Pechanga Arena in the Midway District / Photo by Megan Wood

It’s official. The city’s effort to redevelop the Sports Arena site is now a San Diego Special.

On the podcast this week, our editors Scott Lewis, Andrew Keatts and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña discussed the latest on the redevelopment of the Sports Arena site and how the city’s effort to narrow the list of bidders has failed. 

If you’re just now tuning in, here’s the tl/dr version of events: 

  • The city owns 50 acres or so of land in the Midway District where the Sports Arena is located. Five developers submitted proposals for what they would do with that land. 
  • City staff wanted to narrow that list down to three, prioritizing affordable housing. Note: State law requires cities to prioritize affordable housing developers when selling or leasing this sort of land. 
  • Those top three choices also happened to include a brand new arena in their proposals, while the other two would have only rehabilitated the current one.
  • Last week, the City Council’s Land Use and Housing Committee voted 3-1 to instead recommend the City Council go forward and analyze all of the bidders in depth.  

“You can promise anything in response to a request for proposal,” Keatts said on this week’s podcast. “Putting together a package of pretty pictures that says what you’re going to do is a far cry from conducting a rigorous economic feasibility study.” 

A study like this, he explained, would demonstrate that there’s going to be a market for the things developers say they’re going to do, that the plan would provide sufficient profitability and that a project doesn’t borrow from other affordable housing that would already be provided elsewhere in the city, among other things. 

“And so we are at the point where everyone is conceding that up until now, this has been a kind of a game of charades,” said Keatts. 

As Lewis explained in the Politics Report, following last week’s decision to move forward with all of the bids, the city will probably not be able to narrow the bidders down to one as they had hoped before the November election. And that means none of the bidders are going to be especially motivated to help the city pass another ballot measure to exempt the Midway neighborhood from the 30-foot coastal height limit on construction.   

“That’s why I think this was such a massive rebuke of the mayor, because his entire plan now for getting this over the finish line has been scuttled,” said Lewis on the podcast. “And that’s why I think this is now officially a San Diego Special, because this will be the third time that this whole thing has been scuttled and has to be restarted.” 

Listen to the full conversation about the Sports Arena site here.

In case you’re wondering: San Diego Special is a term coined by now-Mayor Todd Gloria to refer to long-running civic conundrums that have festered without resolution as a result of a lack of leadership and vision. We did a whole series on those issues here

Here’s a recap of what else we learned this week: 

  1. Mayor Todd Gloria signed off on an eviction moratorium meant to protect tenants who aren’t behind on rent. It’ll go into effect on May 22 and will bar landlords in the city of San Diego from forcing out tenants to take properties off the market or make significant upgrades not ordered by government agencies or that tenants have agreed to. 
  2. Officials in Southern California took the unprecedented step of declaring a water shortage emergency and restricting outdoor watering to one day a week. The restrictions will take effect in parts of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties, but not San Diego. That’s because we get our water from a different source, as MacKenzie Elmer explains
  3. Former San Diego real estate chief Cybele Thompson testified under oath last month about the city’s 101 Ash St. fiasco. She broke several bombshells, including that the city “cut corners” on renovations and that former Mayor Kevin Faulconer spent more on the building to avoid political criticism. Lisa Halverstadt obtained a draft transcript of Thompson’s deposition. 
  4. And finally, this wild story: A senior care nonprofit based in Escondido sold a house to a friend of one of the charity’s leaders for $150,000. He made money selling it quickly to another acquaintance for a lot more, who sold it again for even more. Will Huntsberry joined the VOSD Podcast to explain what happened. 

If you’re like me and enjoy reading your news in short bites, check out a new feature we have called 2-Minute Reads. Each day we’re rounding up quick news updates from our staff that, you guessed it, can be read in two minutes or less. 

Read These Comments  

On the city’s decision to stop enforcing its ban on vehicle dwellers … 

“These poor people have absolutely nothing but what’s in their motorhomes. Maybe now set up a safe space with hook-ups for them to live.” – Bil Brierley 

“This is not a healthy living situation for anybody, and particularly not for the elderly or disabled. If we cannot address this through the provision of affordable housing (and it is increasingly apparent that we cannot, for whatever reason), then alternate forms of housing should be provided, either in shelters or ‘safe’ campsites.” – Paul Webb 

Want to meet our staff? We’ll be at Cafe X in Sherman Heights this Wednesday at 10 a.m. Our editors will be leading a discussion about this year’s election and some of the stories we’re following at Voice. You can register for free as a member — or sign up and become a member at the same time. 

Megan is Voice of San Diego’s director of marketing. She is responsible for producing and overseeing strategies that extend the reach of the organization....

Join the Conversation


  1. I think the City sure build also build a Recreation for senior citizens like a place to play bingo other games have a coffee social like a place for meeting and many more ideals. Thank you Anita Sherer

    1. You are correct Mme. This is why I am the ONLY candidate to write your wishes on my ballot statement as a candidate for D2 SDCC. Except the voters always play the Johns in a high stakes game of political prostitution. My opponents with their unlimited finances obviously don’t care about the voters, just about being elected without regard for political truth. Dan Smiechowski D2 SDCC candidate 858 405 5118

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