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Soccer stadium plan dominates meeting of MV Planning Group

Posted: March 10th, 2017 | Features, News, Top Stories | No Comments

By Jeff Clemetson | Editor

The agenda for the March 1 meeting of the Mission Valley Planning Group included action item votes on a medical marijuana dispensary, a sidewalk improvement project and a major construction project that will reshape the Town and Country Resort & Convention Center.

But it was an information item on a proposal to develop the Qualcomm Stadium site into the future home for a Major League Soccer (MLS) team that brought a full house to the meeting.

“We think soccer, the opportunity for soccer, here in the city of San Diego will be well received,” said Nick Stone, a partner at FS Investors, the group proposing the soccer stadium.

An artist rendering of the soccer-centric sports and entertainment district proposed to replace Qualcomm Stadium (Courtesy FS Investors)

Stone said the project is fully funded by FS Investors; will meet the city’s climate goals by including mixed-use developments along the trolley line; and will include approximately $50 million in road and traffic improvements along areas that will be affected by the increased traffic.

The entire proposal would include the following:

  • An 18,000- to 30,000-person soccer-centric stadium that would also be used by SDSU’s football program.
  • 55 acres of parks, including 46 acres of park space along the river and 12 acres of community recreation fields for youth and community sports.
  • 4,800 units of housing — 480 affordable units, 800 student-focused units and 3,520 traditional market rate units.
  • Millions of square feet of retail and office space that could also be adapted to house a school or meet other community needs.

“One of the things that was amazingly clear to us, as laid out by the [MLS] commissioner, was that unless we do more than just build a stadium in the middle of a parking lot at Qualcomm, Major League Soccer will not come,” Stone said. “And so we have to build a sports and entertainment district around that in order to convince the league to come.”

The league is also demanding that the city have a plan in place to guarantee a stadium is built by March of 2020, to secure one of the final four expansion franchises would move to San Diego. Currently there are 12 cities vying for those four teams, Stone said.

Because of that deadline, the project would need an “unconventional” permitting process, to allow traffic mitigation improvements after the stadium is built, which brought objections from planning group board members Marco Sessa and John LaRaia. The board also objected to being left out of the planning process for the project.

“It’s a lot of information that would have been nice if some of us in the planning group had heard about it over the last two years, since I assume it’s been a process for a while,” Sessa said.

The plans to redevelop the Town and Country Hotel site include a new pool experience and courtyard, pictured here. (Courtesy of Lowe Enterprises)

Board member Deborah Bossmeyer asked if the planning group could have more input on the project if it gets approved to ensure that local priorities like schools, housing and traffic issues are considered.

“We, as the community, have ideas of what we need,” she said. “We need workforce housing and the only place where we will be able to leverage that is that Qualcomm site because it is city owned. It’s such a big issue for us.

“Our concern here is that … it feels weird because it’s being rushed,” Bossmeyer added. “To put this deadline on us is disconcerting. So, if there is a way you can involve us in the process we would greatly appreciate it.”

Stone said FS Investors will have several public meetings to answer questions and hold workshops to involve the community in deciding what amenities the parks would have at the site. He also directed residents with questions to a website that has the entire proposal posted at GoalSD.com.

Medical marijuana dispensaries

After the soccer stadium presentation, the board heard from Sean St. Peter who sought approval for a conditional use permit for a medical marijuana dispensary located at 1233 Camino Del Rio South.

St. Peter proposed the dispensary at the February meeting but the board asked him to return with documents showing that the building meets the land use rules restricting marijuana-related businesses 1,000 feet from schools, churches and other community-oriented establishments.

After the board agreed that the building did meet the city’s standards, it narrowly approved the permit with a 9-8 vote. St. Peter will still need approval from the city’s Planning Commission before opening.

Later in the meeting, another dispensary presented before the board. Jim Bartell asked for a permit to open a 4,401-square-foot medical marijuana dispensary at 2425 Camino Del Rio South.

The location also met the city’s land use qualifications and, if approved by the city, will be the fourth dispensary allowed on Camino Del Rio South.

“Perhaps we need to consider changing the name of the street,” quipped Sessa during a deliberation on why Mission Valley seems to be the only place with new dispensaries being considered.

San Diego allows for four dispensaries in each of the council voting districts. Mission Valley incorporates parts of District 3 and District 7. There are two fully-approved dispensaries in the District 3 area and after the March 1 meeting, there are now three dispensaries in the District 7 area that have gotten approval from the Mission Valley Planning Group.

New sidewalks

A city of San Diego Public Works project was approved unanimously by the planning group. The project will improve sidewalks along both sides of Mission Village Drive between Ronda Avenue and Qualcomm Stadium.

The current asphalt sidewalks will be replaced with standard 5-foot-wide concrete sidewalks that will provide “a fully ADA-compliant path of travel,” said project manager Amy Mills.

Old crosswalks will be replaced with high-visibility crosswalks at all intersections as well as replace one non-compliant curb ramp. The sidewalks will also have upgraded storm water gutters.

The project also calls for removing seven trees that are in the path of travel.

Town and Country

The planning group also voted unanimously to approve the plans for the redevelopment of Town and Country Hotel & Convention Center.

Lowe Enterprises Vice President Todd Majcher presented the project to turn the aging resort into a mixed-use development, which will have residential and commercial spaces added to a scaled-back hotel/convention center that will be modernized and given a new look.

The plan also calls for building a park along the San Diego River that was already approved by the planning group.

The master plan for the project will:

  • Reduce hotel rooms from 954 to 700.
  • Build 840 new transportation-oriented residential units.
  • Expand restaurants and retail.
  • Build a unique pool experience for residents and hotel guests.
  • Restore 8.1 acres of natural habitat.
  • Build a 3.31-acre public park.

Traffic is completely mitigated, Majcher said, because the hotel is downsizing and being replaced with residential units, and hotel guests take more trips per day than residents.

—Reach Jeff Clemetson at jeff@sdcnn.com.

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