SoccerCity Initiative Clears Legal Hurdle

Proposed SoccerCity development San Diego

The SoccerCity initiative for a new MLS stadium cleared a hurdle Wednesday, when a tentative ruling sided with placing the proposal on San Diego’s November ballot. 

Pitched by FS Investors, Soccer City is proposal to redevelop the SDCCU Stadium site in Mission Valley. The proposal calls for a 23,500-seat stadium that would be constructed for an MLS expansion franchise, along with surrounding development. FS Investors would enter into a 99-year lease with the city for 233 acres of property.

That proposal has been slated to be considered on the November voter ballot along with SDSU West, a competing initiative for a San Diego State University football stadium and surrounding development at the same site. Both plans have come into question, however, as City Attorney Mara Elliott has asked the courts to review them over concerns about their legality. In its argument against the two measures, the city is claiming that if either is approved by voters it will illegally interfere with administrative matters.

A tentative ruling issued by Superior Court judge Timothy Taylor on Wednesday sided with SoccerCity, claiming that the city had not presented a strong enough case to prevent it from being placed on the ballot. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Friday. More from the San Diego Union-Tribune:

In a tentative ruling issued Wednesday, Judge Timothy Taylor said the city did not provide a strong enough argument for removing the initiative from the November ballot.

“Pre-election removal is proper only if the City can establish a ‘compelling showing that the initiative is clearly invalid,'” Taylor wrote in his decision, which will be argued in court on Friday. “The City’s showing falls short of this standard.”

Specifically, Taylor determined that the SoccerCity proposal is legislative — and not judicial — in nature, meaning that the court cannot weigh in on the merits of the measure until after the election. In addition, the redevelopment plan does not conflict with the City Charter or state law, as contended, he said.

“The court, in denying the City’s petition, stresses the narrow nature of this ruling: the court expresses no view on the merits of the Initiative or the SDSU West proposal,” Taylor said. “The court simply finds that the city has not met the extremely high legal standard necessary to justify removing the initiative from the November, 2018 ballot.”

A separate ruling from another Superior Court judge concerning SDSU West was also issued on Wednesday, as judge Randa Trapp gave a final order in favor of allowing the proposal to be placed on the ballot. Trapp had previously issued a tentative ruling siding with SDSU in the legal complaint from the city.

SoccerCity was unveiled last year as a centerpiece for a San Diego MLS expansion bid. FS Investors had called for a November 2017 referendum for the proposal, but city officials pushed a referendum on the project to 2018. San Diego did not make the slate of four expansion finalists considered by MLS late last year (Nashville, and later Cincinnati were selected from that group), but its bid remains a candidate for the next round of expansion.

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