The Citizens’ Watch of Mission Valley: “Manchester Project” Approved and Work Begins on Valley’s Largest (and Only) Park

by on September 22, 2015 · 1 comment

in Economy, Environment, History, Labor, Ocean Beach, Politics, San Diego

Mission Valley manchester proj good

“Manchester’s Project” – He sold property on a Friday and on the next Tuesday, the City Council approved its construction.

By Frank Gormlie

To outsiders, Mission Valley at times feels like it’s in its own intense universe. Other times, it seems like San Diego’s own “black hole”- once you enter Mission Valley, you immediately get swept into its traffic craziness and gird-lock.

But what happens in Mission Valley deeply affects the rest of San Diego, especially the coastal areas directly to the west – like Ocean Beach, the Peninsula, Mission Beach, PB – but also other nearby communities such as Clairemont and Grantville.  Because of this close proximity these other communities are impacted by both the increases in population and density in Mission Valley and – due to the lack of infrastructure in the valley – are  also impacted by strains on their infrastructure.

Because of these – let’s call them – interconnections – , we have been running a series of articles about what is being developed and being planned in Mission Valley. With these articles, we’ve instituted a type of ‘Citizen Watch of Mission Valley’ – and here, we continue this irregular series on the continued development and destruction of Mission Valley. Here’s our latest:

Mission Valley Manchester norside goodManchester sells U-T Property – then City Council Approves 200-Unit Project

In quick succession you’d swear was intentionally planned, Doug Manchester, the former U-T publisher, sold the San Diego Union-Tribune property in Mission Valley on Friday, September 11th.  It’s the property that includes the site of a planned massive complex with two seven-story apartment towers for a total of 200-unit apartments.

Then on the following Tuesday after the sale, on September 15, the San Diego City Council unanimously approved the construction of the massive complex.

This complex is one of the four huge development projects – and a handful of smaller ones – either planned or already in construction – that we have identified as coming down the Mission Valley pipeline. When completed, they will double dnd triple the valley’s population and residential units, without simultaneous, parallel and proportionate construction of an infrastructure to go along with the construction boom. These projects coming to Mission Valley, we feel, will complete its destruction.

Manchester sold the nearly 12.9 acre site to BBL Commercial Real Estate, headed by Casey Brown, for more than $50 million. Just south of Fashion Valley, at 350 Camino de la Reina, the property just sold also includes – besides the planned complex – the 5-story UT office building and an adjacent building that held the former paper’s printing presses – now dismantled.  When Manchester sold the newspaper to the LA Times parent company, he retained the land and the buildings.

With Council approval now behind them, the new owner of the complex  – Casey Brown’s BBL – is ready to start construction during the summer of 2016 and plans its completion by 2018, at a tune of $60 million. In addition, a large parking garage is sketched out in the drawings, an entrance is planned along Camino de la Reina, and a small pocket park is also mapped out.

Earlier approved by the San Diego Planning Commission, the project had stalled due to a legal appeal by the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation (CERF).  The City Council action ignored the appeal and threatened legal suit against the City by CERF.

Dorian Hargrove of the San Diego Reader reported:

In June of this year, the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation (CERF) appealed the San Diego Planning Commission’s approval over claims that the city failed to use accurate greenhouse-gas emission estimates and instead fudged the numbers to save Manchester, and other developers, from having to perform any air-quality mitigation measures.

Here’s what we said about the project nearly a year ago:

Doug Manchester’s luxury housing and commercial project: this is one of the most significant of the new developments coming down the pipeline. … Scaled down from its original outrageous design (which included a 22-story tower and a 10-story office building), the current blue-prints call for a bulky and massive mid-rise residential structure with hundreds of residential units where the parking lot is now near the San Diego River. The residential structure steps down from 7 stories at the south end to 2 stories at the north end, with parking included on the first two levels.

Mission Valley Manchester aptproj

The development for the near 13 acre site also includes 243,700 square feet of office space, 5,000 for restaurants, and nearly 6,800 for retail. The current plan also includes a whopping eight-tenths of an acre for a park along the river.

If you think this project will never be built, think again. Manchester now has his man on the San Diego Planning Commission with Mayor Faulconer’s appointment of Doug Austin. Before he took his chair on the powerful Commission, Austin had been hired by Manchester to be his chief architect for the Mission Valley project.


 “Mission Valley’s importance to San Diego cannot be understated. Former farmland has given way to businesses, tourists and residents of today. The common denominator over time has been the San Diego River, a treasured body of water for everyone.”  – Randi Coopersmith, whose Latitude 33 planning and engineering firm worked on the project.


Civita park renderng

Artist rendering of planned park in Civita. Sudberry Properties

Construction Begins on Mission Valley’s Largest Public Park – In the Middle of Civita

Ground has finally broken on a 14 plus acre park in the middle of Civita – the gigantic 230-acre Sudberry Properties planned city-within-a-city project that was begun in 2010.  The park – or at least the first of 4 phases – is scheduled to be completed by 2017.

Civita is the largest new development in the middle of Mission Valley located north of Friars Road between Mission Center Road and Qualcomm Way. The $2 billion planned project will add 10,000 to 15,000 new residents to the valley, and will include nearly a million square feet of office and retail space.

Mission Valley is recognized as being park-starved, even by the San Diego U-T . And these very beginnings of the park development at Civita is being heralded as “a new public playland”, that will include 10 acres of play fields, two basketball half-courts, a community garden, rose gardens, an outdoor grassy amphitheater and a 100-foot flagpole as a tribute to the military – just the first phase. For $15 million.

Most of the mass media news reports of the park’s ground-breaking and 4-phased development simply parroted unquestioningly what Civita officials claimed. A Sudberry vice president and senior project manager, Mark Radelow, is quoted verbatim:

“Civita Park is the unifying element of Civita. It will serve as the heart of the community and the main gathering spot. Trails will link the park to the surrounding neighborhoods, providing easy access to all residents.”

Radelow also asserted that the park will include a dry stream bed and walking trail along the western edge. According to the PR, the “natural streambed” will act as a biofiltration system to collect and filter storm-water runoff before it flows into the San Diego River and out to the ocean.

Marco Sessa, Sudberry senior vice president, is also quoted:

“We’re confident that this park will become the center of community. It will have something for everyone, cool places to meditate, fly a kite, play basketball or bocce, or attend a community concert.”

Other features include its multi-levels that will “cascade down” the 160 foot drop in elevation at the former rock quarry site, and a tree-sheltered promenade. And they plan “a recirculating interactive water feature” and a game area with chess, ping pong, and a grassy play area. Sudberry also asserts that a water treatment plant will eventually be built that produces recycled water from the homes and commercial buildings that is recycled for irrigation.

Once completed – the new park in its first phase – will be Mission Valley’s largest park. And it will be turned over to the City of San Diego to maintain.  Restrooms will be in the 2nd phase, along with children’s play areas, a dog park, a picnic grove and interpretive gardens are all claimed. They also assert the entire park will be completed in 2018.

It’s also claimed by Sudberry officials and their consultants that “hundreds of residents” participated in coming up with the park’s elements.

One issue that is bound to bubble up will be just how much access to the park will other non-Civita residents in Mission Valley have?
The Times of San Diego

Town and Country Hotel – Mission Valley’s Very First Resort – Plans on Heavy Face-lift

The very first hotel in Mission Valley – opened by Charles Brown in 1953 – was a 46-room motor inn. His son, Terry Brown developed a convention center and a 10-story hotel tower which opened in 1970.  And for the last 60 years, the Brown family’s Atlas Hotels, Inc. have run the place. In 2014, Atlas Hotels joined up with Lowe Enterprises from LA and AECOM Capital to own and operate the 40-acre property, to “reposition” it in a changing convention world.

The hospitality management subsidiary of Lowe Enterprises is Destination Hotels & Resorts, which is leading the Town and Country Resort & Convention Center into a massive face-lift with a $80 million investment to make it competitive in the tourism market. All this renovations is supposed to begin in early 2016.  NBC7SanDiego

Here’s how Union Tribune writer Lori Weisberg describe the face-lift:

By the time the ambitious makeover is completed in early 2018, about a third of the current structures will have been bulldozed and in their place will be a grand new entryway and lobby, three new restaurants, a spa and, in the center of it all, a 2-acre water attraction, complete with a sandy beach, slides, waterfalls and a lazy river-style pool.

Also envisioned, although further off from being realized, are plans to develop on the eastern and southern fringes of the property four residential towers with more than 600 apartments that would coexist with Town and Country’s hospitality and convention facilities. As part of an entirely new master plan for the property, the hotel’s current 935 rooms, spread among two towers and low-rise bungalow-style complexes, would be trimmed to 688.

San Diego Union Tribune

The project’s overall master plan still needs to be approved through a potentially lengthy vetting process. This will determine how fast the resort’s reconstruction occurs.

This development was also identified as one of the 4 major projects and handful of minor projects that will permanently alter Mission Valley in its journey to final destruction.

Stay tuned for the next episode of The Citizens’ Watch of Mission Valley.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

tia September 22, 2015 at 3:15 pm

Frank, I thank you for developing this series of articles. I think the “interconnection” to which you refer is greater than most people understand right now. If the current plans for development continue unabated, Mission Valley will have a much greater impact on coastal communities than any of us want to believe. Please continue to keep us posted.


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