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Last-Minute Negotiation Appears To Settle Lingering Disputes Over Mission Valley Stadium Deal

 May 28, 2020 at 10:13 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Along the way to consummation of a major development deal between the city and San Diego state university could happen at a special city council meeting tomorrow. This is the close to $90 million purchase by SDSU of the 135 acre mission Valley stadium site seen as one of the biggest expansions in the university's history. Joining me to preview the meeting is KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen. Andrew, welcome to the program. Speaker 2: 00:27 Thank you Mark. Speaker 1: 00:28 This deal came about after the passage of measure G a citizens initiative that directed the city to sell the land SDSU. Remind us what that entails. Speaker 2: 00:39 Sure. Measure G was a, as you mentioned, a citizens initiative, uh, approved by voters in November, 2018 and it directed the city to sell this property to San Diego state university. On the plan that's laid out in that measure is um, it envisions a 35,000 seat football stadium for the Aztecs. The gradual development of all of that land. Currently it's the stadium and a giant parking lot that surrounds it. But they would gradually develop that land into new housing. A portion of it being affordable for low income households. Um, hotels, commercial and office space, a campus expansion. So maybe new research facilities or classrooms. And a big selling part point also was a new park along the San Diego river that, um, folks who would live in this new development, but also anyone in San Diego could enjoy because the river is kind of a forgotten asset of the city. And the, the idea was this would kind of bring the city back to that natural asset that's right in the heart of the city. Speaker 1: 01:38 Now, SDSU leadership has been pushing for the special meeting in recent weeks. Why do they want to move to finalize the deal soon? Speaker 2: 01:45 Well, so from what we know, SDSU wanted to get the construction going on the stadium as soon as possible so that the Aztecs would, uh, they asked a football team would have it ready for the 2022 season. Um, so the university was really the one with the, that timeline in mind. And they were kind of pushing the urgency more than the city was. The city did have an interest in offloading the property sooner rather than later, simply because it's costing the taxpayers just to maintain it. Um, but I think the greater sense of urgency came from SDSU in large part because they wanted to keep the construction of that stadium on track. Speaker 1: 02:20 And last week, San Diego city attorney Mara Elliott released a memo taking issue with the deal. What are her main concerns? Yeah, Speaker 2: 02:28 so that memo last week was, um, one of several memos that she has written, um, raising a multitude of concerns about, um, SDSU is preferred, uh, purchase and sale agreement. It's an enormously complex real estate transaction. Um, they don't happen every day is something of this magnitude. And so, um, she, one of the main points in the, the main points that she outlined in that memo is, um, threats to the city's public utilities department. So a portion of the stadium property is actually owned by the city's water utility fund. There's an underground reservoir that connected to the San Diego river that could be used in the longterm future for water quality monitoring for water storage. And so the public utilities department has been holding onto this asset, um, looking further into the future about maintaining the city's, um, uh, water supply and also it factors into the city's water recycling program. Speaker 2: 03:21 Pure water. Um, they had plans to build, um, lots of different, you know, new infrastructure on that site. Now the city attorney's concern was that with SDSU, his design of the river or park over some of this land on the city may eventually need to dig it all up and um, re builds the park after, um, after constructing that new infrastructure. And she said that that could increase costs to the pure water program for tax or for rate payers. It could violate bond agreements, it could violate measure G and that ultimately the proceeds of the sale of this land would ultimately be wiped out. So that was her concern Speaker 1: 03:56 and some city council members seemed in patient to get on with it at a meeting earlier this month. Has the whole append the city attorney's concerns or something else? Speaker 2: 04:05 Well, the city attorney did face a lot of pressure from some city council members from SDSU and a lot of their alumni in the city to just accept the university's offer on the university made what could be described as as an ultimatum. Earlier this month I'm saying this is our final offer. Um, and city of San Diego, you can take it or leave it. Um, yesterday the city and the university, um, the two sides spent all day really negotiating and trying to um, come up with some, some final agreements that would resolve those outstanding issues raised by the city attorney. Um, we got a tweet, uh, yesterday or last night from the main negotiator for San Diego state saying that they did reach resolution. Um, and what I think is notable is that the original plan for tomorrow's meeting was for the council that cast a final vote on the purchase and sale agreement. Now what appears, uh, is going to happen is that the city council is actually just going to review those points that they negotiated this week and provide feedback on them. So the university presented its final offer, but now the final offer is being amended. Ultimately it sounds like now the purchase and sale agreement and the final vote at the city council isn't going to happen until, um, around June 9th Speaker 1: 05:15 and an anchor in this project, as we say, is the SDSU football stadium. The team's lease ends after the season. If there is a 20, 20 season and the SDSU athletic director says he's ready to look for other places to play in 2021 if the council doesn't. Okay. This project is that just posturing at this point? Leverage seems a little sketchy in the face of the pandemic. Speaker 2: 05:37 Yeah. You know, I think that that um, statement has probably, um, you know, the context has changed since the, the athletic director, um, made those statements. It does. I think that was set at a, at a point when it was really unclear whether this deal was actually going to go through and whether on the city, the council and the university were kind of kind of of come to an agreement and in the very end or not, um, you know, it's still an open question. I think whether the stadium will be ready, uh, according to SDSU is timeline. Um, we're all familiar with construction projects facing many delays and so, um, you know, given the, the delays that have happened until this point and the university certainly would have preferred, um, this sale closing already and having it are done. Um, you know, will it, will the stadium be ready in time for a, when the university needs it? Uh, I guess we'll have to wait and see. Speaker 1: 06:29 Where did the mayor oral candidates, Barbara, Bree and Todd Gloria stand on the deal? If you know Speaker 2: 06:35 both Barbara Brie and Todd Gloria supported measure G, which was the citizens' initiative that authorized the sale of the stadium property. Uh, Todd. Gloria is not on the city council anymore. Uh, he's, he's right now I think, pretty preoccupied with the state government. That's the budget and coronavirus and all that. Um, so he hasn't really been saying a whole lot about, uh, the, the sale of the property. Uh, Barbara Brie on the other hand, this is really her job as a council member is to be, um, watching this deal and ultimately voting on it. And she's, um, really latched onto this issue and made it a pretty central part of her campaign for mayor. She's accused the city attorney of dragging her feet on the deal of trying to sync it all together. Um, so, you know, I think that both of those candidates are, um, supportive of the deal ending. Um, Barbara Bree has, has really kind of taken the side of the university and accused, um, some city officials of, of, of not really operating in good faith, Speaker 1: 07:33 well, a premises to be pretty interesting as they air all this out tomorrow in this special city council meeting, I've been speaking with KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen. Thanks very much. Speaker 2: 07:43 My pleasure. Mark.

The debate over the city's pending sale of the 132-acre stadium property to San Diego State University heated up in recent weeks as the university pushes to finalize the deal by July.
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