SoccerCity asks City Council to place initiative on November bal - KUSI News - San Diego, CA

SoccerCity asks City Council to place initiative on November ballot

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SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — A major change in strategy was announced Tuesday by FS Investors, the group behind a plan to bring Major League Soccer to San Diego as part of a “Soccer City.”

The key to their plan was to get the San Diego City Council to adopt their initiative without having to send it to a vote in November. But their new strategy is a complete reversal — to bypass the city council and go directly to voters.

One reason for the change is to extend the time frame for the initiative’s approval, allowing voters to weigh in before any remaining franchises are awarded.

SoccerCity had been working on a very short time frame to get its initiative approved. Major League Soccer had said it would award franchises this fall. To meet that deadline —and assure the league a stadium would be built — SoccerCity needed the city council to adopt its initiative in June, without waiting for the voters to have their say.

“We’ve been in dialogue with MLS over the last two months involving their timing requirements, including conversations just this morning,” FS Investors’ Mike Stone said.

Apparently, SoccerCity convinced the league a project of this size would be in trouble and subject to lawsuits without the vote of the people.

“Up until today we could not guarantee the timing of a public vote could work for a proposal,” Stone said.

MLS extended its deadline Tuesday morning to the end of the year. That, coupled with Mayor Kevin Faulconer calling for a special election on a convention center expansion, allowed SoccerCity to alter its strategy — after all it had promised a vote.

“It has become clear to us that MLS will not make final decisions on franchise awards before year end, and we therefore request that the city council place our citizens initiative on the special election ballot for November 7th, 2017,” Stone said.

This would have been a tough vote for the council. When it comes before them, they can now simply pass it on to the voters.

Are SoccerCity and a convention center expansion linked?

The mayor is spending a lot of political capitol on the convention center expansion vote. Getting two-thirds approval for “a tax hike” is difficult, even in a low-turnout election.

Having SoccerCity on the ballot helps. So does getting 118 thousand signatures in less than three weeks. Those signatures are voters.

“This record accomplishment speaks volumes about how compelling and exciting our overall proposal is with voters and taxpayers,” Stone said.

It also helps that television ratings for Major League Soccer are higher in San Diego than four of the five top markets with a soccer team — and that goes for the number of soccer players as well.

“Compared to the top five markets, which includes New York and LA, the average of those markets, there's more people playing soccer in San Diego than the top five markets with an MLS team already,” Stone said.

To their critics, namely Sudberry Properties and H.G. Fenton Company — funders of the oppositions — SoccerCity says, “We believe their motivation is to protect themselves from unwanted competition that will maximize the profits of their own large development projects less than a mile away from here on Friars Road.”

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