La prensa

Sports Arena Developer Gave $650k to Height-Limit Campaign

Midway Rising
Author: La Prensa
Created: 26 March, 2024
5 min read

By Alberto Garcia
Investigative Reporter

The same developer who gave over $100,000 to elect Todd Gloria in 2020 before being selected to rebuild the Sports Arena site later contributed $650,000 more to remove the 30-foot building height limit around the Midway area, raising questions about the timing of his selection by the Mayor and City Council.

Brad Termini and his wife donated $100,000 to a campaign committee supporting Todd Gloria’s 2020 campaign for Mayor, and Termini and other relatives also gave another $6,900 directly to Gloria’s personal campaign before he won the November 2020 election.

Brad Termini
Brad Termini

In 2022, Termini and his company, Zephyr, were selected to redevelop the existing Sports Arena site into a new mixed-use complex with 4,250 residential units, a 200-room hotel, commercial and retail spaces, and a 16,000-seat arena.

Before his selection, City staff complained that they were not being allowed to properly review Termini’s proposal because the Mayor’s office was pushing its preferred developer.

The San Diego City Council’s Land Use Committee voted to select Termini’s Midway Rising team on September 8, 2022, then the full Council voted the following week to finalize the developer’s selection.

The next month, Termini and his company began making large contributions to two campaign committees supporting Measure C on the November 2022 ballot to exempt the Sports Arena area from the 30-foot building height limit that has existed along San Diego’s coast since 1972.

Without the controversial height limit change, Termini’s massive Midway Rising proposal would not have been buildable at all, raising questions as to why the City moved forward with the proposal before Measure C was even voted on, much less passed, by voters.

Termini’s Midway Rising, LLC made its first contribution to the “Affordable Homes for San Diego lead by Chris Cate - Yes on Measure C” campaign committee on October 7, 2022, just three weeks after the City Council’s final vote to select his development team.

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On October 7, 2022, Midway Rising LLC donated $300,000 to the Measure C committee, then the following week they donated $40,000 to “Community Voices”, a committee that spent money supporting Measure C. Midway Rising LLC was the single-largest donor to Community Voices during the 2022 election cycle. 

Then in a span of nine days, Midway Rising LLC made three donations to the Measure C committee, including $140,000 on October 19th, $20,000 on October 21st, and $150,000 on October 28th.

Midway Rising contributions

Termini’s company was by far the largest contributor to the Measure C campaign, with Chelsea Development being the second largest with a $25,000 contribution on October 28, 2022. Chelsea is a non-profit affordable housing development company that is part of Midway Rising’s team.

Apart from Midway Rising and Chelsea’s contributions, the only other large donations to the Measure C campaign were $12,734 from Community Voices, the other campaign committee Midway Rising LLC donated to; $5,000 from the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee; and $2,500 from the NAIOP San Diego PAC, the commercial real estate development association.

Measure C was passed by a small margin on the November 8, 2022 election with 51.2% in support and 48.9% opposed. The vote margin was only 9,082 votes.

A final court decision in December 2023 cleared the challenges to 2020’s Measure E and 2022’s Measure C which both sought to exempt the Midway area from the City’s 30-foot height limit.

This year, Termini’s company Zephyr Investors, LLC has donated $37,500 to a campaign committee called the “San Diego Labor Coalition, Sponsored by Laborers' International Union of North America Local 89.”

The Labor Coalition spent tens of thousands of dollars supporting Todd Gloria’s re-election campaign in the March Primary Election, as well as an organized plan to take over the local Democratic Party by campaigning for a majority of members of the Party's Central Committee governing board.

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Last week, the City Council unanimously approved a resolution to study the creation of an Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District or EIFD to commit millions of public tax dollars to repay bonds used to cover part of the Midway Rising project’s construction costs.

In response to the Council's action to consider providing millions in taxpayer subsidies to his project, Termini admitted to the San Diego Union-Tribune that his project is “not financially feasible without getting some of the infrastructure paid for.”

Termini used a similar approach as the Midway Rising project in his work to develop a marijuana operation in Northern New York.

Since 2019, Termini has been pursuing a massive $200 million marijuana facility that was first estimated to be over 1.25 million sq. ft. and claiming it would create up to 1,000 new jobs, but was later reduced to a $27.8 million, 211,000 sq. ft. project and reduced the employment commitments to only 20 full-time and 34 part-time jobs.

Termini also sought millions of dollars in public subsidies in New York, including up to $3.5 million in savings from reduced hydroelectric rates from a public energy provider, $1.9 million in property tax reductions, $1.1 million in sales tax savings, and a $120,000 exemption on its mortgage recording tax.

Similar to what he did in San Diego, Termini also played politics in New York by donating $4,700 to New York Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, in addition to $7,200 Termini’s father, Rocco, gave to Peoples-Stokes; and $5,000 to Grassroots, a political club associated with Peoples-Stokes and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown

Zephyr, Termini’s development company, also gave $2,500 to Brown’s mayoral campaign, in addition to $990 in unitemized contributions to Brown from 10 LLC associated with Rocco Termini.

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