Is Massive, Re-development Coming to the Midway District?

by on February 13, 2018 · 2 comments

in Ocean Beach

Could a massive, redevelopment project be coming to the Midway District soon?

The City of San Diego owns almost 100 acres in the district – all of it leased out to various businesses – but many of those businesses have leases with the city that expire in two years – in 2020. The businesses include the Valley View Casino Center, formerly the Sports Arena, and its 43 acres.

And you can believe developers are chomping at the bit for a crack at all that space.

Cybele Thompson, director of city of San Diego Real Estate Assets, was quoted in a recent Voice of San Diego article by Lynn Walsh as stating:

“developers are extremely interested in the sites that end in 2020, which present a very attractive contiguous site.”

There’s a number of factors, of course, that stand in the way of any smooth sailing for developers in this expansive area on the edge of Point Loma and Ocean Beach.

First, there’s the businesses that want to renew their leases with the city, including Valley View, and others cited by Walsh, like Dixieland Lumber.

Second, there’s the Community Plan of the Midway District, currently in the process of being updated.

Third, there’s the entire issue of a sports stadium that could handle the Gulls and maybe a professional hockey team.

Fourth, there’s restrictions on development in the area – such as the 30 foot height limit.

Walsh quotes Ernie Hahn, extensively in two articles at VOSD. Hahn is the general manager of Valley View Casino Center, who stated his doubts on the city taking over the site:

“You’re not going to tear down an arena that is doing 130 events a year. It’s the only place that a hockey team can play in town.”

AEG management operates Valley View and its lease with the city does end in 2020. The two are now in negotiations for a lease extension, and Hahn would like to see an additional 5 to 7 years on it.

Besides being home of the San Diego Gulls and now the lacrosse team, the Seals, there’s Kobey’s Swap Meet, a popular outdoor market that spreads out in the arena’s parking lot each weekend, that’s been there nearly 40 years and represents over 350 local businesses, according to Hahn. Walsh quotes him:

“This (Valley View) is still the juggernaut when it comes to entertainment and sports in San Diego. For the next six, eight, 10 years, we have it covered.”

“It’s hard for me to think that a mayor and a city would just say we are going to close down the arena. I don’t think the mayor is looking to lose anymore teams and he has been very supportive of the Gulls from the get-go… Based on conversations we’ve had with the mayor, I am excited we are going to get something done.”

Hahn, – whose formal name is Ernest W Hahn II – has been general manager of the arena for more than 20 years – since 1996, an is the grandson of Ernie W Hahn, a major and very wealthy San Diego developer. Upon his passing in 1992, the New York Times called the elder Hahn, “a builder who helped change the concept of the shopping mall by adding amenities like ice rinks and day-care centers”. After one of his projects opened in the mid-1980’s, the Horton Plaza mall, The Wall Street Journal wrote that he “had brought a feel of Disneyland to the retail shopping center and created something new on the American scene.”

Other businesses that lease from the city in the area include Pier 1 Imports, Dixieline Lumber and the Salvation Army. And if the city does not extend their leases beyond 2020, then it will clear what the city is doing – preparing the area for a major redevelopment.

Walsh quotes Joe Lawrence, president and CEO of Dixieline Lumber and Home Centers, as saying he hasn’t approached the city yet to get an extension, but he plans on keeping his enterprise for another decade and half. Lawrence is quoted:

“We have been here since 1967 and do not intend to go anywhere. We will ask for as much time as we can get.”

“We had a lease renewal about three years ago that gave us the 2020 deadline. We were investing in our property at the time and were notified after we had begun construction that extensions were not being granted past 2020 because of potential (to redevelop) the Sports Arena…We need to get started now. The end of 2020 will be here quickly.”

Lawrence told Walsh of VOSD that the Midway District store is one of his company’s better performing stores.

“Relocating the homecenter facility would be challenging. We could find office space elsewhere, but having that home center footprint is very critical for us.”

Then there’s the issue of the update the Midway District’s community plan, which, according to Walsh, “will vastly expand the amount of development that could occur there. If fully developed, the new plan could expand the neighborhood’s population by nearly six times what it is now.”

The Midway District now has 1,935 residential units and 4,600 residents in the area, and Walsh reports the new proposed plan would allow up to 11,585 residential units and 27,075 residents. Walsh continues:

Vickie White, senior planner for the city of San Diego, said, the goals of the community plan are to identify villages and districts that provide more distinct community character, provide additional recreational opportunities and to support the community as a commercial and business district. In order to allow for more residential units, the plan would change some of the zoning in the area.

The city is currently accepting public comment on the draft Environmental Impact Review of the community plan. Next the city will review the comments and develop responses followed by a public hearing process. The final step will be to send it to City Council for approval.

White said the city hopes to have the process wrapped up this summer.  Voice of San Diego

Walsh does iterate that there are two different processes here – the approval of the community plan – and how the city deals with the extensions of the leases on the Midway area city-owned land. The San Diego City Council can approve new leases without public approval – unless a developer wants to build something like a stadium or condos higher than the sacrosanct 30 foot height limit.

Thompson of the city’s real estate department assured Walsh:

“the city has had no discussions with any developers about this site” and “no final decisions have been made about the Sports Arena site or when any RFPs would be issued.”

Thompson sent Walsh an email that said “it has not yet been determined” if leases expiring after 2020 will be extended any further.


Voice of San Diego

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

toolpusher February 14, 2018 at 3:06 am

I would sort of miss Kobey’s and feel a little sorry for current lessees who will have to move. I also have a few fond memories in the sports arena when I was young like watching a basketball game (can’t remember who) and the circus. But, on the whole, I hope they bulldoze the arena down and turn the complex into another NTC type development but instead of single family homes build condos and apartments with restaurants, maybe a business park, shops and a farmer’s market to make up for Kobey’s. A park or green area would also be nice. At one point I seem to remember an idea to build a canal from SD River to the Bay; not sure the feasibility or expense (or what the Navy would think I guess depends on which way the current goes) but would be cool to have a little river walk type thing. Might even clean the Midway area up a little (haha).


John O. February 15, 2018 at 3:49 pm

I’m all for some affordable homes. But let’s have some independent shops… not big box. Leave some room for some small business owners.


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