City of San Diego
Westfield retained Southwest Strategies to help secure approval from the San Diego City Council for its proposed expansion of Westfield University Towne Centre (UTC).
Location: City of San Diego
“Southwest Strategies provided expert guidance and strategic counsel to help communicate the benefits of the Westfield University Town Center expansion and regional transit center and help overcome concerns in the community.”
–Greg Fitchitt, Vice President of Development
Westfield is one of the world’s largest shopping center owners and managers with five locations in San Diego County. Westfield approached us to develop a program in support of the proposed $1 billion renovation of Westfield UTC. The massive project, dubbed The New UTC, was one of the largest privately financed development projects in the history of San Diego.
Due to the sheer size of the project, we recommended that Westfield secure third-party support of the UTC expansion both locally and regionally. Local support was particularly important given that many of Westfield’s neighbors had previously expressed concerns about the projected increase in traffic resulting from the project. In addition, opponents quickly seized on the idea that approving this project would set a bad precedent for the community, allowing other developers in the surrounding areas to seek major expansions of their properties. We worked with Westfield to develop a plan designed to identify, educate and mobilize credible third parties that could reinforce the project messages (or strengths) identified in the research portion of the campaign.
We sought to secure local and regional third-party support by collecting signed support cards through community presentations, direct mailings and the UTC Experience, an interactive design studio and lounge. These support cards were then used to create a comprehensive database that allowed the team to track supporters willing to write letters to key decision-makers and those willing to testify at critical public hearings. In the weeks leading up to the final City Council vote, we launched an aggressive eblast and letter writing campaign in support of the project. The team also met individually with the eight City Councilmembers, delivering copies of signed support cards from constituents in each of their districts.
The San Diego City Council voted 7-1 to approve the New UTC. More than 500 letters and emails were sent to each City Councilmember, and more than 200 people attended the public hearing wearing green t-shirts in favor of the New UTC. We also secured the support of virtually every influential regional group in the County, including the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, the San Diego Chapter of the California Restaurant Association, the Asian Business Association, the San Diego Housing Commission and the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. The wide-ranging support sparked one City Councilmember during the final hearing to say, “The UTC project is not only a model for how to build a project in San Diego; it is a prototypical example about how to run a campaign in favor of a specific project.”