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Roundtable: City Heights' La Maestra And SoccerCity

Roundtable: City Heights' La Maestra And SoccerCity
Roundtable: City Heights' La Maestra And SoccerCity
SoccerCity, Trafficking VictimsPANELRoger Showley, The San Diego Union-Tribune David Garrick, The San Diego Union-Tribune Tarryn Mento, KPBS News

MS: SoccerCity, it maybe heading for a special election. The mayor is behind it but the city attorney has concerns. Local agency has a lifeline to victims of sex trafficking could be cut off. I am Mark Saur and KPBS Roundtable starts now. Welcome to our discussion. Joining me today is David Garrick who covers the Tribune. Roger Showley and Tarryn Mento. It is good to have you back. MS: The voters are facing major development initiatives. The biggest involves the SoccerCity proposal. The other is a plan to expand the waterfront convention center by raising taxes on tours. Is city Council will decide whether the projects will go before the voters in a special election or wait until 2018. Start with SoccerCity and give us an overview. DG: The developer’s are investors that say they are from La Jolla. They want to make an intense development on what is on the QUALCOMM stadium site. There are 4800 units of housing. There is commercial acreage. They want to create a River park on the southern edge of the area. Is intense and it shows the traffic will be larger than now. You know, it is possible. MS: The centerpiece is the soccer. Market -- [Indiscernible - multiple speakers] MS: That is the northeast corner? DG: That would be 32,000 seats and it would help the city get a major league soccer team. Investors have made themselves the exclusive potentials in this area. The soccer league, which is expanding across the country, is supposed to work for the franchises in San Diego might get one. MS: That is the sense of urgency. We will get more into that. There is a proposal in a moment but how much will this cost and where's the money coming from? DG: It is $4 million. That is what people are throwing around. I am not sure what that is based on. Where's the money coming from? The investors. They are bankroll guys. [Indiscernible - multiple speakers] DG: There is no taxpayer money that they tell us. They provide city land to them. The way the land will be appraised and sold to them is controversial. MS: We will get into those details in a moment. I have a bite from Mike Stone talking about the challenges and the benefits he sees for the city. Mike Stone: We have had challenging discussions over the past month. It is frustrating at times. Come especially with respect to San Diego State. But, the true North in this remains the delivery of a combination of economic tax benefits to the city and a River park and creating sports and entertainment related assets for the city we call him. MS: Roger, he is talking about the challenges because they turned their back on his project. What is the objection? Explained to us. They were going to come in and use the stadium. RS: San Diego State had dreamed of having a campus on the QUALCOMM property. You could fill that parking lot with other activities. They said we need a West campus to grow and expand our research and activities. Then comes this project with is going to fill out the parking lot with these activities. San Diego State has no guaranteed role in it. Part of this is the stadium that they want to use or plan. Soccer does not need 22,000 seats. The investors said give us $100 million and we will add 10,000 seats and the University said okay. Except we do not like the design. They are hung up on the design and the land. There is a bunch of details that they do not like. That is why they said to the mayor, they’re not talking about this anymore. MS: We will do our own thing expect for the moment, they are out. TM: They are looking for more space for a really long time. This is so nonnegotiable that they are completely walking away? Is this possibly tactic? RS: Well, if there is an election and the project when and that get the right to go forward, San Diego state will have three weeks to come up with the dealer they can get out of it. They can change that but that is what they said. That is not possible. They cannot arrive at an agreement was to negotiate now. The other problem, they are in the midst of getting a new president and that is leadership is questionable. He cannot move easily. They are stuck in a bind. The alternative is to play at QUALCOMM and do an extended lease from the city. The city is not discussing extending the lease. The fallback is at the park for when your. And 20/20, there is more of a play. MS: This may be negotiating tactics. Is that what the absorbers are same? Back RS: Donald Trump could be the negotiator. [Laughter ] MS: We have another bite I want to get to. Eric Anderson was asking John David Wicker if there is hope. The investors will see eye to eye and here is what he said. John David: Quite frankly, it is time to move on. We are running out of time before what could be a November -- the initiative is on a special in November. The city Council has not said there will be a special in November. They have to act on that. We decided it was time to move forward. We are looking for an RFP process that the city Council and the mayor office could lead and have an open and collaborative process. MS: He brings up a point. How do we wind up with an up and down on one proposal and not competing proposals? DG: This investment group short-circuited the process. Basically, they created an initiative. When the Chargers announced they were leaving and they unveiled it and gathered signatures and it was validated. It will go on the ballot. Or the Council could approve it and put it on the ballot. They got a head of everyone else. You can argue that SDSU and other developers were blindsided by this. I think it put the investors in a powerful position. The city Council has to say yes to this or they have to present to the voters. They do not have another choice. MS: That is it. This is the only idea the table. Is it a nonstarter if they do not play ball? And will voters really back this if the University doesn't? RS: FS is not as free to move forward as you think. They want money from the University. If they will bankroll this themselves come they would have a ready user on some of the land and the facilities and a student policies and some of the things they want. Without them saying goodbye and good luck. We will see what happens. The University could crack the whip and be a bit more aggressive. You might see this week; the alumni present group came out against the project. Nobody has an endorsed this. They all heard about it and our presentations and nobody has voted in favor. Three margins judgment rights me up last year. It went around the table and a talk to the bigwigs and nobody endorsed until the last minute. DG: This is 50% plus one. MS: Right. You only need two thirds. DG: Is easy. RS: There were many legal questions. The city attorney's issues and there are questions and comments and wanderings and we have a draft and attorneys email us and say look at this and that. I got one today and it said this is illegal and this is not legal to put on the ballot because it is unconstitutional and operative. MS: David? DG: We got a letter that said this is half of the site is owned by the water department. It has to be sold at a different appraisal rate that could be challenged based on the fact that the residence owned the water department site and not the city. MS: Is it an option for the Council to say we have red flags and legal concerns based on the analysis that we are not going to play like DG: The Council could vote against it and somebody -- the FS will go to the board and say put it on a pallet and they can say no. It is against the state laws. You could get some judge to throw it out the ballot. They cannot arbitrarily throw it off the ballot but a judge would have to. RS: They could choose to put it on the general election, which according to FS kills the chance of getting a soccer team. I don't know that is true but that is what they say. That is a tactic to push it out where the deals ever. MS: Are you among the soccer fans to buy season tickets? TM: No comment. [Laughter] MS: You have a question. TM: I mean, is seems like the whole project is on a gamble. What if we do not get a team if we go ahead with the boat earlier? MS: Maybe is not that popular expect that as possible but in other cities, DG: It is remarkably popular. The buzz is more than the Seahawks or at least in the same neighborhood. It is popular in other neighborhoods. Will be hard to argue that they do not see San Diego as a viable market. There's a lot of Latinos in the area and soccer is popular with that demographic. You try to put yourself in that perspective, they will give a stadium here. TM: Has FS done market research on the viability of a soccer team in see Antigo? RS: They abuse the viewership and the soccer legs and eight say it is a big sport in San Diego. As you said, there is the border connection. On the other side, the sport reporters say this is not like the NFL. The MLS is not on the world stage. It is second or third tier. With others soccer powerhouses. They will play but they are not at the world-class level. MS: We have Mayor Faulkner backing this. How does the Council breakdown? House is looking? DG: Not everyone has come out with a position but we have two people said they do not want to put it on the ballot until 2018. Scott Sherman has been a strong supporter and he is a Republican and it appears so far, it could break along the way. Faulkner is a Republican and a Council has five Democrats. If it went on party lines come it will go down any 5-4 vote. It would take one Democrat to flip. MS: Roger? RS: I have not heard anybody spin this out. They could put the item on the ballot. You could get other people involved. Could that be written in such a way to veto the other one? That is happened a couple of times. I wonder if there are five votes against the election, there are five votes to put that on the ballot expect. DG: Chris Ward, even though he is not come out in favor, he said things that indicate he is warming to the idea. That is one potential. Mortal sides with the mayor. She is not said anything publicly that I have seen. I would guess that the mayor has the votes to get in November. MS: If that is the case and they go ahead and say we have a special election, which will be costly, we will put this on and we will talk about the convention center. It may go to the courts from what you're saying. DG: Right. [Indiscernible low volume] DG: It is uncertain what the deadlines are. Miami got a franchise and they have not built the stadium. They could still approve it and it will take time to build it. That changes the dynamic. RS: It does appear they are trumping up the urgency and it does appear that it is as urgent as they make it sound like. TM: What is going to happen if it does go to the ballot and if it is approved and the MS says San Diego is not – [Indiscernible - multiple speakers] DG: They said if they do not get the franchise, they would drop the project. RS: They make concessions but those are not binding. Initiative itself does not allow for that. I think it still goes forward if they do not get a soccer team. The city attorney had different concerns that she raised but wanted them in particular she raised was FS has the power to sell the property immediately after it is approved. In that scenario, the third party who buys it, would they be held accountable for the concessions? They might be but that would be questionable. MS: Let's move on to our other major project, which is the downtown convention center expansion. You must be a review. RS: This is been hanging for five or six years. The first approved it with funding by the hotel people and they are approving a tax increase. That was thrown out of court and they came back and retold it and now the mayor says let's go forward and ask the voter for a two-thirds approval for the tax. Cost has gone up ridiculously high. MS: What are the estimates? RS: We expect it is 670 million without new engineering details, just inflating the numbers arbitrarily. It could be 800 million and who knows what the final cost may be picked. There is another complication, which is in the way. Fifth Avenue landing is a hotel project. That is behind the convention center. They have to get approval for that project. MS: There is a question of who controls the land if you are going to do this. Mayor Faulkner is supporting this. We have a bite from him. Here is Kevin Faulkner and how he sees this initiative as a benefit pick Mayor: The only people that have to pay this modest increase are the tours and the convention goers who stay overnight in San Diego. Meanwhile, San Diego people will receive the benefits. MS: What can be better? Free money from tours? This needs two-thirds votes. RS: To sweeten the deal for the public, they threw in money for transportation and the homeless. Who can be against helping the homeless? DG: These are things that have strong support for. It is cleverly crafted in a way that we will boost the economy and we have more money for homelessness and street repairs. Two thirds is a hard threshold. MS: It is. We need the expansion because we want to keep comic con to compete. RS: That is not the reason for the expansion. It is to make it easier to have a medium-size convention at the same time. The way it is set now, it is difficult to have two done simultaneously. People should think about the cost. DG: There is another argument to put it on the ballot. It keeps going up. The cost is higher next year and higher the year after that. TM: Tourism officials say that we need this but I mean, related to the conventions going on, is there a lot of evidence to show that is the case as what organizers are really looking for? RS: We have convention planners that say if you do not expand this, we cannot come here. Almost every big convention center in the country has the same market. It is too small. There is more demand. There are always the same drivers to generate or justify the expansion. I don't know. DG: Keeping up with the challenges -- Joneses. MS: What is the likelihood that it would be in a special election? DG: I think this is more likely. I think they will end up in the 2017. This is more likely. MS: There is a lot to chew one. We will move on with the business of human trafficking. It is cruel and lucrative. It is widespread. San Diego is ranked as one of the 13 highest cities. They generate over a billion dollars annually in San Diego. Your story focuses on local people who are trying to aid the victims. Start with how big the problem is and basically tells us who the victims are? TM: There is a report that came out last April that estimated it to be 810 million. That was focusing on the sex trafficking side. There is still labor traffic that they did not include in that estimation. It could be larger. Most of the victims are 75% are US citizens that are trafficked. 25% are foreign victims. They are undocumented or they came here legally. MS: You lead your story with a tale of a victim. Explained what happened to her. Tell us that story. TM: It is graphic but it was a woman from Mexico who married a US citizen. He was a truck driver. He started threatening the lives of her children and forced her to go with him across the country and he would tie her in his truck and sell her two men and let them -- there was a line outside and they would rape her repeatedly. MS: This is repeated to a degree that the average person would not realize how extensive this problem. TM: The more I learn it is such a huge market for lack of a better word. There are $110 million. It is the second largest criminal industry. There are awareness campaigns but I think the average person might not be aware as you drive down the city streets. You do not know what activity could be going on. This could be occurring. DG: San Diego is a have. TM: Who knows? I do not know if we can say for sure. There is a large convention industry that draws lots of people from areas. I mean, sports activities. You have big events that draw a lot of people. You have the border that people, over with smugglers and they can exploit them easily. RS: Is this prostitution estimate or the traffic of women against their will? TM: The woman that I spoke to, she would say that sex trafficking applies to both. There is no difference between prostitution and against her will sexual exploitation. I do not know if the researchers that estimated that separate those but I know that 810 million focused on the sex trafficking and labor trafficking is more difficult to quantify. There is a larger market for those victims. MS: You focused your story on that program. Tell us about that. TM: Carmen comp is a legal advocate who runs a bunch of different services. It is the centers, which serve low-income residents. She helps -- she specializes in foreign victims but she will help anybody. She provides them with cash assistance because of you are undocumented; you may not be able to get public services that are available. She provides them with that and donated items. She connects them with other victims who are going through the same thing. They serve as medical translators for the diverse citizens in San Diego. They have this ability to communicate with anybody from any background. She helps them get on their feet and works with them to get a visa which victims of trafficking are eligible for. If you are married to someone who did not seek out legal status for you, this is a way for you to stay and that country. MS: We have a bite from your interview talking about where the immigrant people come from. Interviewee: Let's say we have a girl from Russia. She was in labor trafficking. We have a girl from the Philippines, Mexico, it is full. We have extra maps from Mexico. MS: There have been some problems with the funding. It is not as certain. Right? TM: Carmen's program relies heavily on funding from the national organization for refugees and immigrants. She says her program costs $80,000 per year to run. The US committee for refugees and immigrants say they have affiliates that provide funding to and they have seen so many more people come forward over the past couple of years. Their client base has tripled. The standard money they receive each year frequently runs out before they are finished with that fiscal year. They requested more money from the federal government each year and usually they get a. This year, they did not. There is a new administration. They did not get the extra money. They said it was maybe $2.5 million they needed out of a large federal budget to fill the gap. Carmen was at risk of running out of money to give to her clients by the middle of June or July. The program, they were running out of money nationally at the same time. MS: Is this what we might see Republicans with the budget-cutting mode? They could wind up discarding? TM: It is something to watch the administration. We have known from past executive orders, immigrants are the focus of the administration. I know with the new budget, I have talked to people they said they saw significant cuts to their operations. This is within the administration of families and office of trafficking persons. It will be -- we have to watch how that trickles down. MS: This is a small neighborhood idea with this whole budget discussion. DG: Why are so many people come forward then used to be? Is there more sunshine? TM: That is a good question. I think there -- San Diego has its own campaign against the shadows and the public libraries are running it. Maybe people have been pushing for the awareness. MS: We look for follow-ups. It is fascinating. That wraps up another week of stories at the KPBS Roundtable. I would like to think my guest, David Garrick, Tarryn Mento, and Roger Showley. The stories we discussed are available on our website at Thank you for joining us today on KPBS Roundtable.


The Story

FS Investors' proposal to build a soccer stadium combined with retail, housing, office space and a river park on the Qualcomm Stadium site in Mission Valley easily qualified for the ballot.


San Diego State University, which had been heavily involved in the discussion, suddenly dropped out, believing it would not get what it needed in the current deal.

This dramatic event was followed by another. Last week the San Diego city attorney expressed concern that the proposal's ambiguous language could lead to lawsuits, among other issues.

It is now the San Diego city council's turn to deal with this increasingly hot potato. Next month the council can simply approve the project as is, or put all 600+ pages of it on the ballot.

The Discussion

–Why did SDSU leave the project? What do they hope to gain?


–What does the city stand to gain with the current SoccerCity proposal?

–Is there any chance of starting over with an open request for proposals?

Related: SoccerCity officially qualifies for ballot

Related: Divided San Diego council to tackle possible public votes on SoccerCity, convention center

Related: San Diego State Athletic Director: University Explores Stadium Options After Split From Developer


The Story

Sex and labor trafficking is a nearly billion dollar industry in San Diego County.

Most victims are born in the U.S., but many are immigrants with few resources to help them escape. La Maestra Community Health Center in City Heights provides assistance to immigrant victims — small monthly stipends, counseling, and help with applications for T-visas.

An important source of funding for La Maestra is the non-profit U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. That agency's funding from the Department of Health and Human Services was recently cut 25 percent.

La Maestra was not sure it would be able to continue helping trafficking victims for the remainder of the federal fiscal year.

But the problem has been resolved this week.

Related: Trafficking Victims Find Lifeline At City Heights Agency, But Funding May Run Dry

KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.