La prensa

Turner Calls on Gloria to Rebid Sports Arena Deal

Larry Turner
Author: La Prensa
Created: 26 March, 2024
5 min read

Alberto Garcia
Investigative Reporter

Mayoral challenger Larry Turner is demanding that Mayor Todd Gloria rebid the current Sports Arena project after the selected developer made material changes to the proposal since being selected in a controversial process in late 2022.

Turner, who ended up in second place in the five-person March 5th Primary Election, will face off against Todd Gloria in the November 5th General Election runoff.

On Monday, Turner sent a letter to Gloria and to City Attorney Mara Elliott detailing concern with the Midway Rising development team’s proposal.

“My concerns stem from modifications to the initial plan, significant cost increases being passed on to taxpayers, and the appointment of a major campaign donor as the project developer,” Turner wrote to Gloria and Elliott.

Developer Brad Termini, whose Midway Rising team was selected from among three final bidders, was the largest private donor to Gloria’s 2020 election campaign after he and his family gave more than $100,000 in campaign contributions to the Mayor’s campaign.

Termini had given most of his contributions through an independent campaign committee run by the Laborer’s International Union’s Local 89 and their political consultant, Dan Rottenstreich.

Another $9,200 in contributions from Termini and his relatives went directly to Todd Gloria’s personal campaign committee in 2020.

Termini’s initial proposal to redevelop the City’s 48-acre Sports Arena site included 4,250 residential units of which 2,000 would be designed as low-income affordable housing units, 250 middle-income affordable units, a 200-room unionized hotel, commercial and retail spaces, and a 16,000 seat sports and concert arena.

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Sources within City staff claimed Mayor Gloria’s office was pushing for the selection of Termini’s group during the bidding process without properly vetting their proposal and financial viability.

During the City Council’s Land Use Committee meeting on September 8, 2022, when the selection of a developer was conducted, labor leader Brigette Browning spoke “in strong support of the Mayor’s recommendation” to select the Midway Rising team.

Browning, the leader of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council and the President of HERE Local 30, the union of hospitality workers, said all three final bidders were “good projects” but called the Midway Rising proposal the “best project.”

“Because Midway Rising has the most number of affordable units and will create the most number of permanent union jobs, it is absolutely the best project to go forward,” Browning said during her testimony before the Councilmembers.

Browning, who is married to Dan Rottenstreich, the political consultant who ran the labor campaign for Gloria that accepted $100,000 in contributions from Termini and his wife in 2020, failed to disclose that she had a conflict-of-interest because her husband had also been paid to promote Termini’s Midway Rising team leading up to the selection.

The Committee members voted 3-0 to select Termini’s group, with Councilmembers Joe LaCava, Stephen Whitburn, and Chris Cate voting in favor, and Councilwoman Vivian Moreno was absent.

The following week, the full City Council voted 7-1 to finalize Termini’s selection, with Councilmembers Joe LaCava, Dr. Jen Campbell, Stephen Whitburn, Monica Montgomery Steppe, Marni von Wilpert, Chris Cate, and Sean Elo-Rivera voting in favor, and Councilman Raul Campillo voting against the motion, Councilwoman Vivian Moreno was not present.

But weeks after Termini’s group was selected it was discovered that they had paid over $200,000 to Rottenstreich for consulting and promotion of the project, but they failed to file lobbying forms with the City to disclose Rottenstreich's involvement before the Council voted to select his group. Some of the disclosure forms were up to 226 days late but were only filed hours after the Council's vote.

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The City’s Ethics Commission later fined Termini’s team $5,000 for their late filings.

Then, more than a year after being selected, Termini’s group eliminated 250 middle-income affordable units and the proposed 200-room unionized hotel from their plan, but Browning never complained about the loss of hundreds of jobs for her union.

Termini’s group dropped the 250 middle-income units and the 200-room hotel after a 96-inch sewer pipeline was discovered under the current Sports Arena site. Termini’s team maintains that they were unaware of the pipe during the bidding process and the pipe now limits the area available for development.

The removal of the hotel eliminated millions of dollars in future transient occupancy tax (ToT) revenues to the City. The current ToT and Tourism Marketing District (TMD) total 12.5% of the hotel room rate.

Last year, Termini’s team created a new partnership to flip 90% control of the Midway Rising development to Los Angeles-based billionaire Stan Kroenke, the owner of the LA Ram’s NFL team and husband of Walmart heiress Ann Walton Kroenke.

But Termini’s letter of commitment sent to the San Diego City Council on the day before his team promised they would “not sell or flip any project entitlements to other developers or development teams.”

Gloria, a Democrat, and Turner, a non-partisan candidate, ended the Primary Election in first and second place, respectively, among the five candidates that ran for Mayor. 

Turner, a current San Diego Police officer, served 23 years in the US Marines and retired as a Lt. Colonel before becoming a police officer.

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After more than a week of counting outstanding ballots after the March 5th election, Gloria ended his campaign with 49.9% of the vote to Turner’s 23.1%.

The two will face off in the November 5th General Election.

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