San Diego narrows field for new arena project

San Diego City Council has voted to move forward with analysis of three proposals for how to redevelop the Sports Arena site in the Midway District, with two projects discarded.

The unanimous vote comes after a Council committee last month indicated a preference to move forward with all five proposals. However, a decision has now been taken to reduce the shortlist in the process to three.

“It’s not clear to me that even if we evaluate all five, it will necessarily make the choice much clearer than it is today,” said Councilmember Stephen Whitburn, according to the Voice of San Diego website. “And the more projects that we advance, the more time it will take and the more money it will cost the city.”

Whitburn stated that state housing officials had stressed that the city must award the project to the developer that proposes the most low-income affordable housing as part of their project. Midway Rising, led by Encinitas-based developer Zephyr, is now said to be the favourite to land the contract because it is proposing 2,000 affordable apartments.

This is more than second-placed Hometown SD, led by the San Diego-based Monarch Group, and Midway Village+, led by Bridge Housing.

The Voice of San Diego said the two proposals dropped were those from bidding teams that didn’t pledge to develop a new arena. Neighborhood Next was said to have promised the most total housing, but was ruled to not have the necessary experience to develop a new arena.

The second bidder, led by real estate company Brookfield Properties, did not provide enough housing. In August 2020, the City of San Diego selected Brookfield and venue management and services firm ASM Global to develop a multi-use district anchored by a new sports arena.

The project was set to see San Diego Sports Arena (pictured), which first opened in 1966, replaced by the new venue, accompanied by a mix of entertainment, housing, parks, and office and retail. The announcement came after a selection committee reviewed and scored two responsive bids to a Request for Proposals (RFP) that was issued in February 2020.

However, this project was stopped in its tracks in June last year. San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria hit out at the administration led by his predecessor, Kevin Faulconer, after being forced to scrap the plans.

Gloria announced that the City received notice from the State of California that the proposed sports arena development would likely be in violation of the Surplus Land Act (SLA). Gloria committed to expeditiously beginning a new bid process for the sports arena site that prioritises affordable housing and complies with state law.

Following the latest news, the City is now planning to hire a consultant to help it analyse each of the three remaining projects in the hope of selecting a winner by December.

Image: Nehrams2020/CC BY-SA 3.0/Edited for size