Vote no on both SoccerCity and SDSU West — Measures E and G

When the Chargers gave up on generations of local sports fans and slunk off to Los Angeles, the team did San Diego a huge favor, leaving city leaders exploring options for a huge piece of conveniently located land close to several freeways, public transit, the San Diego River and San Diego State University.

“If the Chargers leave, we’d reinvent ourselves again,” The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board wrote in January 2016, our eyes popping over the site’s potential. A year later, the team finalized the divorce, and we weighed in on the site anew to say, “Let’s do this right, do something lasting.”

In the ensuing months, what fan anger there was over the Chargers’ departure had mostly atrophied to apathy when two development groups swooped in and got the signatures they needed to put ambitious proposals for the site to separate votes on Nov. 6. The question now is what should San Diegans do with the city-owned stadium site in Mission Valley. How should we redevelop that site — and reinvent ourselves? And who should we trust to do the work?

Measure E and Measure G on the November ballot offer San Diegans two competing visions for the area. The 621-page Measure E would lease 253 acres of the city-owned site for 99 years to FS Investors, a La Jolla-based investment group. The “SoccerCity” investors want to build a Major League Soccer stadium, a 34-acre river park and a mixed-use project with 2.4 million square feet of office space, 740,000 square feet of retail space, 4,800 multifamily residential units and 450 hotel rooms. The 14-page Measure G would sell 132 acres to San Diego State University or an affiliate to build a larger football stadium, academic facilities, student and faculty housing, retail and hotels. The “SDSU West” plan also allows for the revitalization and restoration of a 34-acre river park. The plan is only conceptual.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer and city staff would negotiate the terms of either deal. If both measures secure more than 50 percent of the ballots, the one with the most votes would win. If neither pass, both would fail — and the Mayor’s Office is already ready to solicit other proposals for the property.

Before we state our recommendation, we’d like to share the principles that guided it.

One, there are too many questions about both measures. Both sides talk a good game, but City Attorney Mara Elliott’s impartial analysis shows just how much uncertainty there is about either.

Two, even before our editorial board saw the massive potential in the SDCCU Stadium site, it had concerns about ballot-box development planning. We have concerns about any public process being turned over to developers, who in SoccerCity’s case could skirt public hearings or council approval because of the language of their proposal, or being shifted to the California State University’s Board of Trustees, who would step in in the council’s place to guide the SDSU Campus Master Plan revision process. Both plans require certain leaps of faith.

And three, while there are too many questions about the SDSU West initiative, our board firmly believes that the San Diego City Council’s 1955 decision to offer city-owned land to the University of California — paving the way for UC San Diego and its transformative campus, which was founded in 1960 — was one of the best and most far-reaching decisions any council has made in city history.

Given that, our board won’t begrudge anyone’s yes vote on SDSU West, given SDSU’s potential to transform San Diego’s future more than SoccerCity. But we think a fair and open public process is best for San Diego, and that the city should lease not sell the land, so we recommend no on Measure E and no on Measure G. Send city leaders back to the drawing board and have them solicit ideas with an eye toward picking one next year so we don’t play politics with the issue during a mayoral election in 2020.

Twitter: @sdutIdeas

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Read what SoccerCity and SDSU West backers wrote in October:

Measure E: SoccerCity explains why it should beat SDSU West

Measure G: SDSU West explains why it should beat SoccerCity

Here are three takes from July:

Why San Diego voters should pick SoccerCity over SDSU West

Why San Diego voters should pick SDSU West over SoccerCity

Why San Diego voters should reject both SoccerCity and SDSU West

Twitter: @sdutIdeas

Facebook: San Diego Union-Tribune Ideas & Opinion

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