SAN DIEGO — 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.
“We are pleased that the proponents of the Soccer City initiative have finally recognized the tremendous importance of giving the public a say on the fate of such a valuable San Diego asset,” said Joe LaCava, a community planner and one of the leaders of the Public Land, Public Vote Coalition.
“Given the complete lack of public input on the proposed project, community and business leaders from both sides of the aisle have been left with an overwhelming number of unanswered questions and concerns about the proposal and its potentially devastating impacts on the Mission Valley community and City of San Diego,” LaCava said.
He said waiting until November allows the public to review the project’s impacts and consider all of the opportunities for redeveloping the property.
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.