By DAVE SCHWAB | Mission Times Courier
Stakeholders weighed in on SDSU’s proposed redevelopment plan for Mission Valley’s Qualcomm site at a May 23 dialogue sponsored by Citizens Coordinate For Century 3 (C-3).
The initial plan envisions housing, offices, retail, parks and a new stadium.
The Balboa Park breakfast meeting featured three guest speakers: Rachel Gregg, SDSU director of government & community relations; Mission Valley Community Planning Group chair Jonathon Frankel; and NewSchool of Architecture professor Mike Stepner.
The SDSU West proposal won out over a competing proposal, SoccerCity, in last November’s general election. Voters nixed, by a 69.6% margin, the SoccerCity proposal, while favoring the SDSU West plan by a 54% majority.
The speakers all gave brief presentations before a small-group workshop session.
Cary Lowe, board member for C-3, which is dedicated to preserving the region’s built and natural environment, in introducing Gregg noted she would discuss “the relationship of the university as a whole to the surrounding community.”
“We’re very excited about this project and the outreach with different stakeholders: This is your backyard,” enthused Gregg. “The university is totally interested in developing this project to its highest and best use. We really want folks to understand what our initial plan is, give them the tools they need to be part of the [planning] process and have a voice.”
“Obviously, this is very important to us as community members living across the street from the stadium site,” said Frankel of MVPG, which is completing its community plan update. “It’s really exciting for the future.”
“How do we create a walkable, livable, transit-friendly space in Mission Valley?” asked Frankel.
Characterizing the stadium’s existing trolley station as “one of the most underutilized in the entire network,” Frankel added, “This is a great opportunity to implement the vision of our [new] community plan and really make it a model for urban design and sustainable development, as we look ahead to the next 20, 30 years in Mission Valley.”
Stepner, a former city planner, gave a brief history of Mission Valley, noting it started out as a dairy and agricultural center. “Somewhere along the line we lost that vision,” he said.
The architect described Mission Valley’s subsequent development as “a fragmented and uninspiring image, an uncompleted jigsaw puzzle near impossible to walk.”
Added Stepner, “With a strong vision, this can be not just another development in the valley. This needs to be done with the highest possible architectural and landscape standards to rebuild Mission Valley. We want Mission Valley to be the model for how we do things better.”
The room then broke into small groups to discuss access and mobility, open and public spaces and design principles and concepts for integrating the Qualcomm site into Mission Valley.
One small group included: Mark Carpenter, principal planner of KTUA planning and landscape architectural services firm; Jeff Marston, past president of The California State University Alumni Council; Cary Lowe of C-3; Eduard Schmiege, longtime Tierrasanta resident; and Denise Friedman of Pacific Beach Town Council.
“There’s talk about connecting this site to the city as a whole,” said group leader Lowe. “Any thoughts about the need to improve connectivity?”
“It’s not always easy doing public transportation if you’re older or disabled,” answered Friedman. “Not everybody is a millennial.”
“There’s not been a lot of thought put into what else you could do to direct traffic,” noted Schmiege.
“That’s difficult,” replied Lowe. “Friars Road runs for miles. It’s like a mini freeway.”
Lowe noted another redevelopment challenge is creating a river park through the project site that he said, “Can’t be seen and really doesn’t connect to the river in some way.”
“That is checking the box for open space and adding recreational amenities,” agreed KTUA architect Carpenter who asked, “But is that a proper balance between public versus programming space?”
“I would rather park farther away and walk,” said Marston about proposed underground parking. “What is being looked at is the role of public transit in this. The hope is there’s enough people out there who would take transit so the 4,000 to 5,000 dedicated parking spaces for a particular event is enough.”
Concerning design, Friedman said, “I like tying it in with the architectural style that exists on [the SDSU] campus and making that connection. It looks like this is very dense with buildings, and not much green space and ways to get around. It doesn’t look pedestrian-friendly.”
Lowe discussed the redevelopment project’s timetable.
“First the university has to acquire the property; they’re in negotiations now,” he said. “They hope to have the environmental impact report certified and the deal done by the end of the year.”
Anticipating litigation, which Lowe said will like take “at least a few months to resolve,” he added the plan is to demolish the old stadium and start on the new one “by early next year.”
“Then you have the river park, which has to be in within two years after they break ground on the stadium,” added Lowe. “Then you’ve got the housing. Those [units] would be phased in with demand.”
Following the C-3 breakfast dialogue, both Marston and Schmiege gave their impressions.
“There weren’t any real surprises for me,” said Marston. “People had a bunch of ideas …These included the bridge over the river, bike path down from Normal Heights and adequate parking. …There was also a little grumbling about keeping the stadium and rebuilding it, which actually messes up the whole site plan. That train has left the station. … It was also disappointing to hear that the meetings in council districts, sponsored by council members, are not being well attended.”
“I inspected certain parts of the site [SW and SE corners] and also the south bank,” said Schmiege. “The noise from [Interstate] 8 traffic is extremely high …This section of the freeway is in need of sound protection walls. … Construction of building, homes, offices, stadiums and mobility planning are co-dependent like chicken and egg. We really need to learn, and practice, a holistic and sustainable approach to our precious infrastructure-advancement projects. The plan as presented by SDSU and Mission Valley planning representatives, even at this early state, is meager and lacks bare necessities.”
San Diego Metropolitan Transit System is planning a potential 2020 ballot measure that could impact the SDSU West Plan. Contemplated is a new purple line, a 23-mile trolley extension from South Bay to Kearny Mesa through the 805 and 15 interstates, that could have one or more trolley stops at the Qualcomm site.
— Reach Dave Schwab at email@example.com.