Ballot Measure Could Decide Fate of San Diego Sports Arena Redevelopment

Officials Want Voter Input on Plan to Cut Height Limits, Boost Affordable Housing

By Lou Hirsh CoStar News

June 13, 2020


San Diego officials are considering a ballot measure that would eliminate current building-height limits around San Diego Sports Arena, as the city looks to redevelop the area around the aging venue with affordable housing and other commercial elements.

San Diego City Council's Rules Committee this week approved a measure that could appear on the Nov. 3 ballot if the full City Council supports it later this summer.


The committee voted 3-2 to approve the proposal that would allow voters to decide whether to remove the current 30-foot height limit on projects developed in San Diego's Midway District neighborhood, the site of the 54-year-old arena at 3500 Sports Arena Blvd.


The city two years ago approved a revised development blueprint for the Midway neighborhood, located northwest of downtown San Diego, intended to boost the number of future housing units from 2,000 to 11,000. Supporters said the plan would help address a serious citywide shortage of affordable housing, by allowing the Midway area's population to rise from 4,500 to 27,000.


However, development proponents have said multifamily projects of sufficient size and density cannot be feasibly built under current height limits.


The neighborhood around the sports arena, near Interstate 5, consists primarily of aging retail strip centers and other stand-alone commercial buildings. San Diego officials now want to transform a 100-acre city-owned area, including the arena site and adjacent land, into a more productive hub for housing, employment, entertainment and related business amenities serving the neighborhood.


"This is our opportunity to redevelop the city's properties and the entire community, and to change it from a blighted commercial-industrial zone into a vital community that embodies the city's and the community's vision," said Cathy Kenton, who chairs the city's Midway community planning group, during the June 10 council committee meeting.


San Diego officials last year selected Anaheim Arena Management, which is part of the company that owns professional hockey's Anaheim Ducks and its San Diego Gulls affiliate, to manage the sports arena. That company also manages Honda Center in Anaheim, where talks are underway on potential arena-adjacent commercial development, and is expected to contribute to redevelopment planning as San Diego officials review developer proposals for the local arena site in coming months.


The San Diego effort reflects a nationwide trend of pro sports team and arena operators working with cities to redevelop stadium sites into year-round generators of new revenue, social activity and other community benefits.


Earlier this year, leaders of Major League Baseball's San Diego Padres announced the team is working with developers Tishman Speyer and Cisterra Development on a plan to convert a downtown parking lot near Petco Park stadium into a commercial complex with offices, housing and public space.


That concept is now among several being considered by San Diego officials as part of a competitive proposal submission process for the downtown site, as the city looks to maximize returns on its owned real estate.


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