Stakeholders and City officials reacted with trepidation to news that the proposed Sports Arena redevelopment is likely in violation of the state’s Surplus Land Act, which could cause a reboot of the visionary project.
“I’m personally disappointed,” responded Cathy Kenton, chair of the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group. “Midway has worked hard to begin our revitalization, and it seems at every turn there is a setback. However, I have been assured by the City Council President’s office that she will work with the mayor and the community to restart this process quickly and transparently so that we can get on with our efforts to renew our run-down community.”
In response, Mayor Todd Gloria wants to begin a new bid process involving reissuing a request for proposals for the Sports Arena site that prioritizes affordable housing and complies with state law.
“I am committed to working quickly to restart this process in compliance with the Surplus Land Act,” said Gloria. “It is critical that we do not squander this once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a modern arena through a process that prioritizes the affordable housing our region desperately needs.”
Regarding the Surplus Land Act, Jen Lebron, City director of communications, said: “It is not yet certain that the Sports Arena must go through an RFP process. Rather, it must go through the surplus land process. The first action is to declare the property ‘surplus land’ at the City Council’s Land Use and Housing Committee next month.”
“We will not repeat the mistakes of the past administration,” said Nick Serrano, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff. “We are exploring available options and we will take a thoughtful approach to the development of a competitive process.”
Brookfield Properties, which was awarded the bid for redevelopment following the initial RFP process, is taking a wait-and-see approach to this latest development.
“Brookfield Properties has expended significant time and efforts in good faith on this opportunity, so this latest development is disappointing, but we are looking ahead to the next steps,” said Ted Lohman, vice president of mixed use development at Brookfield Properties.
“The Midway District has long been a forgotten corner of San Diego and this decision delays the timeline on a sorely needed upgrade,” said District 2 Councilmember Jennifer Campbell. “I understand that many in the community will be frustrated with this unexpected outcome. That is why I am committed to working with Mayor Gloria, my council colleagues, and community stakeholders to restart this process in a way that is in compliance with state guidelines.”
Added Campbell, “I would request the mayor and the Real Estate Assets team move expeditiously to reissue the Sports Arena Village Site RFP. Time is of the essence on this crucial decision.
“Additionally, I would ask that the Midway Planning Group be provided an update on the timeline and also be directly involved in the new process. One silver lining in this decision is the chance to add more homes for working San Diegans to this site. I look forward to a process that ultimately creates a more affordable, walkable, and vibrant neighborhood as outlined in the 2018 Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan.”
Judy Holiday, a member of the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group speaking for herself said: “The latest setback is disappointing. The Midway community deserves better. If the City had made this move public prior to the November 2020 election, would Measure E have been approved by the voters?
Added Holiday: “City Council approved a thoughtful and relevant community plan update for the revitalization of the Midway District. Measure E was specifically tied to the hopes and vision of many community stakeholders that a new entertainment venue, or rebuild of the existing Sports Arena, would be an integral part of that parcel’s redevelopment. Preserving an entertainment venue in the heart of Midway as part of a carefully designed revitalization project would serve to restore vitality and prosperity to this neglected San Diego community while providing an accessible alternative to downtown for sports and entertainment events.”
Point Loman Byron Wear, one of 19 members on the Sports Arena Community Advisory Board, a broad-based stakeholder group of merchants, military, residents, and transportation officials, was “unsurprised” by this most recent turn of events.
“California has a housing crisis and the legislature is putting in all these new guidelines to help create affordable housing,” Wear said adding, “The City thought it wouldn’t be affected because it was a lease and not actually a sale. But I don’t believe it’s going to change fundamentally what’s going to happen, other than that 25% of housing in the project is likely to be low- or moderate-income.”
Wear noted the arena advisory group has “talked mostly about the big picture around the development, linking activity and park space and how that might look and feel. We’ve talked about needing a good design, something that will be mixed use and attract people. It’s a clean canvas.
“There is going to be housing and parking amenities, some kind of revamp of the Sports Arena and Kobey’s Swap Meet continuing to exist there. There might be some outdoor entertainment space as well as some park space that might include sports facilities.”