The San Diego Chargers’ $1.8 billion stadium and convention center plan is still two weeks away from being eligible to garner petition signatures in order to secure a public vote on the proposal.
But already, residents and the politicians who represent them – not to mention those who hope to replace those incumbents – are weighing in, and the early returns, from the Chargers’ perspective, are not promising.
Since March 29, when the Chargers made public their proposal—which calls for a hotel tax hike to 16.5 percent to produce the $1.15 billion in revenue to supplement the combined $650 million supplied by the Chargers and the NFL—local officials and candidates largely opposed the plan, calling it a mis-allocation of tax funds.
“Counting on a significant tax increase to fund the construction of this plan, while also reducing marketing and promotional investments, will affect our ability to compete with other markets for tourists and conventions,” Councilman Chris Cate said, reflecting the sentiment of many official statements gathered by Voice of San Diego. “Realistically, as the third largest source of revenue for our City, any potential negative impact to this funding source, no matter how minimal, could impact our ability to pay for police services or pave our streets.”
Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who has frequently sparred with Chargers owner Dean Spanos over a stadium plan to replace the dilapidated Qualcomm Stadium in the Mission Valley area, took a more measured approach.
“After more than a decade, the Chargers are putting forward a plan of their own and San Diegans may finally have the ultimate say on a new stadium in November,” Falcouner said. “The convention center element makes this proposal more than a stadium and the long-term future of San Diego’s tourism economy is now intertwined in this plan. As always, my top priorities are to protect jobs, protect taxpayers and do what’s right for all San Diegans. I will evaluate the proposal’s details through that lens.”
Mayoral candidate Ed Harris was quick to use the stadium issue as a political football.
“The Chargers propose spending over $90 million per year of our tax money to subsidize a stadium, and the mayor’s only comment is ‘Get back to me later on this, but my top priority is protecting taxpayers?’” Harris said. “Faulconer’s original stadium plan was a $350 million taxpayer giveaway. But now he says he wants to protect taxpayers? Where’s Kevin? Once again, the mayor is leading from behind.”
Ultimately, the power will reside with the people. Should the Chargers secure the roughly 66,500 signatures needed to get their proposal on the November ballot, it will take a majority vote for it to pass. If so, the NFL will extend the Chargers’ deadline to negotiate with the city through January, 2018. Should the proposal fail, the Chargers would be free to negotiate with the Rams about joining the Los Angeles stadium project as early as January, 2017.
The San Diego proposal calls for a 65,000-seat stadium and convention center – a “convadium” plan – located in the East Village section of the city, not far from Petco Park.
Some East Village residents, calling themselves “The Village People,” told KUSI-TV this week that they oppose the Chargers’ plan, and are organizing to persuade voters to turn down the Chargers’ proposal in favor of a revitalization plan rooted in the innovation, design, arts and education.
“We think this conversation is so important to San Diego that we should really do some homework and do a critical analysis of any proposal that’s made for East Village,” said Village People member David Malmuth. “We thought that an innovation cluster driven by high wage tech jobs, and by education would be a better land use and a better neighbor than a football stadium.”