By Mick Pattinson
It is not every day that a San Diego City Council member resigns from an organization that exists to get officials like him elected. But that is what happened recently when plans to build a soccer stadium in Mission Valley -- which was supported by 110,000 citizens -- was threatened by backroom dealing.
City Councilman Scott Sherman quit the San Diego Lincoln Club after it became clear his opinions on the competing plans for the redevelopment of the Qualcomm site in Mission Valley would be ignored by the city's leading Republican organization in favor of a plan supported by organized Labor and extremist environmental groups.
There is a simple reason Councilman Sherman supports Soccer City -- it is by far the best plan for the Qualcomm site delivering the best result for the city and its citizens. Conversely, the 12-page San Diego State "proposal," cobbled together at the eleventh hour to block the passage of Soccer City, is, at best, amateurish.
At worst, it is a cynical attempt to steer a major development opportunity away from the control of local voters and put it into the hands of the unelected California State University Trustees. Why ask donors to give money to elect Republicans to our city council and then attempt to take critical decisions away from them?
The Lincoln Club claims it provides a "voice for business in San Diego" and that it supports low taxes and small government. That's hard to believe when its members and officers last year stood at the City Council podium shoulder to shoulder with union bosses and radical environmentalists whose advocacy is antithetical to successful business, small government and low taxes?
Why would the Lincoln Club contemplate denying the wishes of 110,000 citizens who, in just 12 days, gave their signatures and support to a ballot initiative calling for the construction of a soccer stadium and surrounding development? Has it put the special interests of certain of its key members over the opinions of both our Republican Mayor and City Council member?
It is worth reminding ourselves of the benefits of the Soccer City plan recognized and supported by Councilman Sherman and Mayor Faulconer.
The Soccer City plan will keep control of the development in San Diego whereas the "SDSU West" plan transfers control to Sacramento and the unelected Trustees of the State University Board.
It offers a $110 million land payment to the city of San Diego (matching the city appraisal). Meanwhile, the backers of the "SDSU West" proposal have made no such specific offer.
Soccer City will have an estimated $2.8 billion economic impact. That includes 42,000 construction jobs that would begin as soon as the project is approved and would not be phased in over decades, as called for by the "SDSU West" plan. There would be 25,000 permanent jobs as well.
Critically, Soccer City would immediately provide over 4,500 new housing opportunities, including affordable and open market homes as well as student housing units.
Tens of millions of tax dollars would flow to our city from the Soccer City plan unencumbered by any Sacramento interference. We all know that Sacramento is not the best guardian of our tax dollars.
The long awaited Mission Valley Park would become a reality under the Soccer City plan as would local transportation improvements.
All of these development costs would be funded privately and require no tax dollars -- a fact that should have weighed heavily in the thinking of any Republican organization.
Last year we watched the Democrat majority on our city council vote to deny Soccer City the opportunity to participate in a special election aimed at bringing the world's most popular sport to San Diego with the Qualcomm redevelopment. Now it is the Republicans' turn to lobby against the best development solution and the wishes of a large section of our local population. Equal opportunity political mischief is on full display.
It is sad to watch these political shenanigans play out while knowing that the Soccer City plan made provisions for Aztec football as well as soccer and even a return of the NFL. As a good neighbor, it took into account SDSU's desire for student housing and an expanded education campus. It designed a sporting and hospitality venue perfect for young students and local residents to come together in one exciting place. It is a plan that would reinvigorate our languishing sporting menu.
Then the political apparatus of San Diego intervened. Democrats and Republicans. Let's face it, this is San Diego at work. Great ideas and risk capital are put forward by well-intentioned people only to be jettisoned by our political machinery.
Will it ever end?
Mick Pattinson is past president of the California Building Industry Association and San Diego Building Industry Association. The opinions expressed here are his own.