San Diego civic, business leaders urge stadium public vote

SD coalition urges stadium public vote
SD coalition urges stadium public vote
SD coalition urges stadium public vote
SD coalition urges stadium public vote
SD coalition urges stadium public vote
SD coalition urges stadium public vote
Posted at 5:43 PM, Mar 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-28 20:43:17-04

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A group of San Diego civic and business leaders announced Tuesday that they want the fate of a planned redevelopment of the Qualcomm Stadium property to be decided by voters, not the City Council.

The Public Land, Public Vote Coalition includes land-use experts, a former City Council president and a current member of the Planning Commission. They said the "Soccer City" plan needs a thorough public vetting before a decision can be made.

La Jolla-based FS Investors is currently circulating petitions in support of its plans, and if the firm gets enough valid signatures, the City Council would be forced to approve the project outright or place it before voters.

The project would include commercial and office buildings, housing, a river park and a hybrid soccer-college football stadium on the 166-acre site.

FS has applied for a Major League Soccer expansion franchise that would call the replacement stadium home. San Diego State would play football in the facility, but school officials have expressed reservations over certain details.

"The Qualcomm Stadium site is one of the most valuable public assets in San Diego, and its development will have significant long-term impacts on our city and our region," said Joe LaCava, a community planner and a leader of the Public Land, Public Vote Coalition.

"Residents deserve a thorough, impartial analysis of the Soccer City project's impacts and the opportunity to provide input and vote on the project," he said.

Coalition members contend that FS failed to engage the community in developing its plans.

"FS Investors prepared more than 3,000 pages in materials on the project without ever garnering public input on its plans or processes," said Andrea Guerrero, a coalition member and executive director of Alliance San Diego, a nonprofit that support immigrants' rights.

"If the initiative qualifies, the City Council will have only two choices -- to adopt it or to place it on the ballot for voter approval," Guerrero said. "Because it is an initiative, it can't be changed or amended. Before an irreversible decision is made, the public needs an opportunity to weigh in on this proposal."

If the council does opt for a public vote, it could take place in November since it would align with Mayor Kevin Faulconer's proposal for a special election on a plan to fund expansion of the downtown convention center. That plan would require public approval because it would involve raising the hotel room tax.

The land has become available now that the Chargers have announced that they're leaving for Los Angeles.

FS Investors -- led by Mike Stone of La Jolla and including former Qualcomm President Steve Altman and Peter Seidler, part of the Padres ownership group -- unveiled their plans in January. They said they would pay fair market value for the land and prioritize the river park in the timeline.

Faulconer and other San Diego elected officials have tentatively supported their efforts, though they've stopped short of formal endorsements.

The mayor met with SDSU officials last week to hear their objections, which include questions over how expensive it would be to expand the stadium in the future.

A letter to City Council President Myrtle Cole was signed by LaCava, Guerrero, former council President Tony Young, Planning Commissioner Theresa Quiroz, land-use attorney Cary Lowe, Cindy Moore of the Serra Mesa Planning Group, Frank Wolden of AVRP Skyport Studios, former Tierrasanta Planning Group Chairman Justin DeCesare, Michael Stepner of the New School of Architecture & Design, and Mike Turk, president of KD Development and former chairman of the influential Lincoln Club.

The coalition said it's being funded by Mission Valley property owners H.G. Fenton Company and Sudberry Properties.