La prensa

Former SD Councilman Hides Connection with Sports Arena Project

Byron Wear
Author: La Prensa
Created: 18 March, 2024
8 min read

By Alberto Garcia
Investigative Reporter

A former San Diego City Councilman is publicly supporting a proposed redevelopment of the Sports Arena near his Point Loma home but he has not disclosed being a paid consultant for the project when he lobbies the Council making decisions on the project. 

Byron Wear, who served on the San Diego City Council from 1995 to 2002, has attended at least four Council meetings to speak in support of the proposed Midway Rising development project at the existing San Diego Sports Arena site but uses a loophole in the City’s lobbying disclosure requirement to conceal his direct involvement with the massive development project.

Byron Wear

Last week, Wear spoke before the full City Council during open public comments period to support public bond financing for the project and identified himself as a former Councilmember, but did not admit his company is being paid to promote the project. 

“As you know I served on the City Council sitting where Councilmember Campbell now sits, back in the day,” Wear said as he began testifying before the City Council. 

Wear went on to list several examples for previous redevelopment projects that used tax increment financing similar to what the Midway Rising project is seeking. 

“All of this is an important tool in your toolbox to be considered and I hope you will support it,” Wear concluded. 

Tax increment financing would allow the City to sell 45-year municipal bonds to help finance the estimated $1 billion project and then use part of the City’s proceeds from increased property tax revenues to repay the bonds. 

Neither City staff nor the Midway Rising team had publicly acknowledged requiring millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to make the project work until the Council meeting last week, although a staff report issued in 2022 mentioned the possibility of tax increment financing being used on the project.

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The Midway Rising redevelopment proposal has come under scrutiny since the team was selected in late 2022 from among three finalists vying to build a mixed-use housing, commercial, and entertainment complex on the City’s 48-acre site of the existing Sports Arena.

Brad Termini, whose company, Zephyr, leads the proposal team, and his family gave a total of more than $100,000 in campaign contributions to Todd Gloria’s 2020 election campaign.

Leading up to the selection of the Midway Rising team in 2022, sources within the City were claiming Mayor Gloria’s office was pushing for the selection of Termini’s group without properly vetting their proposal and financial viability.

Weeks after Termini’s group was selected it was discovered that they had paid over $200,000 to political consultant Dan Rottenstreich, the husband of Brigette Browning, the leader of the powerful San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council and president of the local hotel employees union.

Browning spoke in favor of selecting the Midway Rising team at the City Council’s Land Use Committee, but she failed to disclose her conflict-of-interest after her husband had been paid by the team.

The following year Termini eliminated 250 middle-income affordable units and a unionized 200-room hotel from their plan, but Browning never complained about the loss of hundreds of jobs for her union.

La Prensa San Diego reached out to Wear for comment and to clarify whether he is engaged in any way with the project, but his response was only that he is “not a paid lobbyist for the project” but would not respond to repeated questions as to whether he is paid as a consultant on the development team.

Anyone who receives compensation for contacting officials in support or opposing of an action before the City must file lobbyist disclosure forms detailing their interactions and compensation, but the requirement is waived if the lobbying occurs only during open public meetings.

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In addition to appearing at City Council meetings in support of the Midway Rising project, Wear has also been promoting the project on his personal Facebook page where he linked to a San Diego Union-Tribune article last week detailing the Council’s consideration of the public tax financing scheme.

Byron Wear Facebook

Several people interacted with Wear on his Facebook page and one asked him directly if he is being paid for his support, but Wear has not responded to that question.

Byron Wear Facebook question

Wear operates Wear Strategies, a local land use and transportation consulting firm but does not list his clients on the firm’s website.

At the March 7, 2023 City Council meeting, Wear introduced himself as a former Councilman and said he had attended a community meeting held by the Midway Rising team, but again failed to disclose his working relationship with the group. 

“As most of you know, I served on the City Council and represented this area and grew up in this area,” Wear said as he introduced himself. 

Wear talked about the team’s work in the community, and said “excited to be a part of it” but did not make it clear he was referring to the team or to his paid work on behalf of the project.

“Since your last meeting, I can assure you, having attended the February 8th meeting, that the project’s on track, the Midway Rising group is having important conversation with the community, and answering a lot of serious questions, we know the project is going to be a challenge, and they’ve been there, and it’s going very well, and excited to be a part of it,” Wear said during public comment period before the City Council.

Wear also closed his remarks but referring to himself as “an observant” of the process and not making it clear he is being paid. 

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“And with that, just as an observant of that, I think they’re doing a yeoman’s job,” Wear concluded.

At the June 20, 2023, meeting of the City Council, Wear mentioned his prior work as a Councilmember and implied he was working on the project but made it seem it was more as a community leader than a paid consultant.

“I had the pleasure of serving in District 2 about 20 years ago and realized the potential of this site that needed dramatic transformation, I just was 20 years ahead of my time, so sometimes you leave Council and come back and finish off what your original thought was,” Wear said.

During his 90-second comment period, Wear used “we” to describe issues related to the project, but never made it clear he was working for the development team.

“We are excited of course with the new Kronke development group, they’re as an equity partner, we know it’s going to be more successful than we thought it was going to be because we have the financing in place to keep going so I look forward to this project unfolding, and may be of service however I can help,” Wear said.

Wear was referring to Termini flipping to project into a 90% partnership with Stan Kronke, the owner of the Los Angeles Rams and husband of billionaire Ann Walton, one of the Walmart heirs.

But despite having at least two billionaires on their team, the Midway Rising proposal is still seeking millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies.

In October 2023, Wear spoke before the City Council and said the team’s work was “transparent” but again failed to disclose his own work for the team.

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“I’m Byron Wear, a 59 year resident of Pt. Loma, former Councilman for District 2,” Wear said as an introduction. “The Midway Rising team continues to get out in the community, they’re showing their plans, it’s transparent. I think it’s gonna be a great project, and it’s gonna be transformational, and it’s long overdue,” Wear said. 

During his tenure on the City Council, Wear was selected as Deputy Mayor in 1998 and 1999, and served as Chairman of the Council’s Land Use and Housing Committee in 1997, 2000, 2001, and 2002. Wear also served on the California Coastal Commission in 1996.

As a Councilman, Wear also led the City’s efforts to build Petco Park and the 26 block redevelopment project in East Village.

Wear was the first sitting City Councilmember to be fined by the City’s Ethics Commission when he paid a $2,000 fine in 2002 to settle charges that he had accepted illegal campaign contributions and had failed to pay vendors within the 90 days allowed by the City’s campaign finance laws.

Since his retirement from politics, Wear has continued to be active in the community, serving as a member of the Eagle Scout Alumni Association and the San Diego Junior Lifeguard Foundation, and as a Project Manager for the San Diego Lifeguard History.

Wear and his wife, Bridget Cantu, founded the Wear Community Fund which has provided financial support for numerous San Diego charitable causes.

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