Surprise! Surprise! City Council Chooses Mayor’s Pick for Sports Arena Redevelopment

by on September 14, 2022 · 11 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

District 7 City Councilmember Raul Campillo

Councilmember Raul Campillo Only One With Guts to Ask Tough Questions

In a non-surprising but indeed disappointing move, the San Diego City Council Tuesday, September 13, went  7 to 1 for Mayor Todd Gloria’s selection of a developer team to redevelop the Sports Arena area — Midway Rising.

Despite serious questions and issues raised by the Union-Tribune, La Prensa, CBS8 and the Rag, the council selected the development group with one of its main guys being, along with his spouse, the top contributor to Gloria’s mayoral campaign. The council choose the  team who has a developer who did not disclose past lawsuits against it.

During the public comment period, these and more accusations were raised before the vote, but, as the Voice of San Diego reported: “the City Council fixed its attention on other aspects of the transaction.”

And we agree with the Voice, that “The sharpest line of questioning came from Councilman Raul Campillo, who was the lone vote against the project.” And he definitely deserves a shout-out for his role during the meeting. Here’s the Voice:

He interrogated members of the development team over the arena developer’s experience leading projects this large, allegations of wage theft from contractors who had worked for the group in charge of affordable housing in the project, the use of a complex tax subsidy arrangement to upgrade infrastructure near the property and the proposal’s lack of attention to childcare for future residents.

Before voting against the project, he said the proposal’s reliance on round numbers for the homes it includes – 4,250 overall and 2,000 with price controls – indicated it was a vague promise rather than a realistic proposal based on firm analysis.

Campillo also took issue with repeated assurances throughout the meeting that the Council’s vote merely selected the developer to begin formal negotiations, and was not a final decision. City staff reiterated that the Council could approve a final development agreement after the city had completed an environmental analysis, in 18 months to two years.

Realistically, he said, once the city devotes time and energy to one team and the other bidders move on, the city will not be incentivized to walk away from a deal and start over in two years. “It matters to me not just what you can propose but what you can deliver, and not just what you promise but what your track record is,” he said.

Campillo stood out and may have proved himself to be the “Anti-Gloria” pole within the local Democratic Party. God knows, it needs one.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Zack September 14, 2022 at 11:59 am

On the other hand, had Gloria and the council not gone with Midway Rising (which offers the most price-restricted and market rate homes) then they would have had to explain to voters why they went with a developer who offered less homes. There would almost certainly be accusations that the mayor and council prioritized a new sports arena over addressing the housing crisis.

So between that averted political nightmare and a few allegations of a quid pro quo, they probably calculated that the latter was preferable to the former.


Frank Gormlie September 14, 2022 at 12:05 pm

Which is kind of what Midway Rising promises, a new sports arena and vague numbers of housing.


Zack September 14, 2022 at 12:10 pm

Sure, but can you imagine the political firestorm of going with one of the other developer candidates who offered less homes? Everyone would be pissed about that, and rightly so. Even if the ultimate number of homes built by Midway Rises ends up being less than what they promised, it would be preferable from an optics standpoint.

The mayor and the council want to appear as though they are doing the most they can do. Maybe they’re phonies, but it would have been political suicide to have gone another direction, especially in an election year.
I understand I will probably not be successful in convincing readers of the rag that the mayor and the council did not do this for corrupt reasons, but I think rag readers will understand the practical considerations that likely went into their decision as well.


Mat Wahlstrom September 14, 2022 at 1:14 pm

That’s a shrewd framing, but it doesn’t pass muster. That was the mayor’s argument, that gee, we have to go with the most housing, our hands are tied. And all but Campillo played along.

Never mind that Todd had already anointed his largest contributor as the winner, or whether the 2,000 units materialize. Or that he locked the other two competitors out from modifying their bids to come back with more affordable units.

Campillo was spot-on when he was concerned this could reward liars, by knocking more viable and reliable contenders out of the running, and leaving the city with no choice but to settle for less.

None of this would have been an issue if this hadn’t been fast tracked to go from council committee to final vote in five days. But they knew it would wither under scrutiny if they let anyone have time to perform the needed due diligence.

If the city really cared about doing this right, they would have gone back to the original three finalists for one more round.

This *will* be a bigger sh!t show than 101 Ash. Mark my words.


kh September 15, 2022 at 10:03 am

The issues raised with Midway Rising certainly could’ve been used to justify a different selection, or at the very least, some vetting of the accusations. Instead, the City Council of the 8th largest city in the nation went with pinky promises on the dias.

Most affordable units is certainly a priority but not the only metric. Especially if they don’t have a track record of competing it. Hell I’ll promise you 5,000 units with free rent, now give me those development rights! Also if you look at bedroom counts, the gap to 2nd place shrinks. Midway Rising had a lot of 1-bed units that can’t accommodate most households.

Also the 2nd place said they could accommodate MORE deed-restricted units than Midway Rising but apparently didn’t meet the deadline on that proposal.


nostalgic September 15, 2022 at 10:16 am

Who was the second place team?


JayBird September 15, 2022 at 12:30 pm

I’ll share this again on this thread just for fun:
We need to maintain some ironic humor despite the lobbying and donor machine. Watch it – you will laugh…


kh September 15, 2022 at 3:25 pm

Lately when attending these city council meetings, I ask myself what would it really take for them to actually deviate from the pre-ordained outcome?

If one of the contractors was discovered to be El Chapo? Or maybe if they murdered someone on the front steps of city hall the morning of? What would it actually take? The serious allegations made (some verified) against the contractor didn’t change anyone’s vote. It makes the public comment process seem silly. If my comment even gets a mention from a council member that’s like being struck by lightning.


Mat Wahlstrom September 15, 2022 at 3:41 pm

The city’s contempt for transparency and accountability is a feature not a bug. They don’t give a damn, and don’t care who knows they don’t. In fact, they wish we’d all have figured this out sooner than later.

As it is, they’re reduced to being visibly irked that the public is too dense to realize the contempt in which they hold us, because it just drags out the inevitable and makes them miss happy hour when meetings run long.


kh September 15, 2022 at 6:36 pm

Those pesky comments didn’t phase Jen Campbell. She got up and walked out of the meeting after the Midway item.


Mat Wahlstrom September 15, 2022 at 7:24 pm

Like I said, not even bothering to hide their contempt. She got hers, everyone else can pound sand.


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