By Raoul Lowery Contreras
San Diego State University has already issued $400 million in contracts for design and construction of its new stadium and campus expansion in Mission Valley. But negotiations over the price for the land aren’t moving anywhere near as fast.
By an almost 2-1 margin last November, San Diego voters directed the City of San Diego to negotiate a fair market-value sale to SDSU of the 132-acre property on which the former Qualcomm stadium and its massive parking lot sit.
SDSU’s goal is expansion of its otherwise fully-occupied campus dating to the 1930s.
Included in the proposed expansion is a modern stadium for university athletics, concerts and outdoor community events. Also on the list are a research park, student housing, laboratories, classrooms, administrative offices and faculty spaces. Some retail and hotel facilities are also contemplated to be built with private financing.
The stadium contract was let to Maryland-based Clark Construction in February with a goal of opening in 2022. Another contract for infrastructure design and earth moving on the whole property was let in June to the same firm, which two decades ago built Petco Park, the nationally-acclaimed baseball stadium in downtown San Diego.
SDSU is making great progress in moving the entire multi-billion-dollar project forward. It is not waiting for the city. City bureaucrats, on the other hand, are lagging behind in efforts to do the will of city voters.
Over seven months have passed since voters told the city to negotiate a deal. Over a year has passed since obstreperous City Attorney Mara Elliot spent $600,000 of taxpayer money to lose embarrassing lawsuits she filed begging the courts to keep San Diegans from voting on the SDSU plan and a competing commercial proposal called “Soccer City.”
No appraisal has been completed. There has been no news or announcement on the project’s proposed “River Park.” And we’re heard very little about the negotiations.
The city says it is waiting for a complete environmental impact report on the entire 132 acres involved. SDSU says it is working on an EIR that it hopes to complete this summer.
There is some public displeasure from the losers who voted against SDSU in the November election. Some complain that the February stadium contract award proves that SDSU only was and is interested in a football stadium. Why nothing about classrooms and laboratories?
The answer is that it takes awhile for the design and infrastructure planning, not to mention construction. Of course, this being San Diego, we can expect lawsuits opposing any design and as well as the construction.
We should not forget that 14 separate lawsuits were filed against the construction of the 60 percent voter-approved Petco Park. Construction was delayed for two years while each suit was heard and rejected.
But why is an appraisal taking so long? With its massive real estate staff, why did the city have to hire a consultant for a quarter of a million dollars to advise on the mandated negotiations?
The people of San Diego voted in good faith to move the SDSU expansion forward by voting yes on the proposed project. The city has no choice but to proceed. Apparently city bureaucrats think they, not the city voter, should be in control.
SDSU should continue pressing forward. It should continue issuing contracts as planning proceeds. And voters should demand that Elliot and the city staff get moving on negotiations.
Raoul Lowery Contreras is a political consultant and author of the new book White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPS) & Mexicans. His work has appeared in the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate.
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