By Ry Rivard
[Editor’s note: This article first appeared on the Voice of San Diego website on March 6.]
San Diego State University has spent about $1.6 million crafting its vision for the old Qualcomm Stadium site.
That spending – on architects, real estate and stadium experts, a public relations firm and a veteran political operative – helped boost the university’s Mission Valley expansion plans before last fall’s election. After seeing and hearing from the university about what it could do with the stadium site, voters approved a ballot measure that essentially forces the city to sell land to SDSU.
During the campaign, the university had to dance a fine line. As a general rule, public agencies like SDSU cannot spend public money to urge people to vote for or against a ballot measure, unless the spending is explicitly authorized by law, the California Supreme Court has ruled. There’s no hard and fast rule about what is OK, because the court said that depends on the “style, tenor and timing” of information coming from a public agency.
Documents released by the university in response to a public records request by Voice of San Diego drive home just how close to the line SDSU went – one political consultant did work for SDSU right up until he joined a campaign trying to get land for the university. And though the records shed light on how the university spent $1.6 million creating the plans, officials will not clarify where the money came from.
A year before the vote, the university released a plan for what it would do with the land, if the measure passed. The plan included a new stadium, a river park, more space for research and thousands of new housing units. It continued to release new renderings of plans for the site in the months leading up to the vote.
To read the rest of the article, visit voiceofsandiego.org/topics/education/docs-shed-light-on-sdsu-mission-valley-spending.
—Ry Rivard is a reporter for Voice of San Diego. He writes about water and power. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619-550-5665.