Naming rights are wrong under Mid-Coast Trolley-UCSD plan
by SANDY LIPPE
Published - 09/22/15 - 07:25 AM | 0 0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A naming rights pact between the Metropolitan Transit System and UCSD would allow the university to advertise itself to its heart's content. COURTESY PHOTO
A naming rights pact between the Metropolitan Transit System and UCSD would allow the university to advertise itself to its heart's content. COURTESY PHOTO
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The La Jolla and University City communities are aware that the Mid-Coast Trolley expansion will come to town around 2018. What the combined communities may not be aware of is the naming rights given to UCSD in exchange for $30 million in the next 30 years.

Yes, our prestigious university, admired like Mother Teresa, has gone McDonald's on us in a proposed expensive ad campaign.

How is the renaming of Old Town Transit Station to UC San Diego Health Campus South Station beneficial to the public? Imagine you are visiting from Des Moines, Iowa. Wouldn't it make more sense to keep it Old Town Transit?

One of the promises in the 15-page contract gives UCSD entitlement to exclusive events at the stations and on the trolleys. I Can you imagine if the UCSD Health group decides to do blood pressure readings on the trolley?  UCSD can also use logos on trolley bridges and elevated track in the community. How do you spell “blight”? Moving billboards? Haven't we outlawed billboards as a blight?

Besides, I've ridden the trolley downtown, and my advice is don't make eye contact with anyone else.

Transit is a public service and needs to be clear and accessible. Isn't the $30 million plan a waste of tax-supported university's funds that could go to education instead of advertising? UCSD embarrasses itself and devalues the excellence for which it is known. San Diego outlaws graffiti – meanwhile, blight branding is a form of graffiti when UCSD can wrap six trolley cars with any kind of advertising it chooses. Certainly, splashing the UCSD name on raised tracks is also a blight.

If you were given the task or joy of spending $30 million over 30 years on UCSD, how you would use the money to advertise this incredible university? I, for one, would build a fire station on the campus and stop using Station 35 in north University City for free. San Diego taxpayers pay the bills for No. 3, which goes on 6,000 calls a year. Over 1,000 of those are to the UCSD campus. Some of that $30 million would be well spent on a fire station instead of a fast food type of ad on a trolley car.

City Council president and UCSD graduate Sherri Lightner weighed in on this subject recently:

"I am concerned about a precedent that was set for this transit project. Construction agreements for this project weren't approved prior to the naming rights for the Blue Line, three trolley stations and additional marketing on raised tracks over freeways and in the community having been sold by the MTS. In the past, the City has worked hard to limit and reduce blight caused by excessive advertising in the public right-of-way. Because MTS is exempt from City sign regulations, I have concerns about what this means for future advertisement on other transit assets operated by MTS. I hope that when the time comes, there will be greater communication with all the communities impacted by this project, especially University City."

Why wasn't University Community Planning Group advised about this project as a courtesy to the community?

On May 24, Thomas Cleary, Linda Vista Planning Group chair, wrote the following to MTS CFO Paul Jablonski: "It's been brought to Linda Vista Planning Group that Metropolitan Transit System is considering selling naming rights of the new trolley stations to the highest bidder. LVPG is of the opinion this strategy is misguided and inappropriate."

Jablonski's prompt reply on May 29 read: "Please be assured that names of the stations along the planned Mid-Coast extension of the Trolley have not yet been determined. There are several years and many decisions to be made before the vision of bringing light rail up the coast will be achieved. MTS has been focusing its attention on assisting SANDAG in its efforts, and we are hopeful that we can secure full funding for the project in the coming months. We will keep your letter on file for future decision-making regarding station naming."

Within a short period of time, the 15 page-contract, with a lot of "whereas" terms, was signed by Jablonski and UCSD CFO Pierre Ouillet. It was approved by the Office of General Counsel.

Janay Kruger has served as University Community Planning Group chair for several years She doesn't want to give up on the community.

"I'm thinking of putting together a committee to respond to some of these challenges,” she said. “What do you do without money, however?" UCPG is not funded. Our taxes support MTS, SANDAG and UCSD. In San Diego, money talks, and without a doubt, UCSD has the microphone. MTS and SANDAG listened.

As the old saying goes, "Everybody loved it but the people."

Meanwhile, not all dreams come true when we want them to. Case in point: Metropolitan Transit System chair and former University Community Planning Group chair Harry Mathis wrote this:

"When Proposition A, the half-cent sales tax, was passed by the voters, it authorized funding for the expansion of the San Diego Trolley northward from Old Town to Del Mar Heights, linking our area with downtown. This will be called North Line. Planned terminal for North Line is Del Mar Heights Road at 1-5. However, lack of space for a station and parking lot may require this leg to end near Carmel Valley Road instead. Ultimately, trolley proponents hope to see service extended to Oceanside... The prospect of finally getting trolley service in our area is an exciting one... .”

Mathis' note was written in 1991.

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