The Daily Aztec

EDITORIAL: ‘SoccerCity’ earns red card

Rendering+of+the+proposed+SoccerCity+event+plaza.+Courtesy+of+FS+Investors
Rendering of the proposed SoccerCity event plaza. Courtesy of FS Investors

Rendering of the proposed SoccerCity event plaza. Courtesy of FS Investors

Rendering of the proposed SoccerCity event plaza. Courtesy of FS Investors

by The Editorial Board

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The issue: With the Chargers gone, Mission Valley is ready for redevelopment. FS Investors is among the first to present a proposal.

Our position: Redevelopment should be in the best interests of the city and university; not outside developers looking for retail profit.

On Monday, a La Jolla investment group trying to bring a Major League Soccer franchise to San Diego released plans for a massive redevelopment project at the Mission Valley site now occupied by Qualcomm Stadium and an expansive, ugly parking lot.

FS Investors’ plan, in the form of artist renderings and a 300-page ballot initiative, includes a 30,000-seat stadium for MLS and San Diego State football, along with housing and commercial development.

For SDSU and the community it serves, this proposal is a non-starter.

SDSU released a statement Monday that took issue with two facets of the initiative — First, that the proposed stadium is not expandable to 40,000 seats, and secondly that the university would not have “revenue or rights of ownership” of it.

While the university is right to take issue with these points, it is only the tip of the iceberg FS Investors is trying to steer San Diego voters into.

What appeared to be general consensus among many — that the site should be either donated or leased to SDSU for a campus expansion — has been supplanted by a plan for public land to be sold at bargain rates to developers. Sure, FS Investors dressed up their proposal with promises of parks, sports facilities and “affordable” and “student-focused” housing, but what it is really is a massive, purely commercial development, guaranteed to line the pockets of investors at the expense of a public resource.

The proposal calls for a paltry 480 affordable housing units and 3,520 market-rate housing units. More ambiguous is the ill-defined “student-focused” housing, slated for a laughable 800 units.

Just last year President Elliot Hirshman expressed in a blog post a vision of a low-to-medium density west campus for SDSU.

SDSU has outgrown the mesa, and its growing pains reverberate throughout and are a strain on the College Area community. The university is breaking application records year after year. This year, SDSU received more than 83,000 applications for fall 2017, but only a fraction, about 13 percent, will be accepted.

An expanded campus at the Qualcomm site makes the most sense for the community. Does every parcel of public space need to be divvied up, commoditized and sold for profit? There is still room — and public will —for big projects realized for public good in San Diego.

Mission Valley is already dense with housing, shopping and traffic. Low-density student housing and a well-planned campus can be realized in the space developers are looking to loot. An MLS stadium and riverfront park can still be had, albeit through a different route.

The city and university must work together to realize Hirshman’s earlier vision. The redevelopment of Qualcomm is a once-in-a-century opportunity for the region — one that shouldn’t be squandered on the first pretty rendering to come along.

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15 Comments

15 Responses to “EDITORIAL: ‘SoccerCity’ earns red card”

  1. Christopher Andrew on February 22nd, 2017 10:07 am

    Amen. Completely agree with this article.

    [Reply]

  2. Joel on February 22nd, 2017 11:22 am

    My thoughts exactly!

    This is public land. The citizens of San Diego already own it. The best & highest use of the land is to develop it for the PUBLIC to use in the form of a river park, recreational opportunities, affordable housing & educational/university use. Anything short of that vision is a non-starter for the citizens of San Diego.

    Go SDSU WEST!

    Go Aztecs!

    [Reply]

  3. Robert Bergeson on February 22nd, 2017 12:06 pm

    Mad props! Bravo! 10 on a 10 scale!

    I’m a proud alumnus of the university and however FSI may try to spin it, that organization’s plan would be awful for SDSU.

    [Reply]

  4. Daniel on February 22nd, 2017 12:15 pm

    This is great. We all need to fight and speak our mind.

    BTW, when I tried to tweet using the tweet feature at the top of the page it didn’t format correctly.

    [Reply]

  5. Ryan on February 22nd, 2017 1:30 pm

    Hahahaha just because Hirschman put out a vision where the land is donated to SDSU doesn’t mean it ever would have happened. This plan gives the city revenue. SDSU’s vision is just that… a vision. It comes with no funding or specifics of any kind. Instead of calling this deal a non-starter and working with the city. I think SDSU should work with FS to make sure they get the best out of this deal.

    [Reply]

  6. Brandon on February 22nd, 2017 2:27 pm

    “Our position: Redevelopment should be in the best interests of the city and university”

    Who says that the best interest of the SDSU is going to be in the best interest of the city? The potential to generate tax revenue from private development adds far more money into our general fund than just granting land to one entity without the capacity to capitalize on valuable land. That money gets spent on vital civic services like emergency services, infrastructure improvements, solutions for homelessness, etc… FS Investors plan creates a tax base that serves the ENTIRE community; not just those with affiliations to this specific university.

    “First, that the proposed stadium is not expandable to 40,000 seats, and secondly that the university would not have “revenue or rights of ownership” of it.”

    SDSU endorsed a plan that called for 35,000 seat stadium less than a year ago. Are you telling me that we’re haggling over 3,000 seats? (PS: FS Investors plan calls for a 32,000 seat stadium, not 30,000 as stated in this article. That should be fixed by the editor as it’s misleading readers).

    Additionally, the stadium is ABSOLUTELY expandable to 40,000 seats. However, it will be on SDSU pursue that expansion and clear further review if the university feels that the demand its football program is creating warrants additional seating. Currently, SDSU football does not have the demand to warrant a stadium with over 35,000 seats.

    “the university would not have “revenue or rights of ownership” of it.”

    Revenue ownership is a necessary component that FS Investors need to retain in order to be successful in their MLS bid. And as the ones who are essentially funding the stadium privately (with a donation back to the university after 5 years), they are completely entitled to it. SDSU will still control the revenue it generates from university events. This is a far better option than what they were used to with their agreement at Qualcomm with the Chargers.

    “What appeared to be general consensus among many — that the site should be either donated or leased to SDSU for a campus expansion”

    This has been anything but general consensus and I emplor The Daily Aztec to provide its readers with tangible evidence backing this statement up. Conversely, political opposition from city council was rather harsh in reaction to 2016’s SDSU West Campus that called for land donation. Speaking of which, here’s a quote:

    “Council President Lightner does not support the donation of such an extremely valuable piece of city property to anyone,”

    So much for that “general consensus”, huh?

    “An MLS stadium and riverfront park can still be had, albeit through a different route.”

    And until SDSU can provide the city with a viable, actionable, and accommodating alternative for MLS, the community will continue to look at SDSU’s negativity as childish. We need people capable of driving solutions at MV, not whiners. And obstruction without offering viable alternatives will be seen as whining by the general public.

    In conclusion, I will be urging my fellow San Diegans and city council members to do what is in the best interest of San Diego as a whole; And that will be to direct adopt SoccerCity San Diego.

    [Reply]

    Joel Reply:

    Brandon & Michael et al, I can respect your perspective and others who have made comments. The reality is one can find evidence to show support of how they may view a particular topic one way or another. Thus, I shall provide evidence to support my position in contrast to several other comments here that indeed the best & highest use of the public land in Mission Valley for public benefit is a river park, recreational opportunities, educational/university use & low-moderate density affordable mixed use transit dependent housing.

    First, let’s be clear that the primary mission of San Diego State University is to provide a high quality well rounded education and to serve the citizens of the greater San Diego community. Athletics is merely an extension of the goals, experience & mission of the university. Thus, while the stadium, Aztec athletics & football are a very important part of the university they are secondary to education, research & service to the community.

    Clearly SDSU is one of the largest economic, social & cultural workhorses for the greater San Diego region. I will point out a few of the economic metrics but the impact SDSU has on the greater San Diego region is so profound it can’t merely be measured in dollars. For example, nearly 50% of the teachers in San Diego county attended SDSU. If you attended public school in San Diego county or have children or grand children that did/do it is likely those professional educators are Aztec alumni. That is just one example. There are countless others.

    SDSU is San Diego’s oldest (founded in 1897) & largest (35,000 students & 200,000 alumni) public university. About 60% of SDSU graduates remain in San Diego to become part of the regions skilled work force. SDSU currently is the #10 employer in San Diego providing high quality jobs to nearly 10,000 San Diegans. SDSU’s current annual economic impact to the region is $2.4 billion and generates $308 million in tax revenue. With the addition of 10,000 students to an expanded SDSU WEST these figures nearly double to $4.5 billion & $587 million respectively according to an independent study conducted by ICF International. http://advancement.sdsu.edu/masterplan/2007/economic%20impact%20fact%20sheet.pdf Contrast that to what FS investors claim as a tax base on $1 billion. To even have a chance to be on the same level as an SDSU expansion the tax rate would have to be greater than 50% & that’s not going to happen.

    The FS plan has some good points but can’t compare to a plan that would include an SDSU expansion at its core. It is far too dense (see 3 26 story market rate condo towers among others) and would suffocate an already congested Mission Valley (and getting more crowded with other projects being completed).The FS plan is required to provide a specific number of parking spaces based on units built even with the light rail on site. Those spaces are hidden among the plan with many to be built under ground. Again contrast that with an SDSU expansion. A university is the ONLY entity who can command and control use of real estate into perpetuity in a fashion that gets the maximum value out of the land. SDSU is not restricted by parking space requirements. The university would be able to control the vehicular impact on the site and have the ability to encourage the use of the trolley, bus and cycling paths to the residents.

    I would like to see MLS to San Diego just not at the expense of the public property in Mission Valley. Soccer is one of the fastest growing sports in America. Even if San Diego is not able to secure a MLS team by 2020 there will be an opportunity for that to occur in the future in San Diego as the market dictates & allows. There is going to be an opportunity for NASL in San Diego very soon. http://midfieldpress.com/2017/01/18/exclusive-albion-sc-close-to-bringing-nasl-to-san-diego/ Perhaps a model for MLS to find its way onto the SDSU WEST campus could be found in a partnership similar to what happened with AEG/LA Galaxy & CSU Dominguez Hills. http://www.csudhnews.com/2007/07/home-depot-center/

    If you haven’t been on the campus of SDSU in the last 10 or 20 years you just might not recognize it. Not only is SDSU the #2 most applied to university in the nation (#1 is UCLA) & among Kiplinger’s best value universities it has transformed into a very aesthetically pleasing campus. Over the past 20 years SDSU has funded nearly $700 million in construction projects on the Mesa. http://bfa.sdsu.edu/campus/facilities/planning/conprojsum.aspx SDSU has accomplished these capital improvements in a variety of ways with funding from the CSU/State, SDSU endowment, bonds, gifts, fund raising, associated students or even student referendums to name a few. Clearly SDSU has the ability to develop large projects over a long period of time. An SDSU WEST expansion at Mission Valley would take 15-20 years to build out independently or with partners. FS investors have suggested a similar time frame of 15 years as the Master Developers of “Soccer City.”

    In 1956 the citizens of San Diego voted to gift coastal land in La Jolla to the Regents of the University of California which would ultimately become UC San Diego. Today UCSD is San Diego’s #1 employer and has altered the trajectory of San Diego’s economy. The citizens of San Diego & it’s stewards are in a unique position to alter the course of San Diego’s social, cultural & economic future for the benefit of the public yet again by allowing San Diego State University to acquire the public land that is now available in Mission Valley for campus expansion. Whether SDSU pays fair unentitled market value or is gifted the land doesn’t change the obvious fact that there is no better or higher use of that public land for public benefit than a river park, recreational uses, affordable housing & educational/university use. In fact, 95% of the more than 62,000 people who voted in a SDUT poll agreed with the vision on the future of Mission Valley, calling for higher education expansion and protecting and preserving the San Diego River Park. https://ivn.us/2016/05/16/dividing-mission-valley/

    I am dissapointed thus far in the leadership at both the city of San Diego & San Diego State University that there already isn’t a plan of action to implement an SDSU expansion to Mission Valley. Perhaps one will be revealed soon or possibly the city, developers & SDSU will work together so as to provide the public with the best & hihest use of our public land in Mission Valley.

    [Reply]

    Carl Starrett Reply:

    This editorial is long on complaints and hyperbole, but lacking in specifics or vision.

    FS Investors has set forth a specific plan with plots of upside to it. Where has SDSU proposed? Other than conceptual drawings put out by JMI Realty, I haven’t seen any solid proposals from SDSU.

    SDSU recently said the Chargers had never been a good faith negotiating partner. Well, it appears that SDSU is now acting like the Chargers. If the people from FS reach to SDSU and get no response, preferring to “just say no” through the media, how can we take them seriously?

    If SDSU wants a voice, they need to come to the table. The City of losing $12 million per year on the Qualcomm site and SDSU pays a paltry $100,000 per year on rent. There’s still $30 million or so to repay from the last expansion. Just exactly when will SDSU actually take some constructive action while the City of bleeding money?

    At 166 acres of prime real estate, the Qualcomm site is nearly twice the size of Disneyland. Instead playing the role of obstructionist, SDSU needs to show some vision.

    [Reply]

  7. Jeff Naiman on February 22nd, 2017 3:10 pm

    “General consensus among many” What does that even mean? I’m all for SDSU football, I am a season ticket holder, and a Lifetime Alumni member , but this editorial is weak. Where is JMI in all this? They are the “many” along with Marty Block, who think this multi million dollar piece of land should be donated. You want to make it SDSU West, then where are they?

    We need a bigger stadium, but no more than 40,000. Why not tear out the inside of the Q at keep the bones of the structure. Remove some seats. That’s a lot less expensive.

    [Reply]

  8. Reader on February 22nd, 2017 4:05 pm

    The Daily Aztec of San Diego State University doesn’t like a private investments groups plan to buy city land for it’s own purposes that don’t benefit San Diego State University. Shocker.

    We get it, regardless of what the rest of this community wants, SDSU thinks it can better serve the community taking the whole pie. I would have died of shock if this article actually had substance instead of what we got, which was basically “No, we want the land to ourselves. The ‘kind’ people of San Diego will help us in our time of need”.

    In the end, both SDSU and this investor group will lose out on this parcel when big money comes in to lobby the council to sell to someone else entirely.

    [Reply]

  9. Matt on February 22nd, 2017 7:50 pm

    Come up with a plan then. Or how about you actually talk to Stone and the FS investors how you want to change it. Not via radio. I’ve heard from them the stadium WOULD be expandable to 40,000.

    [Reply]

  10. Boltnbrew on February 22nd, 2017 9:06 pm

    SDSU owns no part of the Qualcomm site. NOTHING, ZILCH, NADA. How about being grateful that someone might save your football program with a new stadium. How about an “amen!” for new student housing that is privately-funded. How about being part of a solution and not another classic wet blanket that gets thrown on each and every public works project in the last 30 years? Stop trying to dictate terms when you have no skin in the game.

    [Reply]

  11. Michael Cline on February 23rd, 2017 10:03 am

    “What appeared to be general consensus among many, that the site should be either donated or leased to SDSU for a campus expansion, has been supplanted by a plan for public land to be sold at bargain rates to developers. Sure, FS Investors dressed up their proposal with promises of parks, sports facilities and “affordable” and “student-focused” housing, but what it is really is a massive, purely commercial development, guaranteed to line the pockets of investors at the expense of a public resource.”

    False. FS Investors has consistently maintained purchasing the Qualcomm site from the city at fair market value. This, in addition to businesses and retail replacing what is now an empty parking lot, will generate millions in tax revenue for the city. Also, there isn’t a consensus surrounding MV. A “donated” plot of land massing 166 acres isn’t free; someone would be footing the bill for that SDSU expansion, and like South Campus Plaza, I can guarantee it would be just as commercial as this plan.

    “SDSU released a statement Monday that took issue with two facets of the initiative — First, that the proposed stadium is not expandable to 40,000 seats, and secondly that the university would not have “revenue or rights of ownership” of it.”

    A few things First, San Diego State football rarely, if ever, pulls more than 35,000. SDSU football is currently a beggar, and beggars can’t be choosers. There was little to no complaint when the university was negotiating a massive public subsidy for a billionaire NFL owner, so that the school could play in a 60,000+ seat venue. Bigger isn’t better for a program attempting to join a P5 conference.
    Secondly, SDSU would have the right to revenue during the 6 home games they play at the stadium. Outside of this, why should the university be making a profit on the other events being held at the site? This is especially true when FS Investors announced they could build their plan without assistance from the university. The group is presenting a privately financed vision for MV. SDSU is receiving a free stadium in which to play football games. With no skin in the game, why are they free to call the shots?
    “SDSU has outgrown the mesa, and its growing pains reverberate throughout and are a strain on the College Area community. The university is breaking application records year after year. This year, SDSU received more than 83,000 applications for fall 2017, but only a fraction, about 13 percent, will be accepted.”

    Accepted, or admitted? Also, SDSU has opportunities to rebuild and expand on campus. The new soccer field west of Storm Hall is a perfect example of squandered space. Rather than build a new parking structure with classrooms/a field on top, they decided against that route. The university has also allowed buildings like Smith Recital Hall to practically fall into a state of disrepair. They have a responsibility to revitalize the main campus before spending millions on their own stadium plan and MV vision, due to a disagreement over a few thousand seats.

    “An expanded campus at the Qualcomm site makes the most sense for the community. Does every parcel of public space need to be divvied up, commoditized and sold for profit? There is still room — and public will —for big projects realized for public good in San Diego.”

    55 acres of the 166, 33% of the land, is dedicated for open park space. So no, not every parcel of land is being divvied up for greedy, mean investors.

    “Mission Valley is already dense with housing, shopping and traffic. Low-density student housing and a well-planned campus can be realized in the space developers are looking to loot. An MLS stadium and riverfront park can still be had, albeit through a different route.”

    No, when you have a transit station adjacent to a major parcel of land, the last thing that should be happening is low density. Smart growth means denser projects, and TOD opens potential for those without autos to get around San Diego. And again, how can a stadium and riverfront park be build in an alternative means? Who is going to fund this? Are you suggesting a tuition hike to finance these projects? Taxpayer subsidies? Private investment?

    “The city and university must work together to realize Hirshman’s earlier vision. The redevelopment of Qualcomm is a once-in-a-century opportunity for the region — one that shouldn’t be squandered on the first pretty rendering to come along.”
    If SDSU has a plan, show it. Where is their financing? Where is that vision? FS Investors have decided to present their alternative plan, one that has been in the works for a while (given the political climate with the Chargers’ Downtown or LA push for the past few years, SDSU should have been prepared with their plan ready to go).

    [Reply]

  12. Cecil Treadwell on February 23rd, 2017 12:44 pm

    Greed is something the private sector has no monopoly on.

    Certain officials and individuals from San Diego State fell too in love with a vision whereby they became the sole recipient of the Mission Valley site.

    Not gonna happen!

    The City is currently running a $50 million dollar deficit. $12 million dollars a year from Qualcomm alone.

    The FS Investors’ plan is the one that will generate the level of revenue needed to reverse that deficit.

    Not the Hirschman plan. Not even close.

    [Reply]

  13. Chester Copp on February 23rd, 2017 4:25 pm

    If the city is going to give the land to a university, it makes more sense to give the land to UCSD seeing how they are the preeminent university in San Diego and bring in substantially more R&D dollars.

    [Reply]

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