Meeting on Mission Valley Growth : Council Hears Views on Mayor’s Plan to Stem Building

Times Staff Writer

The San Diego City Council held a town meeting Tuesday night on a critical regional issue--how to control growth in Mission Valley. The meeting took place at the Town and Country Hotel--in Mission Valley.

A divided council heard from its Planning Department, Mission Valley property owners and city business leaders who support a plan that would significantly increase traffic, office buildings and residential development in the already-congested valley.

That plan, Alternative 5, would provide light rail transit in the valley and limit development based on the traffic each project would create. Councilman Ed Struiksma, a strong backer of the plan, said it would “harness growth” in Mission Valley for the first time in 30 years.

On the other side were environmentalists, Mission Valley condominium dwellers and Mayor Roger Hedgecock, who claim the plan will cause a “land rush in the valley.” Hedgecock is seeking a moratorium on all Mission Valley development until the city can draft what he thinks would be a more responsible plan.


More than 600 people on both sides of the issue filled the large hotel conference room to debate the merits of Alternative 5, a plan eight years in the making.

According to city planner Gene Lathrop, it would allow an increase in office space in the valley from 3.9 million square feet to 17.2 million square feet. It would permit retail space to expand from 3.3 million square feet to 4.3 million square feet, hotels to expand from 4,508 rooms to 9,799 rooms and residential space to expand from 5,317 dwelling units to 16,026 dwelling units.

Hedgecock has rejected both Alternative 5 and another plan calling for even more intensive development in the increasingly congested, flood-prone river valley. That plan is known as Alternative 8.

Both proposals would create unacceptable levels of traffic, smog and congestion, Hedgecock said.


Hedgecock proposed his own program: an immediate moratorium on development in Mission Valley until “a sound land-use plan” is written; restoration of the San Diego River to its natural state where possible, and creation of a “phasing” mechanism that would ensure that major improvements, such as roads, are constructed as projects are built.

Alternative 5 is unacceptable, Hedgecock said, because it would allow for 17 million square feet of new office space, three times the amount now in the valley. Alternative 8 would create 66 million square feet of office space--three times the total office space now found in all San Diego County, the mayor said.

Either alternative would require the river valley to “shrink to a narrow channel . . . A concrete canyon will be created in Mission Valley,” Hedgecock said.

Also, under both plans, traffic would be a nightmare, Hedgecock said. Alternative 8, for instance, would allow more than 3 million trips a day on Interstate 8--"a virtual traffic gridlock, the worst aspect of the Los Angelization of San Diego,” he said.


The Sierra Club, which Monday mailed a “special alert” to its members, supports Hedgecock. The club urged members to call their council members and ask them to reject existing plans for the valley and seek “a revised and realistic plan.”

The city Planning Department, the Planning Commission and Councilman Ed Struiksma, who represents the area, contend Alternative 5 is a responsible plan for the valley.

According to its supporters, Alternative 5 envisions moderate development of the valley. That would include expanded commercial, retail, office, residential and recreational development in the valley. It would create “a natural appearing” floodway in the riverbed and would provide a light rail transit system running parallel to the river.

Several multimillion-dollar projects could be affected by a moratorium. Projects that are planned but have not yet received full city approvals include:


- The Atlas Specific Plan, a 95-acre mixed-use development (a hotel, an office building and residential development) owned by Atlas Hotels.

- The Levi-Cushman Project, planned for retail, offices and a hotel on more than 200 acres now occupied by the Stardust Country Club.

- A dozen retail, commercial or residential projects on parcels of under five acres each.

In addition, these two large Mission Valley projects have been approved, but have not yet been built:


- The First San Diego River Improvement Project on several hundred acres along the river from California 163 east to Interstate 805. This is a mixed development of office, residential and retail space that will include a hotel.

- The Northside specific plan, a 200-acre project east of San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium and both north and south of Friars Road that is to contain retail, office and residential uses, and a hotel.