By Jeff Clemetson | Editor
SDSU engineering students prep west campus design for class project
Ever since the Chargers team announced that it wanted to move into a new stadium — whether in Los Angeles or, preferably, in Downtown San Diego —people have been imagining what to do with the Qualcomm Stadium site.
There have been plenty of ideas for the centrally located property in Mission Valley: Build a more modern Chargers stadium at the site; open up the area to commercial and residential development; make a large central park; and, most recently, expand San Diego State University there to include new classrooms, housing and a smaller stadium for the Aztecs.
The idea for a west campus was endorsed by SDSU president Elliot Hirsham and incorporated as a selling point for Measure D, the so-called Citizen’s Plan for a new Chargers stadium.
Although voters rejected Measure D in November, many people still believe that a west campus for the college is the best use for the property — including two groups of engineering students who recently completed capstone projects that envisioned the new campus.
“I think it’s a great idea, actually. Right now a lot of that land is wasted just on the parking lot so if they would add a parking structure, a lot of that land becomes more useful,” SDSU engineering student Rudy Urzua said. “And it would look a lot nicer. It would be a big improvement.”
Urzua was the project leader for San Diego Urban Engineering, the team name for his group that worked on the west campus plan for the Engineering Capstone Design Class.
“It’s one of the final classes for civil, construction and environmental engineering students at San Diego State,” said adjunct professor John Prince, who oversees the student projects. “The point of the class literally is capstone design; it is for them as teams to tackle a multidisciplinary project.”
For the west campus project, the teams worked from a concept plan that was presented by representatives from JMI Realty, Cruzan Development, Cisterra Development and architects from Carrier Johnson + Culture, and then applied a multidisciplinary approach to solving several engineering issues.
“We took what their ideas were and [designed] the infrastructure for the project,” Urzua said. “So we did the sewer and water distribution and the traffic analysis to make that what they wanted it to be like would work.”
The west campus concept — as envisioned by the development and architecture companies — included a 40,000-seat stadium; 3,900 student apartments; 400 faculty housing units; a 200-room hotel; 630,000 square feet of academic and campus space; 200,000 square feet of commercial space; and 40 acres of open space, part of which would be used for the San Diego River Park project.
There would also be parking lots and two parking structures, although it was discovered that automobile traffic would decrease in the new plan due to the much smaller stadium.
“We found in the traffic analysis that the traffic impact wasn’t really an impact at all,” Urzua said. “Right now the stadium seats 70,000 and the new stadium would only seat 40,000 and then you add on another 10,000 to 15,000 students and faculty daily, so the traffic would increase throughout the week a little, but on a total basis it wouldn’t increase. So there wouldn’t need to be any reason to widen any roads, any lanes or anything like that.”
The same could not be said of the water systems in the west campus plan.
“For that layout, we weren’t able to keep any of the existing storm drainage. The existing storm drains would have been under the proposed buildings so those had to be moved,” said student Kelly Flint, who was the project leader for the team Flint and Sons. “In our project, all of the existing piping for storm drainage would have been excavated and new ones put in.”
Although she found the project “interesting because it had to do with SDSU,” Flint said if this design were to be proposed for real, it would have more issues than just moving all the sewer drainage and water pipes.
“The layout that we were working with, if they were going to go off that, they probably wouldn’t want to go off that one,” she said. “On the site that’s closest to the river there was faculty housing and, according to building codes in San Diego, housing has to be at least two feet above the flood elevation. And in the case of Qualcomm, the flood elevation, I think, is 62 feet or something. The 100-year flood line goes all the way up to the back of the site so it would be better to have office buildings or something other than housing at that part of the site.”
It’s insights from a hands-on project like this that Prince said makes the capstone class invaluable for students.
“This was a cool, local, high-profile, multidisciplinary development to have some students tackle and do some of the more technical engineering analysis behind a development of that nature,” he said.
Although the west campus project was speculative and the work the students did won’t ever be used past getting a grade, there are a growing percentage of student projects in the capstone class that are commissioned by public agencies that want to give student engineers real-world experience.
“What we have a hard time getting for the class are developers, private projects and developers that might want a student group to reach out,” Prince said.
For developers who have a project in mind for students to work on in the capstone class, or to have any questions answered about the program, contact Prince at 619-787-5566 or email@example.com; or contact his co-instructor Jim Haughey at 858-614-5038 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Reach Jeff Clemetson at email@example.com.