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Jun. 16, 2017

Another 'own goal' allowed by San Diego

The SoccerCity development is backed by 112,000 voters who signed a ballot initiative in just 12 days but were nevertheless ignored by the council majority. By Mick Pattinson

San Diego scored another "own goal" this week when five city council members rejected appeals for a special election this November that could have brought the world's most popular sport to our city.

Plans to develop the Qualcomm stadium site into a multipurpose development known as SoccerCity with a stadium for Major League Soccer was denied a public vote -- which was necessary to meet a year-end the MLS deadline to select expansion teams.

Known as "the beautiful game," soccer is by far the most popular sport on the planet. It is played by millions and watched by billions. Boys and girls, men and women play soccer making it one of the fastest growing games in America and leading our national women's team to become World Champions and our men's team World Cup quarter finalists.

The SoccerCity development is backed by 112,000 voters who signed a ballot initiative in just 12 days but were nevertheless ignored by the council majority. SoccerCity is also backed by two of our greatest ever soccer stars, Landon Donavon and Shannon Mac Milan, who both spoke inspirationally at the council hearing.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer who is supporting SoccerCity, had previously slapped a whopping $110 million price tag on the Qualcomm site and, to many people's surprise, developer Nick Stone stepped up to the plate and announced his company would pay it. You would think a city like ours, which constantly pleads poverty, would grab a sum like that. But the council didn't. I wonder if they will ever see an offer like that again?

After all, $110 million would fill a lot of potholes and repair our shabby roads.

Or $110 million would go a long way to solving our homeless problem which has become a disgrace to the so-called America's Finest City.

And $110 million would go a long way towards creating jobs in San Diego as we still struggle to put our economy back together.

Talking of jobs, SoccerCity would generate 42,500 jobs during construction and 25,500 permanent jobs. It would generate a $2.4 billion annual economic benefit while removing from the city the $12 million annual cost of maintaining the Qualcomm site.

In short SoccerCity would be the sort of economic shot in the arm that we need plus a chance to restore lost civic pride with a powerful sports franchise that would attract international attention.

Not only did five city councilors - all Democrats - vote NO on Soccer City, they also denied our tourism industry a vote on an expanded convention center and upset homeless advocates by rejecting efforts to vote on a big funding source for homeless relief and services. That's a lot of people to offend in an afternoon but there was one small group of folks who they did please - union bosses.

As usual, in San Diego the council hearing was just a side show to the real behind-closed-doors action when the five council members took their orders. Despite their best efforts and negotiations, SoccerCity had been unable to win union support because of wildly excessive demands that would have created an uneconomic project. Union greed knows no bounds in California.

Many young soccer fans supporting SoccerCity, but new to local politics, are shocked that their voice is being ignored and they are not even allowed a democratic vote. Sadly, this is common practice in San Diego and we can see the effects with homelessness, unsafe roads, job loss, missing sports and entertainment opportunities and our inability to boost our key industries such as tourism.

So despite the best efforts of our mayor and the SoccerCity sponsors we may never see the world's most popular sport here in San Diego. Despite impassioned pleas by two of our country's greatest sports stars, San Diego may never see another offer of $110 million for the Q, and despite the signatures of 112,000 soccer fans, we may never generate the massive economic benefits and jobs SoccerCity would create.

Council President Myrtle Cole and Councilmembers Chris Ward, David Alvarez, Georgette Gomez and Barbara Bry were the No votes. They should hang their heads in shame.

Mick Pattinson is past president of both the San Diego Building Industry Association and California Building Industry Association.

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