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City Attorney Criticizes Citizens’ Plan

Proposed San Diego Charger stadium

The political football that is the plan for a downtown stadium in San Diego went airborne again on Tuesday, and one more time, the Chargers appear to have been thrown for a loop.

A day after Chargers officials met with local environmental attorney Cory Briggs to discuss their competing initiatives to fund a stadium and convention center – and after City Attorney Jan Goldsmith excoriated Briggs’ Citizens’ Plan as not worth the legal risk – Briggs upped the ante on Tuesday, declaring a key player in the stadium drama had agreed to back his initiative, potentially torpedoing the Chargers’ proposal before it garnered a single signature.

In a morning press conference, Briggs announced that his group, San Diegans for Open Government, had settled an ongoing lawsuit with the Touring Market District, having argued that the TMD’s plan to raise the local hotel tax by 2 percent was not legal, because the public had not voted on it. Raising the hotel tax is at the core of both Briggs’ and the Chargers’ plans to finance the downtown stadium and convention center, with the Citizens’ Plan looking to raise the tax from 10.5 percent to 15.5, while the Chargers proposed a tax hike to 16.5 percent.

What made news on Tuesday was Briggs’ assertion that the TMD, as part of the settlement, had agreed to back the Citizens’ Initiative, essentially freezing out the Chargers’ proposal, which can begin garnering signatures in late April to be added to the November ballot.

Without the support of the TMD for its tax hike plan, the Chargers’ proposal would either need to be drastically altered—which would be nearly impossible to accomplish in time, given the June deadline for the 66,500 signatures needed for the November ballot—or killed altogether in order to back the Briggs plan and avoid the possibility of competing proposals cancelling each other out at the ballot box.

But just as it appeared the Chargers were left out to dry, the head of the TMD, William Evans, released a statement Tuesday afternoon declaring that the board had taken no action regarding the settlement, suggesting that no such handshake agreement had taken place and leaving the two competing proposals viable.

Tuesday’s whiplash developments came on the heels of Goldsmith’s report, which declared the Briggs plan a legal time bomb for the city.

“While there are some well-intentioned ideas in this proposal, the city attorney’s analysis shows that this appears to be a plan that could tie up the city in court for years at great cost to taxpayers,” Faulconer said.

Briggs called his press conference on Tuesday to fire back at Goldsmith’s memo, while also making his bombshell announcement about the purported agreement with the TMD.

“{Goldsmith’s memo] is a calculated maneuver to ensure the public is disenfranchised,” Briggs said. “Whether we get a TMD settlement that’s announced by the TMD after they meet with the mayor on Friday, I don’t control that. I can tell you we had an agreement, it was confirmed back to me by more than one person involved in that. But it does appear that the timing of this memo raises questions.”

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August Publications