Prime Downtown San Diego real estate to be offered for redevelopment

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Affordable housing is a key part of this ambitious plan to revitalize eight acres of San Diego’s Civic Core.

SAN DIEGO — Five blocks of prime Downtown property surrounding San Diego’s Civic Center Plaza is about to be put on the market.

This centrally located real estate, including City Hall, Golden Hall, the Civic Theater and 101 Ash Street, will be placed up for sale or lease under the state’s Surplus Land Act.

A key part of this ambitious plan to revitalize eight acres of San Diego’s civic core is to require developers to set aside at last 25% of new residential units as affordable housing.

“This is a decision that’s going  to impact multiple generations of San Diegans, and in many ways could shape the future of the city,” said City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera. 

In an eight-to-one vote, city leaders have now declared these five blocks of central downtown real estate as “surplus land.”

This will open the way to open the process for private developers to compete for the lease.

While it could possibly include retail, commercial space, transit and amenities, offering affordable housing is a primary goal. 

While no specific number was specified, this would include deed-restricted residential housing for San Diegans making 30% or less of the area media income, which is about $39,000 annually for a family of four.

“I don’t feel that this is the right approach for this project,” said Council Member Vivian Moreno was the lone ‘no’ vote. She said that believes that the city could do a better job in generating new affordable housing than a private developer..

“When you remove the private profit motive and instead have public agencies focused on building a project  that most benefits the public, the result is almost certainly going to be more affordable housing for San Diego,” Moreno said.

A future phase of this project would include building a new City Hall at the current site of the City Operations building along First Avenue, allocating $2 million in General Fund money for consultants.

“I have to applaud Mayor Gloria for taking this on,” said Bill Anderson, a former planning director for the city of San Diego, as well as the past president of the American Planning Association.

“It’s an opportunity to create a landmark civic space for our city that helps brands our city,” he added. 

Anderson does question whether it was necessary to declare this property as ‘surplus’ before finalizing the framework of this plan, and also would like to make sure the public maintains a voice in how this valuable land is developed.

“I think we could do more if we work together, and a suggestion is, the question of how best to maintain the public’s priority in this whole process,” Anderson told CBS 8. 

This is just the beginning of a very lengthy process. At this point, the city will issue a “notice of availability” to potential developers, who will then have 60 days to respond.

WATCH RELATED: San Diego inches closer to making Gaslamp Fifth Avenue Promenade a reality (April 2023).

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