By Mick Pattinson
They say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. If so the SoccerCity sponsors must be feeling pretty good about the plan they put forward for the Qualcomm site in Mission Valley now that San Diego State University have copied it. No marks for originality go to our local university for their first design effort. Plagerism maybe.
The two page proposal submitted by SDSU to Mayor Faulconer could have been viewed as a last minute term paper submission. The plan leant heavily on the SoccerCity design with just some minor adjustments to reflect the sporting and academic priorities of the university. The 22,000 capacity stadium proposed by SoccerCity to accommodate Major League Soccer is enlarged to 35,000 to 40,000 by SDSU for Mountain West Conference college football with a promise to enlarge if the National Football League can be persuaded to return to our City. I would say that after the 13 years of brain damage inflicted on the Chargers it is unlikely we will be hosting NFL football anytime soon.
The other significant change in the SDSU plan is a promise to convert commercial property into university facilities in future years to provide research and faculty office space as well as space to study climate, sustainability and water scarcity among other "critical" topics.
In all other aspects the university plan is remarkably aligned with the proposal put forward months ago by SoccerCity. San Diego State commits to building the Mission Valley Park and includes much needed housing for students and faculty plus hotels, retail and game day facilities.
So similar are the two development plans submitted by the competing parties that it is hard to imagine why there isn't a compromise negotiation led by the city for the benefit of all parties but that's not how things work in San Diego. Putting Major League Soccer and College football together in the same brand new stadium makes too much sense for our city. After all San Diego State is proposing a new 35,000 to 40,000 stadium for just 6 home matches each year!
There is one key thing missing from SDSU's proposal. A financial offer for the land and a source of funds. SoccerCity have stated they will match Mayor Faulconer's $110 million asking price for the Qualcomm site together with a promise there will be no tax payer funds required.
San Diego State University has not yet made a financial offer to buy the land and made no commitments regarding funding. Where will the money come from? SDSU have stated that they are not aligned with any private developers but they would adopt public - private partnerships to undertake the development. It's that word "public" that worries me!
The 110,000 San Diego voters who support SoccerCity will be asking themselves some questions in light of the SDSU copy cat plan. Are we really going to miss out on bringing the worlds most popular game to San Diego to accommodate 6 college football games. Are we going to add more university classrooms to a city that already boasts an ever expanding UCSD campus in La Jolla that now resembles a city within a city plus the USD campus and City College. As sports teams that entertain our citizens depart we seem to think building more university space for out of town and oversea's students should replace them. As a sports fan I don't get it. Perhaps someone can explain the logic of this to me!
As citizens of San Diego we have all witnessed years of political dysfunction not least where real estate is concerned but the Qualcomm re-development promises to take us to a new level of nonsense. A sporting complex to accommodate both college football and major league soccer makes too much sense. A sporting village offering the river park plus hotel accommodation and hospitality facilities makes perfect sense as well. Why can't we get our act together?
Politics play too big a role in the lives of San Diegans. You know your in trouble when 110,000 voters are ignored and when two development groups are forced into open warfare over what is essentially the same plan. The lobbyists and consultants love it of course representing big Labour and jealous developers while elected officials sit back waiting to be told who to vote for.
We can do better than this.
Mick Pattinson is past president of the San Diego Building Industry Association and the California Building Industry Association. The opinions expressed here are his own.