EDITORIAL: ‘SoccerCity’ earns red card


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

by The Editorial Board

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.