Proposed plans for SDCCU Stadium development utilize natural resource for community benefit
By Sara Butler | Editor
JMI Realty and Carrier Johnson took the floor at the Nov. 1 meeting of the Mission Valley Planning Group (MVPG) to discuss the ongoing San Diego State University (SDSU) proposal to develop the San Diego County Credit Union (SDCCU) Stadium, which was the former Qualcomm site.
JMI Realty, a real estate investment and development company, was hired by SDSU to conduct an initial site planning effort for the SDCCU site. The realty group engaged, on behalf of SDSU, with architecture and design company Carrier Johnson to work on a master vision for the area.
Senior Vice President Jim Chatfield represented JMI Realty, while Design Principle Gordon Carrier attended on behalf of Carrier Johnson. The pair confirmed they are working directly with SDSU, not Friends of San Diego State.
Friends of San Diego State is a coalition of SDSU alumni, community and business leaders dedicated to a Nov. 2018 ballot initiative for an expansion of the campus. This group operates independently of the university.
They also clarified that the SDSU initiative is separate from the initial site planning effort. The initiative would allow SDSU to purchase the land; if passed, the proposed plan could then move forward.
Their presentation focused on what they claimed was one of the most important factors of the site: The San Diego River.
“The San Diego River [and] the hydrology for the site are really the foundation of a site planning effort,” Chatfield said. “We are passionate about working with the [San Diego] River and creating a great open space. Everything kind of follows after that. If we can get those right, we think that we’ll come up with a campus plan that works for everybody and is great for the community.”
Carrier discussed the earlier years of the site area and presented a series of old photographs, which dated back to the 1930s. He emphasized looking at the history of the region when considering future development.
They hope an emphasis on open space will bring the community together as well as solve prior issues facing Mission Valley, such as flooding from the San Diego River.
“It seemed to us, if there was a place to start thinking about the way to re-envision this land, it would start with understanding how open space and potentially the idea of hydrology could live very closely together,” Carrier said. “That open space could be the very park space [important to] the River Conservancy and River Foundation.”
They also stressed utilizing Mission Valley’s centeredness and improving transportation, such as mass transit and highway connections.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if people had the ability to access both the development of the site […] and the park space, so that they felt like not only are they physically connected, but they’re pedestrian connected?” he continued. “In other words, people get to use both and there’s an obvious connection between the two.”
“I would love someday to ride my bike – I live in Kensington – from that area all the way to the [San Diego] River,” Chatfield later added.
SDSU’s plan had been seen by some community members primarily as an alternative to compete with SoccerCity. Although the stadium was addressed at the meeting, their presentation emphasized creating a “campus in a park” with a variety of uses.
In addition to the multi-use stadium site for SDSU Aztec football, Major League Soccer and a future NFL team, the developers intend to offer an array of other resources for Mission Valley.
These uses include a SDSU campus expansion, housing, retail, hotel, recreation center, transit, community parks, a dog park, and hike and park trails. However, their site development plan is not limited to these potential amenities; Chatfield and Carrier strongly encouraged a collaborative process with the community to discuss other ideas.
A SDSU student voiced concern that the plan prioritized other elements before the Aztec football stadium.
“That’s not true, but if we want to have a home for Aztec football, we’ve got to have a comprehensive plan here that works – [that] works for the community, works for the region, [and] works for everybody,” Chatfield said.
Other comments from the public and MVPG board members included concerns about traffic mitigation and parking, which Chatfield and Carrier assured would be handled in the plan.
Board members also inquired about addressing homelessness in the riverbed and potentially implementing a water treatment facility. While the developers were not sure about these possibilities, Chatfield said that they were “open to looking at anything that makes sense [for the site].”
JMI Realty, Carrier Johnson and SDSU’s site planning effort, along with a financial package, will be out by the end of 2017. The planning group asked the developers to come back again to their upcoming Jan. 3, 2018 meeting once the plan proposal is released, which they accepted upon checking their schedules.
— Sara Butler is the editor of Mission Valley News. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.