In the 11 months since SoccerCity kicked off on the deck of the Midway, I’ve kept my eye on weather vanes to see which way the wind is blowing.
I’ve watched for Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s pivot away from his support for the SoccerCity initiative that hands control of the city’s Mission Valley stadium land to FS Investors.
Knowing insiders tell me that the mayor, an Aztec alum, is waiting for the SDSU counter-initiative, which is gathering signatures now, to qualify for the ballot. Then, I’m told, he’ll stake out a measured position befitting a city mayor, not a shill for private investors.
Well, we’ll see.
Another windsock I’ve been monitoring, one that not long ago blew me away, has changed direction in dramatic fashion.
Adam Day is the son of towering former SDSU president Tom Day. He’s a State grad. Notably, the lone San Diego trustee on the 23-campus California State University board.
Moreover, he was the chairman of a 2015 mayoral task force that developed (in vain) a plan to make Mission Valley work long-term for the Chargers.
Last spring, I called Day to get his reaction to the FS takeover of land that the university has long coveted for a campus just a few trolley stops away.
I was expecting Day to say something like this: “As an Aztec For Life, as the son of Tom Day, as a CSU trustee, SoccerCity is the option of last resort.”
Instead, Day seemed focused on the partnership State and FS Investors once contemplated. Despite SDSU’s resistance, he appeared impressed by the apparent popularity of the SoccerCity initiative.
“Have you seen the polling?” he asked me.
(I had seen it but doubted the ginned-up fervor in the absence of a State-centric alternative.)
Day also expressed doubts that State could develop a financially feasible roadmap to grow its student body beyond its current borders.
Bottom line, he sounded like someone who could applaud a second-fiddle State deal with FS Investors.
I hung up wondering who was blowing in the ear of this fellow I’ve often thought could be a county supervisor someday.
On Monday, a few days after State rolled out its site plan, I called Day for his current assessment.
Well, he told me, of the two initiatives evidently headed for the 2018 ballot, one is clearly superior to the other.
Which one? I wondered.
“They put meat on the bones,” Day continued, breaking the suspense.
San Diego’s CSU trustee is now all in for his alma mater.
About SoccerCity, Day sounded dismissive, noting that the initiative had been fashioned behind closed doors, a civic negative.
Wow, I thought.
The wind really has shifted.
A year ago, SoccerCity was betting on shock and awe. The calculation was that FS Investors, linking arms with a mayor desperate for a shiny sports trophy, would rush in and seize the land in the bitter backwash of the Chargers betrayal.
It was even assumed the City Council would approve the initiative outright, sparing the city the time-consuming formality of a public vote.
Like the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the initial reports were ecstatic.
Signatures gathered at record pace! Polls show overwhelming support!
SDSU was frozen wide-eyed in the lights of the FS blitz.
Thanks, however, to the determined leadership of interim SDSU President Sally Roush and a legion of bellicose alumni, State bought time to seize its own initiative.
Now, judging by one symbolically important weather vane, the university has the wind at its back in full daylight.
A brutalist footnote: Largely downplayed in both initiatives is the concrete elephant in the valley, a massive 50-year-old cultural touchstone of San Diego, one of only two local designs to receive prestigious AIA awards. (Salk Institute is the other.)
The blithe assumption that the stadium will be expeditiously razed to make way for a sparkling jv stadium on the periphery is an environmental miscalculation as naive as the political assumption that FS Investors would be greeted like liberators.
San Diego architects like David Marshall and Jack Carpenter predict that demolishing the manifestly historic stadium is going to be much more costly, and take years longer, than both initiatives anticipate.
In their view, removal of the awful seating additions (to satisfy the Chargers) and reworking the original stadium structure will prove to be the economic, legally defensible, aesthetically pleasing and least environmentally disruptive solution.
All those pretty renditions with a stadium off to the side?
In good time, gone with the wind.