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In coming weeks, the San Diego City Council will make a landmark decision that impacts the legacy of our city: whether to approve FS Investors’ SoccerCity plan to develop the Qualcomm Stadium site outright or put it on a future ballot.
I will vote to place the initiative on the November 2018 ballot and, at that time, I will vote no on SoccerCity. In the meantime, I am advocating for a fair and transparent process in which developers submit proposals for extensive public review and input.
Determining the future of the Qualcomm Stadium site is a once-in-a-lifetime gift for San Diegans. I want to ensure that this valuable piece of land in the heart of San Diego is utilized to the maximum benefit of our city and region. This 166-acre parcel is centrally located and includes access to public transit. It provides opportunities for expanding the San Diego State University campus, creating park space along the San Diego River, developing affordable and middle-income housing, recruiting a professional sports team and other uses that SoccerCity would prohibit us from envisioning.
Ballot-box land-use decisions bypass important environmental and fiscal reviews and limit the city’s ability to negotiate a fair deal for taxpayers. This sort of arrangement sidesteps government oversight where it is most critical.
Recent columns and news articles have outlined the many flaws in the initiative, including potential traffic gridlock and at-best hazy details about the developers’ obligations. City Attorney Mara Elliott recently opined that the SoccerCity initiative provides no guarantee that a professional soccer stadium or river park will ever be built and that taxpayers may end up on the hook for significant environmental contamination cleanup costs.
Ultimately, San Diego soccer lovers might turn out to support a plan that does not even guarantee us an MLS team. Without a stadium or a professional sports team, SoccerCity becomes just another development in Mission Valley.
The recent news that SDSU ended negotiations with FS Investors is alarming. SDSU is well on its way to becoming a top 50 public research institution, and leadership is clear that this proposal does not meet their academic nor athletic needs. Consider that in the 1950s, the city gave land to UCSD and zoned the surrounding area for research and development. Over the decades that followed, UCSD and the surrounding research institutions laid the groundwork for our innovation economy. I wonder what San Diego might look like in 50 years if we took the time to thoughtfully shepherd a project that is economically beneficial, socially responsible and affirms our city’s identity as an international hub for innovation.
Competition is essential to good business, and we must solicit multiple proposals. It is never a good idea to sign on the dotted line when someone is pressuring you with the threat of now or never. It would be a calamity to approve a plan because we were swindled into believing it is our only option.
My approach requires that a competitive process be done expeditiously. We must act swiftly, but with full comprehension of the fine print and the informed buy-in of the community. I urge the city to support a fair and transparent process. Most of all, I look forward to seeing a once-in-a-lifetime project, with community input and buy-in, take root in Mission Valley and create a legacy that our grandchildren can be proud of.
Barbara Bry is the city councilwoman representing District 1.