The concerns surfaced during the North Bay Community Planning Group’s (NBCPG) July 17 meeting.
The city owns not just the sports arena property but also the properties on either side of it. This would include the commercial strip where Red Lobster and Phil’s Barbecue are, the sports arena site, the commercial area where SOMA and Kobey’s Swap Meet’s corporate offices are, down to Dixieline and Pier One.
NBCPG chairwoman Melanie Nickel said the issue currently is not the site of the Valley View Casino Center (formerly the San Diego Sports Arena) itself, because it has a long-term lease. Currently at stake are the fates of SOMA and Kobey’s corporate offices, as well as the site of the long-vacant Black Angus restaurant east of the sports arena.
“These leases expired a year or two ago and the city refused to renew them,” Nickel said. “Those properties have all been on month-to-month tenancy ever since.”
Nickel said the city’s Real Estate Assets Department is refusing to discuss a renewal of those leases, which expire in a year or two.
“With the current hodgepodge of leases all expiring at different times, we can’t do any long-range planning,” said Nickel. “If the city is simply going to refuse to renew leases, we are concerned that one of our prime business areas could become a ghost town.”
Nickel’s assessment is shared by other NBCPG board members.
“There’s not going to be a developer or business interests investing significant construction money into a facility if they’re simply told [by the city]: ‘We’ll do a month-to-month lease with you and that’s it,’” said Kurt Sullivan of Douglas Allred Company. “It just won’t happen. Property will sit there vacant. I believe this will have a major impact on people throughout the region and their view of this community and the businesses in it.”
Kobey’s Swap Meet might be an example of that.
“We have operated for some time under a month-to-month situation at our complex at 3350 Sports Arena Blvd.,” e-mailed Chuck Pretto of the Kobey Corp. “This has caused us undue anxiety and fear of the unknown. … As a result of not knowing if our rent would be raised or even if we would be kicked out, we have embarked upon the search for a new space where we can be confident that we can run our business in the years ahead without fear of eviction and/or raises to our operating overhead.
“We understand the city wants to amass all the property it owns, but why not have all the existing properties’ leases extend until the longest-running lease and amass all the property at the same time?” continued Pretto. “Otherwise, we will see a virtual ghost town occur along Sports Arena [Boulevard] as properties become vacant and are not renewed.”
Another NBCPG board member, Art Bleier of Kenton Properties LLC, said the opportunity to renew existing leases is closing because the lease of Pier One Imports at 3220 Sports Arena Blvd. is up in July of next year.
“If they don’t get that extended, they will move,” said Bleier. “And they don’t want to move, but they can’t wait in limbo.”
NBCPG board member Cathy Kenton of Legal Vertical Strategies made a motion during the meeting that the group draft a letter requesting District 2 City Councilman Kevin Faulconer and Mayor Bob Filner to support its position that all leases on city-owned property near the former sports arena area be extended to 2028.
The planning group voted 10-0 in favor of Kenton’s motion.