I realize I can’t propose 6,000 new residential units in Mission Valley without many in the community asking if that’s a typo.

The mixed-use development I proposed as part of Councilman Scott Sherman’s plan for the 166-acre Qualcomm stadium site included that unit count, along with 3 million square feet of office space and a more modest amount of retail and hotel space.

But the truth is, even with a new stadium built on about 60 of those acres, this is a site that could help San Diego become a true 21st century city. Here’s why:

• It is large, flat and ready, so it’s an easily developable site.

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• It has a riverfront. That waterfront aspect will serve as a “premium” to the mixed-use development, creating value and recovering the riverfront.

• It’s adjacent to freeways and on a trolley stop. Creating access to the site from the freeways is a considerable, expensive but not insurmountable challenge. The opportunity to connect directly to those freeways is tremendously appealing, and the existence of the trolley stop makes it a transit-oriented project as well.

• It’s located in the geographic center of San Diego County. As such, the site will be tremendously attractive to employers, residents and shoppers.

Perhaps the best way to think about the project is as a new destination. The potential revenues from commercial and residential rents would rival or exceed those of other high-end markets in the region, such as UTC and Carmel Valley.

This is an opportunity to take the city’s largest, undeveloped real estate asset and turn it into a financial boon to  taxpayers. I’m suggesting we think big. This project is the very epitome of the “city of villages” planning concept that San Diego set out to achieve in its General Plan. If any site deserves intense development, this is it.

Now, to be sure, there are issues, not the least of which is traffic. But traffic and other development issues are part of the ordinary tension surrounding all large real estate development. An actual plan would have to be vetted by all concerned parties, public and private. But that shouldn’t stop us from beginning that process.

Various Mission Valley projects now in the pipeline might add over 10,000 units. But most of those are toward the west side of Mission Valley, which could be considered a separate planning focus from the stadium’s location on the east side. In fact, the Qualcomm site probably ought to be given “standalone” status by virtue of its lack of contiguity to these other projects. Its very size merits separate consideration.

SANDAG tells us our region is going to need more than 230,000 housing units to accommodate population growth expected for 2030. Mission Valley is a prime candidate for a big share of that development. The growth is inevitable. We have to build homes, find better and alternative ways for those folks to get around or co-locate jobs and housing.

This is exactly what we’re suggesting for the Qualcomm site. It can be accomplished with or without a Chargers stadium there. Even if the Chargers move north to L.A., we can at least thank them for finally bringing the development potential of the Qualcomm property front and center on our planning agenda.

Gary London is president of the London Group, a real estate consulting and feasibility firm in San Diego. He worked on the financing plan for Councilman Scott Sherman’s Mission Valley proposal. London’s commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.

    This article relates to: Growth and Housing, Opinion

    Written by Opinion

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    moleman subscriber

    "It has a riverfront."

    oh, that's rich.

    "the best way to think about the project is as a new destination"

    and then the face-palm happens.  yes, i would love an even larger, bland, corporate sh*thole to patronize.  because so many people love hanging out in Mission Valley...  not.  seriously, name one business worth visiting in the whole of Mission Valley.  it's a trick question, because there isn't one.

    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    With all due respect to Mr. London, who clearly qualifies as an “expert” on development, I have a few concerns:

    1.  About that river, have you checked it in August or September?  If that’s a river, my hot tub is Lake Morena.

    2.  Also about the river, what about December, as Adrian Florida’s piece from 5 years ago shows.  Are we talking about a major re-engineering of this stream, and where does THAT money come from?

    3.  If the Qualcomm site is the largest “undeveloped” site in the city, did they nuke Fiesta Island while I was out of town?

    4.  On the 230,000 new units by 2030, that’s over 15,000 a year for 15 years.  How have we done for the last 15 years.

    moleman subscriber

    @Bill Bradshaw " If that’s a river, my hot tub is Lake Morena."


    i do fear if the Chargers move to LA, that development will happen faster than anyone can shake a stick at it.

    your points are all valid.

    Arizona Bread
    Arizona Bread subscriber

    If you're nodding yes to what's written here, I have ocean front property for sale in El Cajon that's perfect for you.

    Timbell subscriber

    @Arizona Bread It'll probably ocean front property because of the sea rising in another 20 to 30 years!

    Timbell subscriber

    I'm still hung up on the words "Boon to San Diego taxpayers". How?

    msginsd subscriber

    Perhaps Mr. London should put his money where his mouth is, buy a ground floor unit down in the valley, and put his loved ones there to live.

    Don Wood
    Don Wood subscriber

    About what one would expect from a long time development shill.

    Anthony Wagner
    Anthony Wagner subscribermember

    "SANDAG tells us our region is going to need more than 230,000 housing units to accommodate population growth expected for 2030." Actually, its the 2050 SANDAG Forecast.

    Founder subscriber

    More Development = More tax $ for City and Much Bigger Donations for elected Leaders that push DEN$ITY.

    Founder subscriber

    This is just "DENSITY" promotion to enable ever more development, which will reduce the quality of life for all "current" residents.

    Build parks and open spaces, then we will talk shout more housing.

    Dale Peterson
    Dale Peterson subscribermember

    Solutions offered for traffic impact: None

    Solutions offered for increased water utilization: None

    After attending years of meetings, as a community planner, the amount of credible traffic solutions offered by developers, Mr. Sherman, etal:  None

    The "got nothing for you" reminds me of the iconic scene in the movie, "This Is Spinal Tap."  Where, the moderator/host (played by Rob Reiner) asks why the musician's amplifier goes to eleven (instead of ten)? Multiple times, the musician has no credible, logical answer.  So he blows by the question by answering, "because it goes to eleven."  

    Same thing here Mr. London.  "Ordinary tension" is evasive, without solution(s), and is a just another way of representing that this is the latest Mission Valley development proposal that goes to eleven.

    This is not "thinking big." This is simply another example, of "talking big."  

    Geoff Page
    Geoff Page subscribermember

    @Dale Peterson Mr. Peterson, I love that scene in Spinal Tap.  I have a bit of a different take on it that still makes your point.  Christoper Guest's character explains that they have an advantage because their amplifiers go one more, to 11.  Reiner asks the simple question, why didn't you just make 10 louder.  Guest looks confused as you described and then simply says "but this one goes to 11."  It struck me that he didn't understand why Reiner didn't get it because it was so obvious to him so the only logical answer was to simply repeat it to see if stupid Reiner would finally get it.  It's like the old saying that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will begin to believe it.  There's a developer and a politician tactic for you. 

    Dale Peterson
    Dale Peterson subscribermember

    @Geoff Page @Dale Peterson Hi Geoff.  You make the point better than I did.

    According to VOSD reports, the group that met with the Qualcomm execs. were blistered with objections regarding strategic traffic planning and the disinterest in remedial solutions.  Mr. London's opinion piece was a "double down" on business as usual.  Apparently, London considers the concerns of the major corp. employer (in SD) to be on the same level as so called "neighborhood gadflies."  Clearly, by writing what he did for the VOSD, he took nothing from that Qualcomm meeting.  And, Scott Sherman equated the content of the meeting to someone having a "bad hair day."  Yes, I know that Sherman didn't say that exactly; but, it was very close to that characterization.

    Suggestion to both of these gentlemen:

    Please listen to your constituents without the prejudicial condescending "we know what's best for all concerned agenda."

    GK subscriber

    "We have to build homes, find better and alternative ways for those folks to get around..."

    OK, you've got the first one locked down.  Tell us about the second part, there.

    What does "recovering the riverfront" mean.  Are we talking about the entire riverfront, e.g. making it continuous, walkable, and safe?    Or are we walking about developing one specific area into something like the San Antonion RiverWalk.

    Carlos W
    Carlos W subscriber

    Mr. London,

    If I could have faith that developers and the City were competent enough to take care of congestion and traffic, I would be on-board. I believe density (that does not come with HOA fees equal to a house payment) is the solution to our housing costs.  This city has a poor record on that, think Huffman "6 packs" in North Park, think school shortages in Mira Mesa.  Just think. Sadly, we are a pretty incompetent lot in this town.

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    You have got to love the hubris of promoting the benefits of flat riverfront land. Having responded to innumerable flood rescues in Mission Valley I have always been amazed that the City of San Diego permitted development close to the river. As for this particular spot:


    Droughts make people forget, but it won't last forever.

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    @Chris Brewster 

    "It is large, flat and ready, so it’s an easily developable site."

    Which begs the question. "how did it get that way?"

    Seems to me failure to answer this question leads to flooding.