A rendering of Midway Rising
A rendering of Midway Rising. / Rendering by Safdie Rabines Architects courtesy of Midway Rising

The San Diego City Council voted unanimously Monday to throw out its committee’s recommendation that the council force staff to study all five teams that applied for the chance to redevelop the city’s nearly 50 acres of land in Midway. The list staff must study will go down to three. 

And really, city staff clarified that this is now the top bidder’s deal to lose. Midway Rising, the partnership led by Chelsea Investment Corp. and the developer Zephyr, promised the most affordable housing units and must be prioritized by the city, the Council decided. Two others: HomeTownSD and Midway Village+ will also be studied in depth by city staff and a consultant the city is hiring. If Midway Rising is not able to deliver or other flaws are found, the city will go down the list respectively. 

The two bidding teams that did not promise to build a wholly new arena on the land were dropped, one explicitly because city staff decided it didn’t have the experience necessary to build a new arena. That bid, Neighborhood Next, promised the most total housing. The other because it did not provide enough housing. 

That bid was led by Brookfield, which had won a previous contest to develop the land. But it was thrown out after the city realized it must follow a new state law on how to use land it plans to sell or lease. It must prioritize affordable housing when deciding what to do with the land. 

The city decided it would also require a new sports arena on the land. Brookfield’s leaders had pointed out that if the city didn’t fully study each proposal, the public would never know if a rival’s promise of more affordable units was something guaranteed not to pull public funds from other housing efforts.

Council flipped: Three Councilmembers had voted in committee to study all five bids in depth. All three changed their votes to allow for a shortlist. Councilman Stephen Whitburn said he decided it would take too long to do that. 

“These projects are going to continue to evolve and financing required for them is going to continue to evolve,” he said. Thus, it may not even help to have all the information available before deciding on a shorter list.

Remember: All of the plans are still illegal. The three bidders propose new buildings and an arena that violate the 30-foot height limit on construction west of Interstate 5. The vote on Measure E to lift that for Midway was thrown out by a judge awaiting appeal. It wasn’t explicitly stated but part of the reason to study just three was likely to get down to one to support a new election campaign so the winning bidder could help make the case to voters again before the year is over.

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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  1. This is Dan Smiechowski a candidate for D2 SDCC and unlike my opponents, I support full throttle a new state of the art Sports Arena as a testament to America’s Finest City. I am the ONLY candidate who 56 years ago attended almost all San Diego Rocket games plus PHL Gulls. San Diego will bring back the NBA and even an NHL franchise. Residents living in low-income housing nearby must be afforded special perks especially children and old folks like me by way of free Arena tickets. As kids we took the bus to the circus in the Midway area and were the greatest sports fans. WE NEED THIS!! Stop sweating over EIR’s and other stuff. That is why we have professional staff, engineers, planning directors and so on. I have faith in these good people. Do you? Let’s go Rockets! Dan Smiechowski D2 SDCC Candidate

  2. The Midway Rising proposal looks like it cut and pasted the now under construction Clippers arena in Inglewood. I guess it’s good that the designers are locating it closer to the Old Town Trolley Station but it will still be quite a walk. I don’t see how this or the other proposals are “transit oriented” but I suppose a magic wand will be waved and viola, transit will appear.

  3. Viejas arena is not booked most days of the year. It’s fairly new and next to a freeway and trolley stop. We have no major league hockey or basketball or indoor sports teams. We need a lot more housing, not a new arena.

  4. Time to create broad changes in our local areas (motherEarth). Infrastructure are best tools to turn-around any structural projects along coastal line in California. 619-793-6374.

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