San Diego City Council approves Mission Valley sale to SDSU

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SAN DIEGO – San Diego City Council voted unanimously Friday to sell 132 acres of land including the Mission Valley stadium site to San Diego State University for $86.2 million.

The sale clears the way for a massive SDSU expansion to include a renovated stadium complex as well as market-rate and affordable housing units and some 80 acres of parks and open space along the San Diego River.

Before the property officially changes hands, the city and university’s attorneys need to finalize the purchase and sale agreement and 30 attachments. The contract details then need to be approved by the council with an ordinance — which requires two readings in open session — and then a 30- day referendum period before it can be signed by San Diego’s mayor or their designee.

In short, barring any last-minute negotiations, San Diego State could close escrow and officially take ownership of the 132-acre property by late July.

“As an SDSU graduate, I am elated to play a role in helping my alma mater expand its institutional footprint, enhance its educational prestige, increase our supply of workforce and student housing, and create a river park for all San Diegans,” Council President Georgette Gomez said.

San Diego voters approved Measure G in November 2018, setting in motion land-acquisition negotiations between San Diego and SDSU.

Under the university’s draft purchase and sale agreement, SDSU would construct and operate SDSU Mission Valley campus, including a 35,000-capacity stadium and innovation district to support SDSU’s education, research, entrepreneurial, technology and athletics programs, as well as 86 acres of parks, recreation and open space, approximately 4,600 residences, 400 hotel rooms, 95,000 square feet of retail space and enhanced use of the MTS Green Line Stadium trolley station and accommodation of the planned Purple Line.

In a joint statement by the city and university, Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the vote signals “a new future” for Mission Valley, “one with an expansive river park, a new stadium and a world-class campus that will serve our region for generations to come.”

“Both parties wanted to get this done right, and the time and thoughtfulness put into this agreement have created a final product San Diegans can be proud of,” Faulconer said. “This agreement is fair and equitable, and I want to thank Council President Gomez, City Attorney Elliott and SDSU for their commitment.”

Faulconer and the city, facing a budget shortfall of more than $300 million due to COVID-19-related revenue loss, had planned on the sale to help construct next year’s budget.

SDSU President Adela de la Torre called the decision “a pivotal milestone moment.”

“SDSU Mission Valley will be a true revitalization of public land in all aspects of the plan,” de la Torre said. “We are thrilled to take this critical next step toward closing the sale and creating generational opportunities for all San Diegans.”

While every council member spoke positively about the collaborative effort to get the purchase and sale agreement approved, a few members expressed concerns.

“Believe me when I say there is no one who wants to reach a deal and get this issue behind us more than me. This vote gets us closer to that goal,” said Councilman Scott Sherman, in whose district the project falls. Sherman said he wanted more transportation concessions from the university, but was willing to take a deal he liked over one he loved.

Councilwoman Vivian Moreno asked lawyers to put a dispute resolution process into the final, binding sale agreement. Concerns at the site over ecology, transportation, affordable housing and the city’s wastewater recycling project — known as Pure Water — gave Moreno concern that issues will arise after the sale is complete.

“Mediation works and is a lot quicker than litigation,” she said.

Two of the most notable players in the stadium sale saga have been City Councilwoman Barbara Bry, who wanted the sale completed months ago, and City Attorney Mara Elliott, who has urged a slower pace. Both have sent political darts at one another over the issue in the past several weeks, and even offered some passing comments at Friday’s meeting.

“It wasn’t just about the price, that was the easy part,” Elliott said. “It was about protecting San Diego’s interests.”

She said petty politics made her and her staff’s work more difficult, but was glad they never caved under pressure.

Bry spoke about her opposition to the failed Soccer City measure and how she was glad to get the deal done to help move SDSU’s project along.

“Today, we are all Aztecs,” she said.

In a statement released the day before the vote, Bry was clear in her support.

“SDSU has gone beyond the Measure G guidelines accepting city-imposed changes to the appraisal process, resulting in an $18 million increase to the property’s fair market value, committing to environmental mitigations that go far beyond the requirements of Measure G, providing 18 indemnifications that protect the city, and securing over $600 million for development of the new campus, stadium and river park,” she said.

A university spokesman, after reading a statement in support of the revised sale agreement from de la Torre, agreed with Bry, saying the university had “far exceeded” its initial offer and took all liability of the property after the sale.

The final purchase and sale agreement could be available for public review as soon as the June 9 city council meeting.

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