Qualcomm Stadium. file photo
Qualcomm Stadium. file photo

By Justin DeCesare

Whether you support the Chargers downtown stadium plan or not, it’s evident that our football team will soon no longer be playing at Qualcomm Stadium.

It’s not rhetoric to say that this provides San Diego with a once in a lifetime opportunity to shape the future of Mission Valley and create something that solidifies San Diego as an environmental leader, while creating public/private partnerships and resources which will better our region for generations.

As a candidate for District 7, I’ve watched the backroom maneuvering regarding the downtown stadium proposals. However, I am running for the City Council because I think the representative who is elected to represent Mission Valley should focus on creating a better community and fixing traffic problems rather than wasting taxpayer dollars on a developer-supported plan to intensify development in the valley.

Plans are emerging for a better approach that uses this property in the public interest, not the developers’ interest. JMI Realty put forward the first renderings of a San Diego State University campus west, while the San Diego River Park Foundation proposed another plan focusing on protection of the riverbed, and more are coming.

Justin DeCesare

Both ideas are significantly better than maintaining one of the largest parking lots in the country, or pushing the idea of the Chargers coming back to the valley in the hopes of annexing and selling off city (taxpayer) owned land to real estate developers without regard for our environmental concerns or how the site could be better utilized to serve all San Diegans.

The reason I first endorsed Donna Frye’s citizen’s initiative months ago was because I personally want to ensure that the portion of the site directly adjacent to the river remains a protected area for restoration and conservation, and that there are at least 22 acres of active recreational space available to the public. In addition, an 8-to-10-foot-wide walk/bike path can be created along the river.

Other stakeholders may have other baselines that those working on plans can build upon to create educational facilities, joint-use stadiums, and recreational areas and the like. Our ideas can work together.

I call on city leaders to form an advisory council, made up of stakeholders, planners, residents, architects, educators, and anyone who believes we can work together as a community to design a better future for our city.

This group would form, create a mission statement together, and solicit design ideas through various entities that could create what our valley needs.

With the Mission Valley community plan update currently underway, we have a unique opportunity to engage the public and stakeholders in a discussion that will provide a road map for any ideas that involve what to do with the 166-acre eyesore of a parking lot.

The answer to creating the best use plan for Mission Valley is not to denigrate the Chargers’ leadership publicly and think that somehow they will want to come back to the “Q.” That’s not real leadership, it’s not business sense, and truthfully it hurts our chances of negotiating with them on other proposals in the coming months.

It’s time we look to the future and for city leaders to understand that the Qualcomm Site can become a tremendous source of pride for our city, and a model for other municipalities to follow when faced with similar situations.

The Chargers are not coming back to the “Q,” and it’s time we look forward.

Justin DeCesare is president of the Tierrasanta Community Council and a candidate for the San Diego City Council District 7 seat in 2016.