By Ron Morrison, Mayor
National City stepped up early in the game to see if relocating a major stadium made sense for our community and the San Diego Chargers. Getting the Port of San Diego to agree that a member city should be allowed to explore this potential was the next step. This was done by highlighting access to freeways, the trolley and proximity to downtown. An out of the box regional approach was developed to spread the benefit and burden of building a facility that could house professional football, college and bowl games as well as special events. We worked diligently and professionally to showcase our location and city to the team and prospective partners. However, a viable partnership has not materialized and we have decided to move on to a new day.
Our citizens spoke in a number of settings and through a community questionnaire regarding the National City bayfront. The gist of the input was - make something happen on the bayfront that provides benefit for us. This is a fair request since National City is the only member city of the Port that does not have public access to the bay.
As a City Council we adopted a policy position that we have forwarded to the Port which states our desire to create new revenue and quality of life on property situated above the tideline. The stadium pursuit was more about these goals than anything else. Magnifying the site in the public’s eye and working with various groups to understand the environmental, political and economic challenges has prepared us well for future endeavors on the bayfront. So what will happen now?
What will happen is continued communication with our citizens and the Port of San Diego as well as projects. The Marina will be constructed and Sycuan will open a 170 room hotel to start. The gateway to this area will include more than one restaurant. Access and roads are being improved and the Bayshore Bikeway has been built. An aquatics center has been designed and Pepper Park has two new art pieces. These improvements have been a long time in coming and are exciting for an area starved for quality of life amenities. But no Chargers, then what?
With a great location, a firm understanding of the transportation, environmental and fiscal challenges associated with a visitor serving development, National City can move forward. Our recently created 5 year Strategic Plan provides a road map to work with the Port’s Maritime Plan and create a new alliance involving the City, Port, Navy and regional government to build sustainability and quality of life. Piecemeal development of bayfront property should not occur, nor should revenue opportunities bypass city coffers. That is what we seek to prevent with proper planning and communication.
My colleagues and I will work with our Port Commissioner Robert “Dukie” Valderrama to keep community and business interests in front of the Port and region. The entire bayfront and area west of 1-5 is critical to the region’s long term future as there is incredible rail, freeway and water access. This future includes industry, tourism, entertainment and public access. Visitor serving development at this location makes sense and potentially dollars since the location sits right between the proposed Gaylord development and San Diego Convention Center. Entertainment is certainly an option given the age of the San Diego Sports Arena. Concerts, soccer, boxing, and ultimately the National Basketball Association would be great fits for our community and the San Diego region. In a growing bi-national region with a population of over 5 million there is a market and interest for a venue to bring new tourism dollars to the region.
We work to create new revenue so that we can continue to provide the services our citizens deserve and desire. As we do this we cannot forget quality of life. It is time for National City to have the same opportunities to enjoy the water as residents in Coronado, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach and San Diego. With the continued support of our citizens we are creating a new day in our beloved city.