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I realize I can’t propose 6,000 new residential units in Mission Valley without many in the community asking if that’s a typo.
The mixed-use development I proposed as part of Councilman Scott Sherman’s plan for the 166-acre Qualcomm stadium site included that unit count, along with 3 million square feet of office space and a more modest amount of retail and hotel space.
But the truth is, even with a new stadium built on about 60 of those acres, this is a site that could help San Diego become a true 21st century city. Here’s why:
• It is large, flat and ready, so it’s an easily developable site.
• It has a riverfront. That waterfront aspect will serve as a “premium” to the mixed-use development, creating value and recovering the riverfront.
• It’s adjacent to freeways and on a trolley stop. Creating access to the site from the freeways is a considerable, expensive but not insurmountable challenge. The opportunity to connect directly to those freeways is tremendously appealing, and the existence of the trolley stop makes it a transit-oriented project as well.
• It’s located in the geographic center of San Diego County. As such, the site will be tremendously attractive to employers, residents and shoppers.
Perhaps the best way to think about the project is as a new destination. The potential revenues from commercial and residential rents would rival or exceed those of other high-end markets in the region, such as UTC and Carmel Valley.
This is an opportunity to take the city’s largest, undeveloped real estate asset and turn it into a financial boon to taxpayers. I’m suggesting we think big. This project is the very epitome of the “city of villages” planning concept that San Diego set out to achieve in its General Plan. If any site deserves intense development, this is it.
Now, to be sure, there are issues, not the least of which is traffic. But traffic and other development issues are part of the ordinary tension surrounding all large real estate development. An actual plan would have to be vetted by all concerned parties, public and private. But that shouldn’t stop us from beginning that process.
Various Mission Valley projects now in the pipeline might add over 10,000 units. But most of those are toward the west side of Mission Valley, which could be considered a separate planning focus from the stadium’s location on the east side. In fact, the Qualcomm site probably ought to be given “standalone” status by virtue of its lack of contiguity to these other projects. Its very size merits separate consideration.
SANDAG tells us our region is going to need more than 230,000 housing units to accommodate population growth expected for 2030. Mission Valley is a prime candidate for a big share of that development. The growth is inevitable. We have to build homes, find better and alternative ways for those folks to get around or co-locate jobs and housing.
This is exactly what we’re suggesting for the Qualcomm site. It can be accomplished with or without a Chargers stadium there. Even if the Chargers move north to L.A., we can at least thank them for finally bringing the development potential of the Qualcomm property front and center on our planning agenda.
Gary London is president of the London Group, a real estate consulting and feasibility firm in San Diego. He worked on the financing plan for Councilman Scott Sherman’s Mission Valley proposal. London’s commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.