One of the components of the San Diego MLS expansion bid that looked to be most controversial coming in was the effort to bypass a local vote on the Mission Valley stadium proposal, dubbed “SoccerCity.” On one hand, that was intended to streamline the process, with a petition campaign to obtain signatures intended to be a stand-in for the actual election, and the San Diego City Council fast-tracking the proposal in order to maximize the city’s chances of being award an expansion team.
Push was inevitably coming to shove though, and on Tuesday, a group of San Diego developers announced a group of community and business leaders who wanted to put the brakes on the fast-track process, arguing an election was necessary to legally sanction a new stadium project, plus many other bells and whistles proposed, in redeveloping the Qualcomm Stadium site.
“The Qualcomm Stadium site is one of the most valuable public assets in San Diego, and its development will have significant long-term impacts on our city and our region,” said Joe LaCava, a community planner and one of the leaders of the Public Land, Public Vote Coalition in a statement. “Residents deserve a thorough, impartial analysis of the SoccerCity project’s impacts and the opportunity to provide input and vote on the project.”
You may ask yourself, why wouldn’t FS Investors, behind the San Diego MLS expansion bid, just agree to putting a measure on the ballot? The answer is that doing that represents a significant risk. While the SoccerCity proposal is far less expensive than the formerly-San Diego Chargers’ stadium proposal downtown, the public funding portion of which was turned down by San Diego voters in November, that recent loss indicates another stadium proposal may also meet a doomed end. Of course, it could pass, but again, with the investors attempting a path of least resistance to get approval, an election would be anything but that.
In response to the public rallying to get the SoccerCity proposal put on the ballot, the expansion bid group announced on Wednesday that they have obtained 108,000 signatures in less than two weeks in support of their proposal. As NBC’s Artie Ojeda noted, “71,646 need to be valid” for the bid group to have made their case formally that there is widespread public support for the plan.
Effectively, it appears the stadium plan, and by extension San Diego’s MLS bid, is fully in the hands of San Diego’s City Council. If the Council decides to forego the public ballot route, it seems likely they would also ultimately approve the plan. If they think events are moving too quickly and without enough insight from the public, they have the power to put the proposal formally up for a public vote. That could delay, or even end San Diego’s MLS expansion quest, but the lines are being drawn for the next phase of the SoccerCity proposal as we speak.