sale agreement have mostly been finalized — namely the sale price of $86.2 million. But a host of smaller details are still being ironed out.

Listen to this story by Andrew Bowen.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office is leading negotiations with SDSU, but the deal won’t go through without support from a majority of the City Council. City Attorney Mara Elliott, whose office is drafting the purchase and sale agreement, asked the council to provide feedback on certain details so the final deal can win a majority vote.

City Councilwoman Barbara Bry cautioned the council against putting too many conditions on SDSU's development of the property, which is expected to take place in phases over nearly two decades.

"I think it's all-important for us to remember that the city is not a real estate developer," Bry said. "It's our responsibility to approve a legal agreement that adheres to the provisions of Measure G. It is not our responsibility to micromanage the development of this site."

Among the most contentious issues the council debated was whether to require private developments on the property to pay union-level wages to construction workers. So-called "prevailing wages" are already required on the construction of the project's 35,000-seat football stadium, and will be required on any university-constructed buildings.

But the building of housing, hotel, retail and commercial space will be done through the university leasing the land to private developers. Those lease agreements would likely pay less to SDSU if they have the prevailing-wage requirement, making it harder for the university to make the deal pencil out financially.

Union officials showed up to Monday’s meeting to argue that a broader prevailing wage requirement would help ensure those who build the project can afford to live in San Diego. The council ultimately voted 5-4 against the higher wage mandate.

Also at issue were details surrounding the 34-acre park next to the San Diego River that SDSU has agreed to build and maintain. The university wanted roughly 2.5 acres of landscaping that would primarily serve as a biofiltration system for stormwater to be considered part of the park. The council voted 7-2 to grant the university's request.

"It's kind of killing two birds with one stone," said Councilman Mark Kersey. "It looks nice. It all flows together."

University officials acknowledged Monday they would likely not get final council approval of the purchase and sale agreement in February, as they had originally hoped. They still hope to close the deal in the spring, however, so the football stadium can be ready for the Aztecs' 2022 football season.

The California State University Board of Trustees, meanwhile, is scheduled to vote Tuesday at a meeting in Long Beach to certify SDSU Mission Valley's environmental impact report.

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Photo of Andrew Bowen

Andrew Bowen
Metro Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover local government — a broad beat that includes housing, homelessness and infrastructure. I'm especially interested in the intersections of land use, transportation and climate change.

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