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Sports Arena: San Diego Voters Lean in Favor of Height Limit Removal

Ballot Measure Could Pave Way for Extensive Redevelopment of Aging Facility

By Lou Hirsh CoStar News November 4, 2020 | 9:45 P.M.

Preliminary ballot results showed San Diego voters approving a measure to remove the 30-foot height limit in the city’s Midway District neighborhood, potentially clearing the way for a major mixed-use redevelopment of the aging San Diego Sports Arena. The proposal on the Tuesday ballot as Measure E garnered a 57.2% share of yes votes, versus 42.8% for those voting no on Election Day. San Diego County election officials reported there were still 370,000 mail and absentee ballots still to be counted as of mid-day Wednesday, and it was not immediately known how many of those were from the city of San Diego.

Measure E essentially sought to relieve the 1,300-acre Midway District neighborhood, located about five miles northwest of downtown San Diego, from restrictions that prohibit structures taller than 30 feet in areas deemed part of the local coastal zone. Since the restrictions were put in place by the city in 1972, only SeaWorld San Diego has been granted an exemption in order to construct roller coasters at its Mission Bay park. The Midway measure was a citizen’s initiative put forward earlier this year by a coalition that included Midway residents, civic and business leaders, who said current laws were too restrictive given the neighborhood does not touch the coastline. Proponents said restrictions also prevented the neighborhood from obtaining long-sought affordable housing, office, entertainment and other commercial amenities, along with civic elements, at feasible development densities.

“Voters stood up for a San Diego that welcomes affordable housing, creates more parks and jobs, and breathes new life into a neighborhood that is long overdue for change,” said Matt Awbrey, spokesman for the Yes on Measure E campaign, in a statement. “The community can’t wait to work with its partners to transform Midway and the sports arena into a place that brings pride to San Diego.”

Measure E’s opponents included some city residents and environmental activists. “We believe public land should be used for public purposes. That is our priority,” said a statement from local environmental advocate John McNab, who helped fund the Measure E opposition campaign and heads a nonprofit group known as Save Our Access. Tuesday’s vote if certified would potentially clear the way for a $1 billion redevelopment of the city-owned, 54-year-old sports arena and 48 surrounding acres currently housing older strip retail and industrial properties.

The city earlier this year chose a team led by prominent mixed-use developer Brookfield Properties as part of a competitive proposal process to redevelop the site, and the developer is currently in talks with city staff on specific elements and costs for a project expected to be reviewed before year’s end by San Diego City Council. New York-based Brookfield Properties, among the nation’s largest real estate developers, has put forward a multi-phase proposal in concept that includes more than 2,100 residential units, a hotel and more than 590,000 square feet of retail, office and other commercial space, with 5 acres of parks and recreational space.

Developers were not formally involved in the campaign for Measure E, which was placed on the San Diego ballot before the city’s selection of the Brookfield-led team,. That team includes global stadium operator ASM Global, the venue management arm of Anschutz Entertainment Group.

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