Guest commentary: Measure E is the only way for San Diego to get a world-class sports arena and more

San Diego's sports arena
Supporters of Measure E see it as key to replacing San Diego’s sports arena and transforming the surrounding area.

We have so many things to be proud of as San Diegans, but unfortunately, the sports arena area is not one of them. The sports arena is outdated and underused, and the neighborhood around it has been declining for decades even as the rest of San Diego improved. Voting yes on Measure E will pave the way for a new sports arena and transform the surrounding Midway District into a modern, attractive and enjoyable community — at no cost to taxpayers.

As the leaders of the local community planning group, we have been fighting for this change for years and know how important it is for San Diego. When locals and tourists visit popular destinations such as the sports arena, Liberty Station or Cabrillo National Monument, they must drive through the Midway District — a run-down labyrinth of seedy strip clubs, garish billboards, empty warehouses and shuttered businesses. If downtown is San Diego’s front porch, the Midway District is our broken screen door. It reflects poorly on residents, businesses and our entire city.

Measure E will allow San Diego to realize this area’s promise with a 21st-century sports venue, a thriving entertainment district, acres of public parks, residential units and quality jobs. It does so by correcting a 48-year-old mistake in the municipal code that has fueled the neighborhood’s ongoing deterioration.

In 1972, San Diego wisely decided to guard against coastal overdevelopment by limiting new construction near the beach to 30 feet in height. But the city drew a bright red line on Interstate 5 and called everything west of it a coastal area — lumping Midway in with the likes of La Jolla and Mission Bay. Nearly 50 years later, it is plain to see the building cap has been great for beach communities but has failed the Midway District.

Midway is not a coastal community, and it never made sense for the coastal height limit to be applied here. We have no coastline, no beaches and no ocean views and are completely landlocked, encircled by Interstate 5 to the east, Interstate 8 to the north, and the airport and Marine Corps Recruit Depot to the south. If you come here planning to ride the waves or sit on the sand, you will be sorely disappointed.

Measure E fully protects the coastal height limit while rectifying this oversight. The ballot measure only affects the Midway District while leaving untouched the 30-foot safeguard in all city beach communities — La Jolla, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, Mission Bay, Ocean Beach and Point Loma. Developers cannot build a high-rise on the coast now, and they still won’t be able to under Measure E.

This simple fix will stimulate creation of a vibrant, pedestrian and transit-oriented community with entertainment, residential, recreational, retail, office, public and park use.

Crucially, Measure E is the only way for San Diego to get a new world-class sports arena. The current 77-foot-tall arena is only allowed because it was built six years before the height restriction took effect. Now that the rules prohibit building an inch over 30 feet, it is impossible to construct a new area. Without Measure E, San Diego is stuck with the existing sports and entertainment complex.

At a time when jobs and funding for public services have been gravely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, Measure E will produce hundreds of millions of dollars in annual economic activity and create thousands of jobs for San Diego. It also will spur tens of millions of dollars in yearly tax revenue to help local schools, roads and neighborhood services.

Measure E has earned rare bipartisan support from both the Democratic and Republican parties of San Diego county, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, Climate Action Campaign, the community planning group and more.

We are proud that this effort did not originate with big developers or corporate interests. Measure E was created by the community, for the community. We have roots going back generations. We see every day how our neighborhood has been held back while other communities have prospered. Measure E levels the playing field. This is one of San Diego’s last untapped areas for economic growth, and it is time to remove the artificial barriers limiting our potential.

Join us to create a modern sports arena, revitalize our community, restore pride to this area and generate thousands of jobs for San Diego. Vote yes on E.

Cathy Kenton, a Midway District property owner and chairwoman of the community planning group, lives in Torrey Pines. Dike Anyiwo is vice chairman of the community planning group and lives in the Midway District. This commentary was first published by The San Diego Union-Tribune.

For the other side, read below:

By voting no on Measure E, we can preserve the coastal height limit, avoid luxury high-rises that are not needed and maintain access to coastal areas for the enjoyment of all San Diegans.


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