An Appellate Court on Monday evening rebuffed an attempt by San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott to remove from the November ballot a voter initiative on future use of the former football stadium site in Mission Valley. The court decision allows local voters either to approve or reject a proposed expansion of San Diego State University (SDSU) campus on a 166-acre stadium site formerly used by the San Diego Chargers.
“With no further legal barriers in our path and overwhelming support from San Diegans, SDSU West is officially headed for the November ballot,” said Katy Temple, a spokesperson for Friends of SDSU, a group of alumni and local residents who support the university expansion.
“The Court’s decision confirms what we’ve known all along — SDSU West is in the best interests of the community,” continued Temple, describing the ballot measure as “an open and transparent process that will benefit our regional economy for generations to come.”
The ruling is the latest legal milestone in the hotly contested struggle between the university and a private development group, FS Investors, for control of the site of the 70,000-seat SDCCU Stadium, built in 1967 and now considered functionally obsolete. FS Investors has proposed a new soccer stadium for the Aztec pro-soccer club, surrounded by an entertainment district with restaurants and night clubs. The proposal also calls for new student housing and room for SDSU expansion.
The university’s proposal for a new campus centers on a new stadium that could be used by both college teams and the Aztecs. The SDSU proposal emphasizes open space, including 90 acres of trails, parks, green spaces, and recreation fields.
Both proposals promise to clean up the nearby stretch of the San Diego River, currently polluted by chemical-laden storm runoff.
Among the groups endorsing the SDSU expansion the California State University Board of Trustees, Sierra Club, and the SDSU Alumni Association. A recent telephone survey conducted by Friends of SDSU claimed that San Diegans prefer the university campus proposal by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.
FS Investors, however, claims that “hundreds of thousands” of San Diegans support their proposal. They add that SoccerCity will use no public funds and is willing to buy the land from the city for $83 million.
The stadium site and its future use has been a longstanding controversy in San Diego. In 2009, the Chargers organization proposed an $800 million plan to build a modern football stadium to replace the 51-year-old SDCCU Stadium.
In November 2016, San Diego voters rejected a ballot measure that year that would have allowed the use of public funds to build a modern football stadium. Shortly after, in February 2017, the Chargers left San Diego for a new stadium in the Los Angeles area.