SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The group behind the proposed "Soccer City" redevelopment of the 166-acre Qualcomm Stadium property in Mission Valley announced Tuesday that they will ask the City Council to put their plan before voters in November.
The group -- which includes La Jolla investor Mike Stone, former Qualcomm President Steve Altman and Peter Seidler, part of the Padres ownership group -- announced last week that they've collected well over 100,000 signatures on petitions in support of the project. If enough prove to be valid, the City Council would be required to put the project before voters in a special election or approve it outright.
The plan calls for building commercial and office buildings, housing, a river park and a hybrid soccer-college football stadium. Its backers have applied for a Major League Soccer expansion franchise.
"We have consistently and publicly supported taking our plan to a vote of the people, provided that the timing would meet Major League Soccer's requirements, which we do not control," Stone said.
"After several weeks of working with the league's commissioner and senior staff, it has become clear to us that final decisions will not be made before the end of the year," he said. "In light of the mayor's announcement yesterday of a special election in November of this year, we are requesting that the City Council place our proposal on the same ballot and allow the citizens of San Diego -- who own the Qualcomm Stadium property -- to have the final say on what will become of this special site."
Mayor Kevin Faulconer has proposed a ballot measure that would raise the city's hotel room tax to pay for expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, and provide funding streams for road repairs and programs that address homelessness. It goes before a City Council committee for the first time on Wednesday.
The full City Council will be tasked with deciding whether to call a special election for this fall and place the two issues on the ballot.
Placing the Soccer City development before voters would satisfy a recent demand from a group of area civic leaders and land use experts, who want a public vote so the plan would receive more scrutiny.
The Public Land, Public Vote Coalition, a group made up of taxpayers, local business leaders, and community advocates, said the option for a public vote is needed to decide such a large project for the Mission Valley area:
"After months of claiming a decision had to be made immediately, a clear overreach on the part of FS Investors, I am glad that today we can take a breath and devote time to reviewing all the impacts of this project and considering all the opportunities for how to best redevelop this site, rather than needlessly rushing to a decision," Joe LaCava, a community planner and one of the leaders of the Public Land, Public Vote Coalition, said. "Since FS Investors is bypassing the state requirement for an independent environmental review and asking for major deductions from the price of the land, it is even more important that the community has time to get all of their questions answered. The bottom line is that a final decision on development of this site should seek to maximize benefits for the public, not profits for a single investor, and so far I haven’t seen any evidence that the proposal on the table does that."
Meanwhile, Stone and his colleagues would benefit because their project would have more legal protection from challenges if it's approved by voters instead of just the City Council.
The land became available when the Chargers announced their plans to move to Los Angeles. City leaders don't plan to operate 50-year-old Qualcomm Stadium past the 2018 college football season because of high maintenance costs.
The Padres are looking at ways to accommodate San Diego State's football program for two years while the Soccer City stadium is built. SDSU officials have outlined some objections to the project, including whether eventual expansion of the replacement stadium would be too costly.