By Ana Gomez Salcido
After four and a half hours of public testimony, the San Diego City Council voted unanimously on Monday to put the SoccerCity initiative on the November 2018 general election.
Organizers of the plan were asking the City to call a special election for November of this year in hopes of securing a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise this year.
During the San Diego City Council meeting, Council Members had the option to adopt the initiative outright or to put the plan to the voters of San Diego.
Community leaders gathered at a rally outside the San Diego City Hall in downtown before the council meeting to help convince the elected official to put the initiative to a vote next year.
“We want this initiative to be decided by the voters. And we want it to be part of the November 2018 ballot, when most of the voters participate in the elections,” said Andrea Guerrero, director of Alliance San Diego. “This is what the voters recently decided by approving Measure L, an initiative to limit the number of special elections held to vote on initiatives,” Guerrero added.
“We also have some concerns about the project, but we are here today to ask the City Council to give the decision to the San Diego voters,” Guerrero concluded.
The SoccerCity initiative is a redevelopment project proposed for the Qualcomm Stadium site to house a potential MLS team in a joint-use stadium. It also includes a park along the San Diego River, housing, offices, and commercial space. The project developer is FS Investors, a La Jolla and San Mateo investment group with a variety of ventures, including sports and commercial developments.
Nick Stone, project manager for SoccerCity, and Steve Altman, former Qualcomm President and a SoccerCity investor, were some of the people that spoke in favor of the initiative at the Council. They both also asked the City Council to put the initiative in a special election this year.
“If San Diego votes this year, the outcome if we get an MLS team is in our collective control. And we are absolutely convinced if we were to win the vote in 2017, San Diego will be awarded an MLS franchise this year,” Altman said. “If this council puts our vote in 2018, they are taking the outcome out of our control. In that case, our chances for an MLS franchise depend almost entirely on the hope that at least eight of the other 11 cities competing against us for a franchise fail to get their approvals before we do,” Altman added.
Although the San Diego City Council decided on Monday to put the initiative to San Diego’s voters in the November 2018 general election, the City Council still has the option to schedule a special election for this year or next year to vote on the initiative.
The cost for a special election is expected to be $5 million. The Council did not include the money in the City budget for this year, but Mayor Kevin Faulconer added it back in his version of the budget. The Council then voted this week to override his funding for the election, instead voting 8-1 to push the vote to the next regularly scheduled general election which will be November 2018.
Backers of the SoccerCity Initiative gathered over 112,000 signatures to put the plan on the ballot. Voters last year approved Propostion L which requires initiatives be put on general elections to make sure more voters have an opportunity to decide on important issues.
The City Council could still decide to override Proposition L and put the SoccerCity proposal on a special election l