It would be really, really great if it were true that SoccerCity doesn’t include “a single dollar of taxpayer money” like its supporters are so fond of saying. But, as the old saying goes, “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” And that’s definitely the case here.
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After all, the SoccerCity initiative allows FS Investors to purchase the more than 200 acres of land at a price that could be far below fair market value, so right off the bat, taxpayers are losing out on what they’re due. This is public land that’s going to be sold at a price determined by a set of criteria provided by the buyer to benefit the buyer. Does that sound like a good deal to anyone? It shouldn’t, because it would become the largest transfer of taxpayer wealth to a private interest in San Diego’s history.
But that’s not all. The fine print in the initiative leaves San Diegans on the hook for mitigation costs, traffic improvements, River Park permitting … the list goes on and on.
San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott has raised concerns for almost a year that taxpayers could face huge costs under the SoccerCity plan. In a May 2017 memo, Elliott cited a number of ways the initiative would require taxpayer dollars – despite constant assurances from FS Investors and in the text of the initiative that it won’t. These include ongoing operations and maintenance of the existing stadium (approximately $12 million annually), the outstanding stadium bonds (well over $35 million), extensive City staff time for review, processing and advancing the development (for permitting, inspections, project management, etc.), remediation for any environmental contamination and any potential liability should the initiative be challenged in court.
What it comes down to is, there’s no “give and take” in the SoccerCity plan – wealthy investors stand to make a huge profit by only developing what’s profitable and San Diegans will be left to clean up the resulting mess. Maybe they’re not asking for a new tax to bankroll the actual construction, but that’s because they’re wringing us dry on every other aspect of the development.