At first glance it looked like another bureaucratic hair-brained idea. As I read on I could begin to see some logic in declaring the Mission Valley stadium site surplus city property.

What is surplus property? As carefully explained by Roger Showley in The San Diego Union-Tribune, it is a city-owned piece of real estate no longer needed by the city. That is the short answer. Of course, there are loosely-defined qualifying criteria that naturally can be subject to several interpretations of what qualifies a property as surplus.

First, let’s try to understand why four members of the City Council are requesting the surplus designation for the stadium site. These are the four who lead the Council vote against the SoccerCity ballot initiative for November 2017 moving it forward one year. Is there a connection to the surplus property designation they now request?

There are several good reasons for the link. If the four Councilpersons thought the SoccerCity plan was not a city or a taxpayer benefit, then changing the criteria for disposal opens up several other options. Other developers have time to make proposals. The use of the property is more restricted under the standards established by the 1968 Surplus Land Act and a City Council policy regulation.

If the City Council proceeds to mandate the property as surplus, the political skirmish with Mayor Faulconer will accelerate and the legal eagles will get a lot of new work. The Mayor appears to be firmly committed to the SoccerCity imitative and is beholden to lead a voter approval despite all the flaws in the ballot measure, as pointed out by the City Attorney,

As Showley clearly explained, defining a property surplus can be tricky and subject to legal interpretation of the state law and local guidelines, The Mayor takes the position that the stadium is surplus, but the land under it is not. There’s a legal action in the making,

In a June 15 memo from the City Attorney’s office, the Qualcomm site was considered not yet surplus and not subject to state and city guidelines for disposal. The Aztecs at SDSU have a lease ending in 2018 for paying in Qualcomm, Showley reported.

As a surplus property, the land is first offered to other government agencies, such as affordable housing, public parks, enterprise zones etc., on a first-right of refusal. Agencies then have 60 days to respond, and the city has 60 days to negotiate with the bidders.

One of the hitches for the Qualcomm site is the policy applies to surplus property of 80 acres or less. For larger sites, such as the 166-acre parcel, must be approved by voters. More legal strings to unravel.

Up to this level of posturing for support of the SoccerCity plan, the political tactics by advocates and opponents were generally deployed somewhat in good faith. Suddenly the District Attorney “stirred up a hornets’ nest,” as described by The San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board.

A confidential internal memo prepared by City Attorney Mara Elliott regarding the legality of declaring the site surplus was leaked to the developers of SoccerCity. The unauthorized release of private city communication might change the game plan. Elliott calls for the resignation of the insider culprit and is launching a criminal investigation in high places, reported columnist Dan McSwain.

San Diego now has its own Wikieaks scandal to keep media reporters and attorneys busy while the controversy keeps boiling up.