SDCCU Stadium, formerly Qualcomm Stadium. File photo

By Colleen O’Connor

The decision on the future of the former Qualcomm Stadium property could be the last chance for San Diego.

Will it be another parking lot? Another mega development? Another untrustworthy promise that the project will “pay for itself” is a recipe for urban decline.

Our failure to imagine anything superior to the two current initiatives—SoccerCity and SDSU West—suggests a dead-end future for a once graceful city. Just think about some of our earlier failures:

  • The “Jewel” of Balboa Park—Once 1,400 acres but now less than 1,200 acres due encroachments by the zoo, naval hospital, and soon a redesign of the Plaza de Panama that will include more cement than trees.
  • La Jolla Cove and The Children’s pool—Once the envy of every beach going San Diego family and ocean swimmer, now permanently polluted from the seals’ fecal material in the water and sand. The iconic La Jolla Rough Water swim had been a premier aquatic event for over a century, but has been cancelled for consecutive years, and most likely will never return. The children’s pool is mostly off-limits for similar reasons.
  • Former Naval Training Center—A veritable gift to the residents of San Diego was  transferred to a developer with guarantees and promises of great revenue streams, open spaces, and the preservation of the unique architectural buildings. In reality, it was a gift to the McMillin Company, which now intends to redo the Navy Chapel, most likely for yet another restaurant in an overstuffed “arts district.”
  • Neighborhood parksOnce the gems of the city, spaces like Presidio Park are now overused, under-watered, and crumbling in places. Add to this, the short-sightedness of unregulated Airbnb rentals and the urber-ization of neighborhoods via abandoned scooters, rental bikes and Segways, and the everyday loss of beauty becomes obvious.

Now, look more closely at the single most egregious land grab since the visionary founders of the city — Kate Sessions, the Marston family and Ellen Browning Scripps — and one arrives at the SoccerCity/SDSU West initiatives on the ballot.

How did we get there? The last great piece of publicly-owned land in the center of the city is going to go to the highest bidder via the initiative process.

Is this the best the once beautiful—and sometimes majestic—city of San Diego can do?

A soccer stadium or some housing and a football field? Each with more promises of revenue streams, helping the homeless, and “growing the city?” None with details specific enough to prevent another bogus plan that, in fact, delivers nothing more than vague promises to “save the river.”

Where is the City Council? This is their job!

Don’t just sit and wait for those with enough cash to put a proposition on the ballot and wait for the winner. Or side with the proponents who contribute most to political campaigns.

The council’s job is to be intelligent and trustworthy guardians of the people and stewards of the assets. Where are they?

Where is the competition? There should have been proposals from all over the globe. Who, with any foresight, wouldn’t want to design another great Central Park? Where is the community input?

Why can’t we just preserve, enhance and showcase the San Diego River (and avoid the fate of Los Angeles that is now trying to reclaim its long neglected river).

Think about it. What do all of the great cities of history share? Rivers and waterways: the Nile, the Thames, the Ganges, the Danube and the Yangtze.

Add oceans and open spaces. Then add up all that San Diego has already lost and is about to give away again. Tourism does not thrive in unattractive places.

As the leading urbanist Jane Jacobs noted, “If you don’t build it, they will come.”

The question is: Does San Diego want “a well-tempered city” or an increasingly ill-tempered one?

Voters still have a chance to “repair the fabric of the city.” So vote “no” on Measures E and G — both ill-tempered propositions.

Colleen O’Connor is a native San Diegan and a retired college professor.

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