For the last few months, the SoccerCity team has been relatively quiet while the Friends of SDSU launched a signature gathering campaign they called the SDSU West Campus Research Center, Stadium and River Park Initiative. Signatures were gathered and pep rallies were held on campus and in the parking lot outside SDCCU Stadium. Alumni were solicited for donations and SDSU’s Athletic Director JD Wicker has made the rounds on local media, touting SDSU’s Vision for Mission Valley.
In late March, Voice of San Diego’s Andy Keatts published a story about City Council Member Scott Sherman’s memo to the City Attorney that brought to light the inconvenient truth that the Friends of SDSU, the language of their initiative, and the university itself were all in violation of a State of California Educational code that prohibits the use of Cal State property (like the name/brand of SDSU) from being leveraged for political and commercial uses. I wrote about that topic for The San Diego Chronicle as well.
To date, the City Attorney has not responded to that memo, and the advocates for SDSU West have downplayed the significance of the law.
On Wednesday April 18th, two citizens of San Diego filed a lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court aimed at forcing the SDSU West Campus Research Center, Stadium and River Park Initiative to change the wording of the initiative and the name of the initiative itself. The lawsuit also seeks to invalidate the signatures gathered for the SDSU Initiative as it stands. For these two citizens, the law matters, and when it comes to both the letter and the spirit of the law, there appears to be a comprehensive case for the violations alleged in the suit.
What is the point of the suit?
By invalidating the existing signatures, and prohibiting the SDSU West proponents from using the name and brand loyalty of the university, this lawsuit effectively clears a path for SoccerCity to be the only ballot option for redevelopment of the SDCCU Stadium site in Mission Valley.
There is still time to re-collect signatures if the backers of the initiative choose to do so. It seems unlikely that the backers will opt to shift gears, since the entire SDSU West proposal is built on the back of the claim that the university needs to expand and has no other option to do so outside of this West Campus Expansion process.
Ironically, earlier in the morning on the 18th, the SDSU Alumni Board, Aztec Club, Past Presidents’ Council of SDSU Alumni and Aztec Football Legacy joined the Friends of SDSU and supporters in announcing their unanimous endorsement for the SDSU West ballot initiative. These four alumni groups claim to represent hundreds of thousands of former San Diego State University students, athletes and professors.
A full-blown rebrand at this stage might not be ideal, but if this property really is the most important thing for SDSU’s future survival as the bastion of higher education that it is, then there’s no point in gambling. Changing tactics now while there is still time to re-collect signatures might be the best way to rescue the project going forward.