By Ken Stone
Wearing San Diego State red and black, Councilwoman Barbara Bry was called up to a stage in the basement ballroom of the U.S. Grant Hotel.
“We are all Aztecs tonight,” Bry said to cheers Tuesday. “We’re all Aztecs forever. We’re all Aztecs to make San Diego a great place for our children and our grandchildren.”
Though it might be days before SDSU West’s plan for the Mission Valley stadium site is formally certified as victorious — as Measure G on Tuesday’s ballot — Bry celebrated with hundreds of others.
“It was easy to oppose SoccerCity,” she said of the competing plan, Measure E, “although for a long time I was out there by myself.” (Indeed, former City Manager Jack McGrory — a point person for SDSU West — said of Bry: “There was one City Council member who stood up, and she’s not the tallest person.”)
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Putting on her City Council hat, Bry declared it would be her job to lead the effort to “make sure that we reach a fair agreement with San Diego State that benefits the whole city for generations to come.”
Voters gave Measure G a 54.9 percent “yes” vote while only 29.7 percent of voters approved competing Measure E.
Both initiatives would redevelop the SDCCU Stadium site into a mix of commercial and residential space, a water park and an athletic stadium. SDSU West would come with a 35,000-seat football stadium for San Diego State University, while SoccerCity pledged a 23,500-seat stadium for a professional soccer team.
Bry said she met with FS Investors, the group behind SoccerCity, “and I realized it was a bad deal for San Diego.”
New San Diego State President Adela de la Torre also led cheers for what she called a “legacy project.”
“Four months ago, when I came to this campus, I never dreamed that I would have this amazing experience,” she said. “I am so proud of this community. I am so proud of what has been done.”
De la Torre pledged: “We will have a vision that will transform the region” with Tuesday’s vote being recalled as “a moment in history 20, 30 years from now. … This is SDSU. And Go Aztecs!”
Crucially, according to multiple SDSU West supporters, Measure G included a planned campus extension while Measure E didn’t explicitly state that one would be included.
SDSU originally discussed the expansion with the La Jolla-based investment group FS Investors. The deal fell through in May 2017, leading FS Investors to begin the Measure E campaign later that year. SDSU officials later unveiled a proposed measure of their own, Measure G.
SDSU West gained public support from a broad and bipartisan coalition of local organizations and politicians, prompting criticism from SoccerCity Project Manager Nick Stone.
“While Measure G has been courting politicians and City Hall insiders, we’ve been working to earn the support of regular San Diegans who are excited about SoccerCity and appreciate that Measure E will produce twice as much tax revenue for the city as Measure G, pay fair market value for the land, provide for SDSU’s needs and transform the site into a place that offers something for everyone — all at no cost to taxpayers,” Stone said.
SDSU West supporters included San Diego County Supervisors Kristin Gaspar, Dianne Jacob and Greg Cox, the Lincoln Club of San Diego County, the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, the Sierra Club, the San Diego County Democratic Party and San Diego City Council members Bry, Lorie Zapf, Chris Ward, Myrtle Cole and David Alvarez.
SoccerCity received less public support from local elected officials, but supporters note that former Olympic soccer stars Landon Donovan and Shannon MacMillan backed the initiative.
In addition, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and District 7 City Councilman Scott Sherman, who represents the district that includes the stadium site, also announced their support for SoccerCity.
Had both measures received more than 50 percent of the vote on election day, the measure with more votes would have been declared the winner. The backing group of the successful initiative will begin negotiations to buy the stadium land from the city.
A little after midnight, the Friends of SDSU issued a statement declaring victory.
“With the overwhelming approval of Measure G today, San Diego State University will now have an opportunity to grow through an open and transparent process that will benefit our economy long-term,” the group said.
“Even more importantly, this vibrant campus expansion will increase access to higher education for generations of San Diegans to come. Tonight may be the end of our campaign, but the work is far from over. Now it’s time for SDSU and the City of San Diego to work together to make this vision a reality.”
— City News Service contributed to this report.