Photo by Dustin Michelson

On June 6, 1963, President John F. Kennedy delivered a commencement address to San Diego State College, now San Diego State University, before 30,000 people at the Aztec Bowl. “You recognize that a free society places burdens upon any free citizens,” Kennedy said. “To govern is to choose and the ability to make those choices wisely and responsibly and prudently implies the best of all of us.”

Those words and their influence resonate today more than ever as our city weighs options for the future of the Mission Valley stadium site. That is why, after careful thought and consideration, we are proud to voice our strong support for the visionary SDSU West initiative.

SDSU West is the only initiative that balances the long-term economic interests and needs of our region with the university’s need to grow and prosper. It is also notably the only initiative strong enough to earn unprecedented bipartisan support from our region’s leaders and groups.

In the past few weeks alone, SDSU West has earned the endorsement of the Sierra Club and Lincoln Club, two groups at opposite ends of the political spectrum. Several prominent SDSU alumni organizations, business organizations, political clubs and planning groups have also joined the wave of support for SDSU West, from the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce to the Firefighters Association.

Over its 120-year history, San Diego State University has distinguished itself as a leader in academic innovation, and is a strong economic engine that keeps our region running. Nearly 15 percent of college graduates in San Diego hold a degree from SDSU. The university generates $5.67 billion in economic impact and supports 12,800 jobs annually throughout San Diego and Imperial counties. SDSU researchers rank among the best in the nation and, last year alone, they secured approximately $134 million in funding and 783 research grants. The university has also completed more than $650 million worth of capital improvement projects on the mesa.

Without further critical investments to guarantee the university’s ability to expand, its full potential cannot be reached. SDSU’s growth is constrained by its landlocked campus and enrollment is capped at 35,000 students. Each year SDSU is forced to turn away top talent as it struggles to accommodate demand. SDSU West changes that course, which has been officially recognized by the California State University Board of Trustees.

SDSU West unlocks the potential for the land-constrained SDSU, helping the regional powerhouse reach more students and have an even bigger impact on the greater community. The university’s bold plan to develop a world-class research and innovation center, stadium and river park is unrivaled and emboldens our city to continue on its path as a driver of innovation and opportunity.

This development is more than a school expansion — it will enable crucial public-private partnerships in educational research centers, developments and retail, seamlessly integrating the university into the existing community.

SDSU West offers an opportunity that matches San Diego’s unique character and empowers San Diegans by leaving the details of the plan to those who call San Diego home.

The initiative only authorizes the sale of land to the university, who must then develop a plan for the site through an open and transparent planning process with ample opportunities for public input and environmental review. This means that those who understand our city best — our residents — will have the chance to write this next chapter.

We’re proud to stand behind SDSU West as the best deal for the city we call home alongside a broad and diverse support group. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform a treasured site into a world-class hub of academics, invention and sports that will foster a new age of partnership and growth for San Diego.

As JFK implored the graduates of SDSU 55 years ago, we have the ability to choose responsibly. Let’s choose responsibly and support SDSU West come November. Decades, and even centuries from now, we can herald this choice as one of or city’s highest achievements.

Barbara Bry is San Diego City Council President Pro Tem representing District 1. Lorie Zapf is the San Diego City Councilmember representing District 2. Peter Andersen is chair of Sierra Club San Diego and a professor emeritus at San Diego State University. Paul Robinson is chair of the Lincoln Club of San Diego County, practices land use, environmental and governmental law at Hecht Solberg Robinson Goldberg & Bagley LLP and is an alumnus of San Diego State University.

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