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Competing Plans for Qualcomm Stadium Site

March 9, 2017

By Alberto Garcia

San Diegans can now weight at least two competing proposals for the existing Qualcomm stadium site after the departure of the Chargers.

One plan, called SoccerCity, was proposed by FS Investors, a La Jolla development group, and calls for demolition of Qualcomm Stadium to make way for a smaller, 30,000-seat soccer stadium, 4,800 residential units, hotels, parks, commercial spaces, and room for a future football stadium if necessary.

The proposed $1 billion project could be enough to secure a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise in San Diego, replacing the Chargers as the leading sports team in the county.

“If ever there was a location to do smart, transit-oriented development, it is here,” said Nick Stone, a principal in FS Investors.
A study released this week by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation found that the SoccerCity development could result in a $2.8 billion annual economic impact to the region when fully built out.

The report outlines the impact of the project, including roughly 4,000 jobs worth about $2.4 billion in wages and $3.7 billion in economic growth in the region per year. When the project would be complete, the annual economic impact could reach 25,750 full-time-equivalent jobs, about $2 billion in wages and $2.8 billion in gross economic product, the study concluded.

The proponents of SoccerCity are prepared to launch a signature gathering campaign to put the plan directly to San Diego voters. Starting next week, paid signature gatherers will descend on San Diego in hopes of reaching the 72,000 number of valid registered voters to qualify the petition.

If qualified, the plan could force the City of San Diego to approve the development proposal in time for a deadline set by MLS to consider cities vying for a new franchise. Many political observers, though, believe the plan would eventually have to appear on a ballot for final approval, something the Chargers plan failed to achieve on the November ballot.

Unlike his reluctance to support the Chargers initiative, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer seems open to the SoccerCity plan.
“This concept offers exciting opportunities for major league soccer, more parkland and Aztecs football without public subsidy,” Mayor Faulconer said. “Now it’s time to examine the plan in detail to make sure it makes sense for taxpayers. I look forward to reviewing the proposal presented to the public today, as well as the public discussion to come.”

This week, however, another proposal was surfaced by long-time San Diego developer Doug Manchester. That plan calls for expanding the existing stadium, building a new sports arena, and creating more than twice the retail, office, and residential space than the SoccerCity proposal.

The Manchester plan would focus on drawing an NFL team to replace the Chargers, and to use the newly expanded Qualcomm to continue to host SDSU football and a possible MLS soccer team.

Both of these proposals, however, conflict with a plan that has been floated for years; turning the Qualcomm site into an expansion for San Diego State University.

For years, SDSU boosters have argued that the proximity to SDSU and the existing trolley station at Qualcomm could provide an ideal relief value for the congested university campus. The existing stadium could continue to host SDSU’s Aztec football team, as well as space for student housing, classrooms, and research facilities.

Some environmentalists and community planners have opposed massive development at the Qualcomm Stadium site that could bring thousands of additional residents and shoppers into an already congested traffic corridor.

The competing plans will continue to more forward over the next few months. So far, it’s anyone’s guess which of the plans, if any, finicky San Diego voters will eventually embrace.

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