Foregone Conclusion: Midway Planners Endorse Faulconer’s Selection for Redevelopment of Sports Arena Area

by on September 28, 2020 · 2 comments

in Ocean Beach

Shuttered former Black Angus

By Geoff Page

The outcome was preordained, all that was left to see was the Shuow leading up to it.  As expected, the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group vote unanimously to support the city of San Diego’s choice of the entity to redevelop the Sports Arena and surrounding properties.

It is apparent that the people in the MPHCPG are so eager to have what is admittedly a sorry looking landscape redone, they would have voted for Homer Simpson if he just promised to rebuild what is there now.  Their eagerness is understandable, anyone who visits the Midway area will agree, it needs something much more than just a facelift.

What is important to point out is that the sorriest looking parts of Midway are city-owned properties.  The worst offender is the shopping center that borders the east side of the Sports Arena parking lot.  There was a shuttered, former Black Angus restaurant on one corner of this property that sat empty for a decade.

The entity chosen, largely by the lame duck mayor, is Brookfield Properties and ASM Global.  They did a brief presentation at the MPHCPG’s regular monthly meeting on September 16, as an information item. The group wanted to show support for Brookfield, but could not take a formal vote at that meeting because the appearance was not listed as an action item.

Rather than wait until next month’s regular meeting, the group showed its eagerness to voice its support by deciding to hold a Special Meeting.  These are meetings out of the ordinary monthly schedule and are intended to discuss, usually, a single item.  The group called the meeting with one action item, a vote to approve, or not approve, the city’s choice of developer.

Representatives from Brookfield attended the special meeting, but were there mainly to answer questions. Cathy Kenton, chair of the MPHCPG, stated in her opening remarks that the purpose of voicing support for Brookfield was to “help move the project forward.”  She emphasized that this meeting was “not a referendum on the 30-foot height limit.”

Kenton then read a prepared motion that basically just said the group supported the city’s choice of developer.  The motion was made and seconded simultaneously. The motion was open to public comment.

A gentleman named Jeff Pint expressed a concern about the area’s infrastructure and said he did not see anything to show this had been looked into.

Long time activist, Tom Mullaney, spoke up about the lack of park land in the concept seen to date.  He said that the nationwide standard of how much park space to have showed that at least 15 acres of the area should be devoted to park.  The same standards are even more liberal for destination places like San Diego, going up to 30% of a geographical area.

Mullaney made an important point when he said that the standard is about park you can enter and enjoy, not park you can look at.  Developers often count narrow green areas as “park” but it’s not the type of park land that encourages any interaction.

The group then briefly discussed the motion.  Group member Kurt Sullivan commented that the group had not had a Sports Arena representative on the planning group for a long time, except once briefly.  Sullivan asked Brookfield’s representative, Zach Adams, if they would commit to have a person on the group or at least commit to regularly attending the MPHCPG’s meetings.

Inviting an entity involved in a major Midway development to have a voting representative on the MPHCPG is inviting a conflict of interest.  Asking the developer to attend the regular monthly meetings, to provide project updates, is a good idea.

Sullivan also spoke up on the subject of parks.  He said he wanted to see the developer maximize the green space and he echoed Mullaney’s comment, that this be accessible park space.

Brookfield has used the issue of green space in its argument that the height limit needs to be removed.  If they can build higher, they can devote more land to open space.  If they have to stick to 30 feet, well, there won’t be much land left.  This argument, of course, assumes that the the area absolutely must be built out to the absolute maximum that the zoning will allow.

The last question asked of Adams was about the Sports Arena itself and the answer, or rather the non-answer, was very revealing.  The questioner, group member Judy Holiday, asked if there will still be an entertainment/ sports arena in the plans if Measure E does not pass.  Adams’s answer would have made any politician proud, it was long, convoluted, and did not answer the question directly.

The closest to an answer Adams provided was carefully worded and enunciated. He said if measure E did not pass “public benefits and amenities become very challenged.”  Before this, he spoke about the economics of the development.  In other words, if the 30-foot height limit is not removed, the “economics” will not allow for an entertainment/ sports venue.

It is expected that this argument will be one of many made in the campaign to pass Measure E. The argument will say that, if San Diego, as a whole, wants to keep a Sports Arena, then they have to approve Measure E.

When the vote finally took place, it was unanimous in support of Brookfield.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Paul Webb September 28, 2020 at 1:54 pm

Geoff, you mention having a developer of property in a planning area as a member of a planning board is a conflict of interest. Take a look at, say, Mission Valley sometime. If they eliminated developer reps or required them to recuse themselves on the basis of conflict of interest, I doubt they could ever have a quorum.

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Avatar Geoff Page September 28, 2020 at 2:31 pm

Oh, I have Paul. I attended several of their meetings. In my opinion, they are not a legitimate planning board. It is a large group filled with developers, real estate people, financial people, it is a joke. And, it looks like the city has abdicated all planning responsibility for Mission Valley and let this group do all of that. They just wrote their community plan recently so you can imagine what it looks like. They hold their yearly elections in the middle of the day of a workweek and it only takes about 15 minutes. Despite all that wealth, they don’t have a website, which is something every planning board should have.

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