The San Diego City Council on Tuesday will consider Mayor Todd Gloria’s recommendation for the development project in the Midway neighborhood that includes the Sports Arena area, even as a campaign donation two years ago makes the situation more complicated.
The City Council’s Land Use and Housing Committee approved the Gloria- recommended “Midway Rising” project from the council’s shortlist of three to redevelop the 48.5-acre site in the Midway-Pacific Highway Community.
Midway Rising is proposing 4,250 new homes — 2,000 affordable, 250 middle-income, and 2,000 market rate; a 450,000 square foot arena with capacity for 14,500-16,500 people; a 200-room hotel and 250,000 square feet of retail and more than 11 acres of park and open space along with a 9.4-acre public plaza.
“I’m excited to announce that I am recommending an exclusive negotiation agreement with Midway Rising to redevelop the Sports Arena property,” Gloria said last week. “After a transparent process in accordance with state regulations, I am confident Midway Rising will deliver on my vision of creating thousands of new affordable and middle-income homes, good-paying local jobs, and a new world-class arena and entertainment district.
“This project represents big city energy and I look forward to getting this done for the Midway community and our city,” Gloria said.
The project is headed by local developer Zephyr Partners — along with larger partners Chelsea Investment Corporation and Legends Global, responsible for the project’s affordable housing and arena, respectively. Zephyr will construct market-rate housing if approved by the council.
However, developer Brad Termini, founder and owner of Zephyr, gave $100,000 to Gloria’s 2020 mayoral campaign and had not disclosed 10 lawsuits his company has been embroiled in over unrelated development projects.
An article published last week in La Prensa pointed out the concerns, which is leading transparent government groups to cry foul.
“Something is not right and it’s time for the San Diego City Council to ask the hard questions before millions of public dollars are wasted,” wrote the leaders of Alliance San Diego, Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans, Think Dignity, San Diego Housing Emergency Alliance and others in a joint statement. “All indications point to a lack of meaningful due diligence, which could jeopardize the future of this project and the benefit to our communities, including the viable development of much needed housing, including affordable housing.”
The selection of a developer for an arena project will be moot, however, if San Diego voters do not pass Measure C this November, which would raise the 30-foot building height limit in the Midway District. It is the second attempt to increase the height limit in that neighborhood after a judge ruled the first ballot measure in 2020 illegal.
Last September, the City Council voted unanimously to declare the Sports Arena site as surplus land under the definition spelled out by the California Department of Housing and Community Development. The declaration also includes a condition that states the “future development include renovation or replacement of the city’s current sports arena on the property as a regional entertainment venue and operation of that venue for concerts, sports and other events, consistent with similar arenas in large cities in the United States.”
In May of this year, the council then trimmed down a shortlist of five to the current one of three, which includes the Gloria-favored Midway Rising as well as Midway Village+ and Hometown SD.
Developers had to mark 25% of proposed housing units as affordable and preference was given to developers with the highest number of proposed affordable units and the highest levels of affordability.
Redevelopment of the Sports Arena site is included as part of Midway- Pacific Highway Community Plan update, which was started in 2010 and serves as a blueprint for the future development of the neighborhood. The plan envisions the Sports Arena Community Village, which would incorporate a mix of entertainment, office, retail, residential, public and park uses.