Full Analysis of All Sports Arena Proposals Is a Must

Since the mid-60s, my family and I have been working in and advocating for the Midway area. Quite a lot has been said about Midway and its storied past. Now, its future is slated to be much brighter. Through the redevelopment of the Sports Arena site, present and future generations of San Diegans can have the opportunity to live, recreate, and work in an ideal location – if we take the right steps now.

After unexecpted mandates from Sacramento, a restarted bidding process and litigation challenges, we are at critical juncture today. Five teams are currently vying for the opportunity to reimagine the 48-acre Sports Arena site, yet it has been recommended to narrow the list down to three bidders.

It’s far too early to cut any one of the teams from this process. The San Diego City Council should move forward with a thorough analysis of all five proposals before shortening down the list, similar to what was recommended by the City Council Land Use & Housing Committee last month. 

If we have learned anything from past real estate debacles, it is that a thorough vetting of all options must take place sooner rather than later. As has been said, anything can be promised in a response to a request for proposals, which is not even close to conducting a comprehensive analysis. We must make decisions based on facts and data, not just pretty pictures, to avoid another “San Diego Special.”  

Due dilliegence, feasibility testing, community consistency and economic study are the ingredients for understanding the right team and proposal to select for this opportunity.

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Without financial analysis of each bidder, their partners, and their plans, we cannot be assured we have the best partner. The community, the city, and the region need and want to see this project completed. Limiting the options at this point could potentially result in making the wrong choice and upend the all the progress we’ve made.

As a current member and the immediate past Chair of the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group, I am firmly committed to supporting the successful redevelopment of the Sports Arena site and the revitalization of the entire Midway area. I am also a staunch supporter of creating abundant new housing here as has been contemplated in our Community Plan since the comprehensive update in 2018.

The Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan calls for approximately 10,000 new residential units to be built across the entire community. Some of the Sports Arena proposals have inflated unit counts and some prescribe up to 5,000 units on the Sports Arena site alone. It would appear these plans are not compatible with the density or supporting infrastructure approved in the growth-focused Community Plan.

Without a more substantative review, we do not know the impacts of each proposal on providing affordable housing in the rest of the Midway area and across the entire region. It’s uncertain if proposals will suck all the City’s resources from creating affordable housing elsewhere, require significant taxpayer subsidies or if these “promises” are even financially feasible. We want to see affordable housing delivered across all of San Diego and our community is ready to do our part.

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San Diego is our City. We need to establish what is right for our residents and, if necessary, stand up and fight for what is best. I understand the Surplus Lands Act process needs to be appropriately followed, but it should always be done with an eye toward what is the best for the City of San Diego, not just getting Sacramento’s approval. Fortunately, San Diego’s leadership has forged excellent relationships with Sacramento. Now it’s time to leverage those relationships to do what is best for San Diegans.

Midway needs help now. From strip joints to graffiti to brazen physical assaults on residents and visitors, the Midway area is crying out for a new beginning. The Sports Arena redevelopment project is the centerpiece of the effort to create a renewed community in one of San Diego’s most central areas.

We can’t afford to make another mistake. We must get the redevelopment of the Sports Arena site done correctly this time around. Let’s put in the work today and put each proposal to the full test, so we can ultimately deliver on our shared dream to revitalize the Midway community.