Mayor Throws Weight Behind Sports Arena Ballot Prop

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer discusses the meeting concerning the state's homeless situation he and other mayors of some of California's largest cities had with Gov. Gavin Newsom at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, March 9, 2020.
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

Measure E, which is on the Nov. 3 ballot in the city of San Diego and would create a waiver for the 30-foot coastal-limit-height restriction, got the endorsement of San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer on Monday.

Earlier this summer, a proposal from Brookfield Properties and ASM Global was recommended by a selection committee to redevelop the 48-acre site -- which includes the Pechanga Arena, aka the Sports Arena.

The plan may never get off the ground, however, if a major hurdle is not overcome: The 30-foot height limit on buildings in coastal areas, which applies to the Midway District, would have to go. Measure E, which would create an exception to that limit, is on the November ballot. If Measure E were to fail, though, the city has the right to cancel negotiations with Brookfield involving an outside real estate consulting service working retained on behalf. The city would then reissue a new request for proposals (RFP), beginning the whole process anew.

Supporters of the measure cite the need for urban density close to transit locations -- Old Town's transit hub is a short distance away. Faulconer now joins District 2 City Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell, which includes the Midway District, in endorsing Measure E.

Standing outside the Sports Arena's main entrance near a podium with a "Yes on E" sign, Faulconer on Monday was joined by Cathy Kenton, described as a Midway small business owner and the co-chair of Yes on E, and Dike Anyiwo, her co-chair on Yes on E as well as a Midway resident and a member of the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group.

"It's past time that we unlock the potential of this Midway community and turn this eyesore in the surrounding neighborhood into an icon," said Faulconer, who has raised a family in nearby Point Loma. "So I'm proud to endorse Measure E... You are not going to find a stronger proponent of the coastal-height limit than me. So I looked at the facts, and I support Measure E."

Opponents of Measure E argue that creating a precedent for waiving the height limit will create similar ballot measures in the future, eroding the coastal zone skyline -- or lack thereof -- San Diego is known for in its La Jolla, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, Ocean Beach and Point Loma communities. In addition, concerns have been raised about highly trafficked streets and nearby freeways becoming even more overloaded.

Current City Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Barbara Bry has spoken out about her opposition to the measure.

"At a bare minimum, the city should wait to make any development decisions until after voters have weighed in on whether to waive the 30-foot height limit in the Midway District (which I oppose)," Bry said in a statement released in late August.

In August, the city's selection committee chose Brookfield Properties and ASM Global to take on the project, with costs expected to surpass $1 billion. Brookfield and ASM beat out a plan submitted by Midway Sports and Entertainment District (MSED), which included local developers JMI Sports and San Diego Loyal SC.

"Our collective goal is to pursue a brand new sports arena that is surrounded by a thriving community that will be second to none," Faulconer said in August. "ASM and Brookfield's international reputation truly precedes them, and I am confident they are the right choice to breathe new life into this very important place."

The Brookfield group developed and operates such venues as the Staples Center in Los Angeles and The O2 in London. ASM Global is the venue management company that currently operates Pechanga Arena. During the process, public comments were shared on both plans. Faulconer said in that, two topics kept coming up.

"Our public and our community want significant park space, especially now when having a place to get outdoors and exercise is critical," Faulconer said. "And, of course, the public wants a new sports arena, a place for concerts, entertainment and great sports like the Gulls and the Seals."

In their initial proposals, the Brookfield/ASM Global plan called for limited updates to Pechanga Arena while the MSED plan earmarked $125 million for a renovation. As they heard the public feedback, both groups changed gears and added a brand new sports and entertainment venue.

Other parts of the winning bid include a 5-acre park and public recreation space with links to local beaches and neighborhoods, at least 2,100 residential units, nearly 600,000 square feet of commercial and retail space and the addition of 1,800-2,100 parking spaces for residential/mixed use and 3,000-5,400 spaces for commercial/arena use.

The MSED plan that was not chosen did include the Loyal SC building of a 12,000-15,000 seat modular stadium on the site. In a memorandum sent to the mayor on Aug. 28 discussing the selection process, the Smart and Sustainable Communities' deputy chief operating officer, Eric Caldwell, stated that "[we] would also like to note that the public preferred the development concept from [the MSED] team the most." In fact, MESD's option led public preference 64% to Brookfield's 18%, which was tied with "Not Sure."

The public's preference ended up being superseded by the selection committee, which created a numeric rating system based on five categories, including Development/Operating Plan and Financial Capability. The scoring was close enough between the two proposals that the committee then reviewed presentations for each plan, eventually selecting Brookfield.

"The Brookfield/ASM proposal was found to have flexibility in the various scenarios they proposed for the redevelopment of the site, including a plan for a new sports arena and entertainment venue," the city said in a news release issued on Sept. 9.

This article was updated at 5:34 p.m. on Sept. 14 to include a statement from City Councilwoman Barbara Bry -- Ed.

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