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San Diego Raises Concerns Over SDSU Stadium Project Report

New SDSU Stadium rendering August 2019

A draft environmental impact report (EIR) on a proposed San Diego State University stadium project is being scrutinized by San Diego officials, who feel that the report has some shortcomings.

As part of its push to redevelop the city-owned SDCCU Stadium site with a project that includes a new stadium and surrounding campus outpost, SDSU has published a draft EIR on the project. The draft report, which considers how the development would affect the 132 acres targeted for the project, is an essential part of the planning process. Before the city can finalize a land sale to SDSU, the San Diego City Council must approve a final version of the environmental review.

SDSU published the initial version of the report for public review in August, and the city’s planning department turned over 36 pages worth of comments last week in response, pointing to several concerns it had with the report’s findings. Transportation analysis was among the key sticking points. More from the San Diego Union-Tribune:

One such revision, as requested by the city, amounts to a near redo of the university’s transportation analysis and the associated conclusions. The draft report notes that 13 intersections, 12 freeway segments and four on-ramps will be greatly affected on a regular basis as a result of the project. On stadium event days, 17 intersections and 17 freeway segments will be significantly impacted. The city’s planners and traffic engineers believe most of those off-site impacts can be lessened, despite the university’s determination to the contrary. And the approved ballot measure requires as much, the city’s comment letter says.

Of high priority to the city is the Fenton Parkway bridge, which would extend Fenton Parkway over the San Diego River to Camino Del Rio North. Today, the road abruptly ends at the Fenton Parkway trolley station, behind the IKEA-anchored Fenton Marketplace immediately adjacent to SDCCU Stadium. A connection over the river has been anticipated since the 1980s and is identified as needed infrastructure in the recently adopted Mission Valley Community Plan.

In its letter, the city concludes that the extension is a feasible mitigation for the SDSU project, contradicting the university’s stance that it shouldn’t have to pay for or build the roadway.

“The city believes its construction and implementation is necessary to ensure consistency with previously certified environmental documentation,” wrote Mike Hansen, planning director for San Diego and a member of the city’s negotiating team for the site. “This requirement and analysis are consistent with the requirements the city would apply to any development project in comparable scope and size at this location.”

SDSU has been hoping to finalize the environmental impact report in January 2020 and complete its purchase of city-owned land around that time, setting the stage for stadium construction to wrap up in time for the 2022 college football season. Whether potential revisions lead to that timeline being pushed back remains to be seen, though SDSU has emphasized its commitment to working with the city on addressing some of its concerns, per the Union-Tribune:

“We take seriously our university’s responsibility as a public entity under (the California Environmental Quality Act) to work with all public agencies to answer questions about our project, with the goal of resolving issues reflected in their Draft EIR comment letters,” a spokeswoman for SDSU said. “We are committed to working collaboratively with the city in this manner over the next many weeks.”

Discussions on the project moved forward last November, when voters approved a referendum that directed the city to enter into negotiations with SDSU over a potential sale of the site that includes SDCCU Stadium and surrounding parking. The football program currently plays home games at SDCCU Stadium, which was first built in 1967 and previously hosted both the NFL’s Chargers and MLB’s Padres.

Renderings via SDSU athletics.

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