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Chargers Meet Signature Requirement; Court Ruling Looms

Preliminary Chargers Stadium Design

Though it was a widely expected outcome, good news came for the San Diego Chargers over the weekend, as their signature drive has successfully landed their stadium proposal on the November ballot.

After a weeks-long verification process, San Diego City Clerk Elizabeth Maland announced that the Chargers petition yielded 78,965 eligible signatures, well over the 66,447—10 percent of the city’s registered voters from the previous election—needed to be placed on the ballot. Given that the Chargers initially submitted more than 110,000 names, this result is not at all surprising, though the situation in San Diego will be one to watch between now and November.

In order to pay for a proposed $1.8 billion stadium and convention center project in downtown San Diego, the Chargers are proposing a four-percent tax increase in the city’s hotel tax, which would jump from 12.5% to 16.5%. That jump would cover the public contribution to the project, with the private sector cost of $650 being covered by the Chargers and the NFL.

The plan’s robust support during the petition phase could be a good sign for the Chargers, but one major factor in the project’s fate is currently being decided by the state Supreme Court. It was previously ruled by a state appellate court that, as a non-governmental initiative, the Chargers’ referendum would only require the approval of a simple majority to advance, and not the two-thirds support needed for public campaigns. The Supreme Court recently decided, however, that the case requires another look.

One of the issues is that previous state propositions hold that tax hikes that facilitated for the purpose of a particular project require two-thirds approval, regardless of whether their placement on the ballot was initiating by a government or private entity. Aside from the court’s eventual ruling, one of the primary concerns for the project has been the timing of the court’s decision, which could take months to be rendered.

The stakes are high. If the Chargers fall short in the referendum, a move to the Los Angeles area becomes more likely, as they have until January 17, 2017 to exercise an option that allows them to join the Los Angeles Rams at a new stadium in Inglewood.

San Diego city attorney Jan Goldsmith is expected to ask the Supreme Court to take jurisdiction over the case, which would effectively speed up the timeline of the court’s ruling. For the time being the Chargers, who have previously stated that they would be prepared to need a two-thirds majority for approval, seem to be taking the issue in stride.

“The entire Chargers organization is grateful to all of those who helped qualify our initiative for the November 2016 ballot,” Chargers owner and chairman Dean Spanos said in a press statement. “We gathered more than 110,000 signatures in less than six weeks, an extraordinary result that demonstrates the high level of community interest in a new multi-use stadium and convention center facility downtown. I would again like to thank all of those who signed the petition along with the fan groups, labor organizations, and businesses large and small that helped with our effort.”

RELATED STORIES: Chargers Likely Facing Two-Third Majority for Stadium ApprovalChargers: 111,000 Signatures Means November Vote on New Stadium; Chargers Push San Diego Downtown Stadium at Rally; Preliminary Chargers Stadium Design Renderings Released; City Attorney Criticizes Citizens’ Plan; Chargers Meeting With Citizens’ Plan Advocates; Convadium Facing Local Scrutiny; Chargers Begin Stadium Initiative;Chargers Pitch “Convadium”

This article first appeared in the weekly Football Stadium Digest newsletter. Are you a subscriber? It’s free, and you’ll see features like this before they appear on the Web. Go here to subscribe to the Football Stadium Digest newsletter.

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August Publications