Pechanga Arena in the Midway District / Photo by Megan Wood

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Since the mid-60s, my family and I have been working in and advocating for the Midway area. Quite a lot has been said about Midway and its storied past. Now, its future is slated to be much brighter. Through the redevelopment of the Sports Arena site, present and future generations of San Diegans can have the opportunity to live, recreate, and work in an ideal location – if we take the right steps now.

After unexpected mandates from Sacramento, a restarted bidding process and litigation challenges, we are at critical juncture today. Five teams are currently vying for the opportunity to reimagine the 48-acre Sports Arena site, yet it has been recommended to narrow the list down to three bidders.

It’s far too early to cut any one of the teams from this process. The San Diego City Council should move forward with a thorough analysis of all five proposals before shortening down the list, similar to what was recommended by the City Council Land Use & Housing Committee last month

If we have learned anything from past real estate debacles, it is that a thorough vetting of all options must take place sooner rather than later. As has been said, anything can be promised in a response to a request for proposals, which is not even close to conducting a comprehensive analysis. We must make decisions based on facts and data, not just pretty pictures, to avoid another “San Diego Special.”  

Due dilliegence, feasibility testing, community consistency and economic study are the ingredients for understanding the right team and proposal to select for this opportunity.

Without financial analysis of each bidder, their partners, and their plans, we cannot be assured we have the best partner. The community, the city, and the region need and want to see this project completed. Limiting the options at this point could potentially result in making the wrong choice and upend the all the progress we’ve made.

As a current member and the immediate past Chair of the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group, I am firmly committed to supporting the successful redevelopment of the Sports Arena site and the revitalization of the entire Midway area. I am also a staunch supporter of creating abundant new housing here as has been contemplated in our Community Plan since the comprehensive update in 2018.

The Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan calls for approximately 10,000 new residential units to be built across the entire community. Some of the Sports Arena proposals have inflated unit counts and some prescribe up to 5,000 units on the Sports Arena site alone. It would appear these plans are not compatible with the density or supporting infrastructure approved in the growth-focused Community Plan.

Without a more substantative review, we do not know the impacts of each proposal on providing affordable housing in the rest of the Midway area and across the entire region. It’s uncertain if proposals will suck all the City’s resources from creating affordable housing elsewhere, require significant taxpayer subsidies or if these “promises” are even financially feasible. We want to see affordable housing delivered across all of San Diego and our community is ready to do our part.

San Diego is our City. We need to establish what is right for our residents and, if necessary, stand up and fight for what is best. I understand the Surplus Lands Act process needs to be appropriately followed, but it should always be done with an eye toward what is the best for the City of San Diego, not just getting Sacramento’s approval. Fortunately, San Diego’s leadership has forged excellent relationships with Sacramento. Now it’s time to leverage those relationships to do what is best for San Diegans.

Midway needs help now. From strip joints to graffiti to brazen physical assaults on residents and visitors, the Midway area is crying out for a new beginning. The Sports Arena redevelopment project is the centerpiece of the effort to create a renewed community in one of San Diego’s most central areas.

We can’t afford to make another mistake. We must get the redevelopment of the Sports Arena site done correctly this time around. Let’s put in the work today and put each proposal to the full test, so we can ultimately deliver on our shared dream to revitalize the Midway community.

Cathy Kenton

Cathy Kenton is lifelong San Diego resident and business owner. She is a member and immediate Past Chair of the Midway-Pacific Highway Planning Group.

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  1. Excellent letter, and extremely important advice.
    Thanks, Cathy!

  2. I agree but San Diego still needs a state-of-the-art Sports Arena together with affordable housing! We need another NBA franchise and possible NHL franchise too! Dan Smiechowski D2 SDCC Candidate

  3. Cathy Kenton does not live in San Diego. She actually lives in Del Mar not San Diego. Her only ties to Midway is through her real-estate company. She will benefit financially if the 30 foot height limit is removed. No one is arguing that midway needs to be redeveloped but how we do it matters and removing the 30 foot height limit is irresponsible.

    1. You should get your facts straight before commenting. My mailing address is Del Mar, but we live in the city limits of San Diego.

      My family works in Midway and this article has nothing to do with the 30’ height limit.

  4. Cathy Kenton lives in La Jolla and her company has multiply property holdings in the Midway District. She led the community plan update process that upzoned the whole Midway District and supported the ballot measure to repeal the city’s coastal zone height limits in the Midway District. The value of her land holdings in the district increased with the new community plan and would increase further if the coastal zone height limit were undone.

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