The majority of VOSD readers never leave comments or even read the comments left under our stories. But there is a small, dedicated and sometimes feisty bunch who do take the time to ask questions, share thoughts or challenge the reporting or others’ responses to it.
What follows are the 10 pieces we published this year that garnered the most robust comment sections. Many of them were opinion pieces, which in turn, generated more opinions. Some of the comments have been lightly edited for style and clarity.
The Great Convadium Debate
Far and away, the topic that got people commenting the most was the convadium, the Chargers’ pitch for a stadium and convention center mashup that was firmly squashed by voters in November. For those interested in rehashing the ol’ convadium debate, take a gander at the fiery opinions left by VOSD commenters under these articles and op-eds:
Dean Plassaras and others who read through the Chargers’ hotel tax hike plan for the first time quickly predicted the convadium’s eventual fate:
“This plan as well as similar plans will fail. Spanos has only one real option: To stay in a renovated “Q” paid for 100 percent by his and NFL’s money.”
Of course, the mayor did eventually come out in support of the convadium, but for an excruciatingly long time he kept his opinion to himself, leaving some to assume he’d never back it.
“The city has more important things to invest money in than a stadium for eight home games per year. Qualcomm can get a fresh coat of paint and work just fine, or the Chargers can leave San Diego. In the meantime fiscally responsible adults need to step forward from the mayor down to the voting public to ensure this stupid idea dies at the ballot box. I applaud Mayor Faulconer for treating this as it should be, a bad idea for San Diego.”
Not everyone agreed with Councilman Scott Sherman’s unfavorable opinion about the convadium. Dan McLellan said the convention center annex would’ve been a huge boon for downtown San Diego. Plus, he took up the Chargers’ favored argument and said the public money was coming out of tourists’ pockets, so San Diegans shouldn’t worry about it:
“The plan the Chargers have presented is more than fair because it proposes to build a stadium that will be used 200-250 times a year, not the 10 to 20 times that would have occurred in Mission Valley. The Chargers and the NFL will put $650 million of real private money into the project. This will pay for the vast majority of the actual construction cost of the new stadium. The remaining public share of the project will be paid for with mostly out of town dollars via the TOT.”
Some of the comments on retired journalist Tim O’Reiley’s op-ed railing against the convadium illustrate the great divide between those who backed the Chargers’ plan and those who didn’t:
By the time San Diego Rep. Scott Peters’ op-ed laying out his support for a stadium ran in August, the convadium’s opponents had begun to articulate why they thought a downtown stadium was such a bad idea for development downtown.
“Mr. Peters, as well as most of our sports writers confuse (I am being kind) football stadiums and baseball parks. Convention centers and ball parks can be designed to enhance growth in the surrounding area. Petco is a good example. Stadiums on the other hand are massive, inwardly oriented by definition, and are not urban catalysts. That is why San Francisco, Los Angeles and even Phoenix put their stadiums in Mission Valley-like locations. Use all of the architectural lipstick you like, but a NFL stadium is still a 4.5-block-long monolithic wall in the middle of an important up-and-coming neighborhood with over 3,000 residential units permitted or under construction. Would you want the stadium 80 feet from your house?”
There’s Still Fire for Filner
Not surprisingly, when former Mayor Bob Filner decided to talk to us earlier this year about veteran homelessness and other things, it riled readers. Most used the article as a forum to express their continued frustrations with the mayor who left office in disgrace.
“I am so angry with Bob Filner I want to slap his face! We had a real chance to do something progressive in our town, after fighting for it forever, and he blew it with his adolescent sexual meanderings.”
The Real Meaning of Traffic Relief
VOSD’s Fact Checks, which take a statement and methodically flesh out their level of truthiness, almost always spur big debates. This year, the Fact Check that led to the longest discussion was of a claim made by the San Diego Association of Governments, which said Measure A would relieve traffic congestion. We found that SANDAG thinks of traffic relief differently than a typical commuter might. Some commenters like Chris Brewster agreed with our assessment:
“I think many of those of us who have lived in San Diego for any significant period of time would observe these findings to be true. Congestion hasn’t improved substantially as more roads have been built. One exception is the HOV lanes.”
Others like Richard Rider didn’t:
“If we don’t think that more lanes and bigger highways will reduce congestion, then we we can close half the current highway lanes with no increase in congestion, right? That’s the obvious (and incredibly flawed) inference.”
The Spending at San Diego City Schools
Man, folks really don’t like it when school districts don’t fund the type of projects they said they would. Many commenters like Michele Engel said they voted yes on Proposition Z and Proposition S, the two local ballot measures that pumped billions into local schools, but would vote no on similar measures in the future:
“I am utterly dismayed to learn now that the money has not achieved the results that were promised. I care a great deal about public education and, in fact, earned my bachelors degree in education with a certificate to teach in secondary schools. Since then, the situation in public schools has gone from bad to worse. I’m an advocate of charter schools and a voucher system. May the best schools win.”
A Fatal Shooting, and a Flawed Response
San Diego is not immune to the national tension between law enforcement officers and community members, particularly when the latter is killed by the former. Scott Lewis reflected on the fatal shooting of Fridoon Nehad, and the ways in which District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis’ treatment of the evidence and her public statements against Nehad shaped perceptions about the case.
The comments, which include several responses from Lewis, range from those blaming Dumanis over her treatment of the case to those blaming VOSD and other news outlets that won a court order forcing a video of the fatal shooting to be made public.
A tiny piece of Mr. Roboto’s criticism:
“The appropriate place for this evidence to be released is at trial where all evidence will be considered fairly within the confines of our legal system. You only have yourselves to blame for how this has played out.”
And tiny part of Lewis’ response:
“I can’t force her to do anything, though I appreciate the flattery as to my vast powers. She made a presentation and I criticized it.”
A Height Fight in North Park
This op-ed arguing against increased density in North Park by Stephen Hon, president of the North Park Historical Society, drew some familiar battle lines: NIMBYs vs. YIMBYs.
Beans likes the neighborhood the way it is:
“The problem is that the part of town that is affected by the density bonus plan is entirely within residential streets, containing >200 single family homes. The area is a very pleasant community and walkable as it is now. There are Victorian homes, bungalow courts and many small bungalows built in the early 1900s.”
Brian Edmonston thinks it needs to grow:
“If this is an example of the type of housing you wish to protect I just can’t agree. These houses are not practical and while some my call them cute they are really just a step above mobile homes. You need more density to create enough economic activity to make it a great community to live in. You should focus on controlling how that density comes about, rather than trying to fight it altogether.”