‘Soccer City’ group fulfills signature-collecting goal

SAN DIEGO – Proponents of a "Soccer City" development in Mission Valley announced Wednesday that they've collected around 108,000 signatures, more than enough to force the San Diego City Council to either approve the project or place it before voters.

The haul came in less than two weeks of circulating petitions in support of the development, which would replace Qualcomm Stadium with commercial and office buildings, housing, a river park and a hybrid soccer-college football stadium on the 166-acre site.

The group behind the proposal, La Jolla-based FS Investors, 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.

FS said the plan was to circulate the petitions for a few more days before submitting them to the city.

On Tuesday, some San Diego civic and business leaders announced they will try to convince the City Council to place the project before voters so it would receive a more thorough vetting.

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 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.