The Chargers broke countless hearts when they finally announced they would be relocating to Los Angeles, leaving the residents of San Diego in shock, confused and heartbroken.
Some fans decided to decided to follow them to their new locale, while others decided not to support such horrible ownership and what many believe to be an incredibly poor decision.
I have with me a good friend and fellow staff writer who’s made the decision of choosing a new team, Chris Hoke.
Chris: First off, thank you for conducting this interview. It’s been a long six months since greed and selfishness took my hometown team away from me, leaving me to wonder where the fuck do I go from here.
Charlie: No problem at all! I would like to briefly go over your time as a Chargers fan and ask you a couple of questions about the process of being a free agent fan, so to speak. How long were you a fan of the Bolts? Was it a born-to-now thing? This move must’ve really crushed you.
Chris: I was Chargers fan for 25 brutal seasons. Basically since I was a little kid I grew up watching them with my grandpa and my brother. It become a Sunday tradition in our household. No matter how bad the bolts were my brother and I stuck our team.
Hearing about the bolts was definitively soul crushing. I’ve seen the Chargers get killed in their only Super Bowl appearance. I was there for LT’s last game as a Charger. I was there when the Jets beat us in the playoffs in 2010. I thought those were soul crushing experiences. They pale in comparison to losing your hometown team. It’s like your brother died. I would never wish this kind of pain on any fan. It’s truly been one of hardest times in my life.
Charlie: I’m sure if we take the Spanos family out of the picture, were looking at a much different outcome in this whole process. So that being said, what was a couple of moments being a fan that you’ll cherish for the rest of your life? There’s got to be a part of you that wants to see the players still succeed and do great, right?
Chris: As much as I despise Dean, If you took the Spanos’ out of the picture maybe things would’ve worked out. It wasn’t just his fault though the city of San Diego needs to take some of the blame. For the last 15 years both sides did this dance. Dean would come up with plans to renovate Jack Murphy Stadium or build a multi-purpose center downtown, which would host a number of sporting events. Each time Dean would do this the city turned him down; finally capping it off last November when Proposition C failed miserably. The city and Mayor Faulconer basically left Dean no choice but move the Chargers. So no, I don’t believe the end would be better without Dean. San Diego losing the Chargers was inevitable.
I don’t know if you ever went to any Chargers home games in the Q Charlie, but when the Chargers were winning there was blue and gold everywhere. This city was buzzing. One of the things I will miss about home games was the calm before the storm. The music would start and AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” would hit. Then smoke would filter out of the Chargers helmet then the cannon would fire and then the starting units would be introduced. You just got that electric nervous feeling almost like you were in the game. Those nerves would be turned up even more if it was a rivalry or a playoff game.
As far as moments I’ll cherish, every game I went to was with my brother. Win or lose we were always there next to each other for support. The shared experience of moments and memories like that were enough to last a lifetime.
If I had to go back and pick one game. It would be the Colts wildcard game in 2010 when Darren Sproles scored in overtime in one of the craziest overtime endings ever. Shocking the then Super Bowl Champion Colts.
Football and the Chargers were more to me than money or the games I went to. It was family. Not Dean, not Roger Goodell or anybody will ever take that from me. Family is forever and I will forever be a San DIego Chargers fan!
As far as the players, some have handled this in a way where they can put the true San Diego Chargers fan into their perspective. Take Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates for example. They have both expressed how much San Diego meant to not only their careers but to their families as well. For those players I will cheer for them and hope they finish their careers on top.
Now for those players such as Keenan Allen, who by the way was caught wearing a Raiders hat after he was drafted; we know which team he gets soft against. Allen wasted no time burning his bridge with SD fans by tweeting how excited he was to play in LA only moments after news broke about the Bolts departing from San Diego. I would say that in my eyes those players don’t exist to me and that true Chargers fans should question those players loyalty to not only the team but to us the fans.
Charlie: Safe to say that Darren Sproles game winner has to be a top-3 moment in every Chargers’ fan memory. It was amazing. Still gives me goosebumps to this day watching it and seeing Peytons’ helpless face. *Devilish Laugh*. Now that you’re a free agent fan, have you narrowed it down to any teams in specific that you are gonna cheer for from here on out? if so, how did it come down to them? Whats the process on picking a new team? What plays a big role in attracting you to become a fan? I’m sure given this experience, a huge part has to be ownership.
Chris: I have narrowed it down to three teams. Those teams being the:
Green Bay Packers
For me it came down to several reasons,
First of all with the Packers, I’ve always loved the Packers and the history that comes with this franchise. Not to mention they are publicly owned. The team cares about its fan base. It would also be nice to be a fan of a franchise that knows what it takes to get to a Super Bowl and win.
Secondly, the Philadelphia Eagles. One of the oldest franchises in the league. Like my former team the Eagles have struggled to win a championship. They have had two Super Bowl appearances. One was in 1981 where they lost to the underdog Oakland Raiders. The second loss came in 2004 at the hands of the New England Patriots. Why the Eagles though? My best friend comes from Philly. So I’ve already become a secondary Eagles fan. Since I am now a free agent the idea of being a part of a fan base that is loyal to its team no matter what would be a breath of fresh air compared to the fair weather fan base of the San Diego/LA Chargers.
Lastly, the Chargers. I still can’t call them that disgusting cities name because really it makes me sick to my stomach. It’s like the New York Yankees moving to New Jersey and becoming the New Jersey Yankees. It would make a New Yorker sick. I digress though many may call me a hypocrite since I said “I would never cheer for a team in that city.” However, the Chargers have been all I have known for 25 years. I’ve grown up with this team. They are my blood. They are the bond that my brother and I have always shared. The Chargers are like family to me. If I were to pick them it would be not because of that shithead of an owner. Not because the Mayor of San Diego had a stick so far up his ass he refused to see the grander picture. It would be my heart. My heart has belonged to this team. Whether I like it or not it will always belong to this team.
Charlie: It truly sounds like you have limitless love for the Chargers even after this whole disaster. That’s why you and I connect in good ways. The Packers and Eagles are pretty fair choices as well. Both places can get very cold though, so if you plan on taking trips to see the teams, at Lambeau especially, make sure to bundle up. So before we get into the actual team that you’re rocking with, how has this decision affected relationships with fellow Chargers fans? Do they understand why you’re doing this? I’m sure people feel your pain to some degree. Have you lost any followers on social media?
Chris: I live in Missouri and just moved from Nebraska. I’ve adjusted to cold weather I actually prefer it as well. As far as the transition to being apart of the bolt family on social media to a free agent fan. Man, its been rough. In fact its been one hell of a past seven months. Some have accepted it and understand why I have done it. Some have chosen the same path. Such as former BoltBlitz writer Zak Darman. Others who I have considered close followers have shown anger towards myself and others saying “we were never true fans” which is preposterous. I believe as humans we all grieve in certain ways. Of course I haven’t helped my own cause when I have drunkenly mocked the bolts and L.A. For that I apologize. It was a part of the seven steps of grief anger. In fact after this interview I will no longer be talking about the move or how much I hate Dean Spanos. The subject on this matter is now officially closed!
Charlie: Hypothetical question here, lets say you pick a team that isn’t the Bolts and they end up over exceeding expectations and making playoffs, how would that make you feel? Would you consider coming back? I myself would welcome you back with open arms. Everybody makes mistakes right? All 3 teams are good this year so there should be no letdown where ever you choose to land.
Chris: If the Bolts finally exceed expectations that would be a shock. I mean every time this team is predicted to “take over” the AFC West this team falls flat on its face. So I would be shocked and happy for the players like Rivers, Gates and other veteran guys who deserve to go out on top. However I would not change my mind to be Chargers fan again. Though I’ve thought about trying to be a fan for just one year. Like a player does when he signs a one-year contract. That’s not for me though. When I pick my team this is gonna be the team I stand by till I die!
Charlie: Is everybody in the Hoke family going to be following you on this decision or will this be a solo mission? Somebody in your family had to have either helped with your decision or entice you to go a certain route? Joining a fan base alone can be like switching schools as a kid.
Chris: As I’ve stated in an earlier question. My brother will be remaining a Chargers fan. The rest of my family is either fans of different teams or they are not into football in general. So no, this is something I’ve done on my own unfortunately.
Charlie: Alright so by now, I’m pretty sure the people are on their toes. Everybody can feel your pain and love for the Chargers throughout the article. A lot of people understand you and share those same emotions. Hopefully, this article and your decision can help others and their futures as football fans. With all that being said Mr. Man-of-the-hour, what team are you going with? Who are you going to support going forward? This is a huge decision and it has me so ecstatic to find out! I just hope you’re choosing to stay with us!
Chris: Oh man, This is a question I’ve asked myself over and over for the past seven months. Its taken a lot of soul-searching to get to this point. Being that I’m the man of the hour and I’m a man of my word.
I’ve decided to take my fandom with the Chargers to LA. At the end of the day this is my team. No owner can strip that away from me. I’ve seen these players such as Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates come up from nowhere to be the NFL’s elite. More so than this the Chargers are family. As the line in “Fast and the Furious” series always says “You don’t turn your back on family.” As hard as it is to cheer for a team in a city I hate, things change and I will learn to love this team again. I would once again like to apologize to all the bolt family I’ve spurned for the past seven months. It was a part of the grieving process. I hope you all can forgive me and let me back into the bolt family once again.
Again, Charlie I would like to thank you for these wonderful questions and helping me to close a huge chapter in my life. I look forward to cheering with you on Sundays. Go Bolts!!
Charlie: Yesssssss!!! Words can’t describe how hyped I am to hear you say that. I sure as hell speak for the entire bolt family when I say “welcome back”. Something told me all along you were going to stay with the team. Your passion for this team stretches further than most. This would definitely would not be the best time to leave anyways. The talent on this squad has everybody hyped for the future and I’m truly happy that you are able to look past all the destruction and let downs over the years to stay with them. It’s only going to make winning that much better. I truly am grateful to have found out your great decision first! Next round is on me!
Charlie LaFurno and Chris Hoke
Taking the time now to understand why no true stadium plan was ever presented for Mission Valley will help prevent mayor Kevin Faulconer from using false pretenses to not work with the Chargers towards their downtown solution. Faulconer convincingly won re-election in the primary and will be the mayor of San Diego for the next four years. If the Chargers are to stay in San Diego, it’s high likely it will be under his watch.
Faulconer delayed taking a stance on the Chargers initiative for a new stadium downtown before the election with the pretense that he was analyzing the numbers and waiting for a report on the cost to move the MTS bus yard. He also repeatedly claimed that Mission Valley was originally chosen because the costs associated with the that site for a stadium were largely known.
These are red flags that Faulconer could use the bus yard costs as a reason to justify not supporting the Chargers initiative and attempt to pivot back to Mission Valley.
By understanding the costs that were never included in either the Citizen Stadium Advisory Group (CSAG) or the mayor’s plans for a stadium in Mission Valley, we can hold Faulconer accountable and prevent him from misleading us in attempt to further play politics with the stadium issue instead of solving it.
Before unveiling some of the factors that would inflate the costs of a Mission Valley stadium project, let’s be clear, the Chargers are never going to pivot back to Mission Valley. If the Chargers are to stay in San Diego, it will only come with a new stadium downtown.
We know the Chargers are focused solely on downtown because Dean Spanos sent a letter to former councilwoman Donna Frye to assure her that they would never pivot back to Mission Valley. The Chargers have endorsed Frye’s vision that after the Chargers vacate Mission Valley, the land should be used for a river park and education purposes with an expansion of SDSU and/or UCSD.
“We want to be as clear as we can possibly be about this issue,” Spanos wrote, according to NBC Sports. “We did not choose downtown over Mission Valley casually. Downtown is a plan that can work for the community and our fans. We have tried to make it clear that Mission Valley will not work for the NFL or for the community. The Mayor asked us to make a choice. We made the rational business choice, and the rational choice for the community-at-large. That choice is downtown. Mission Valley is not an option for us, now or in the future.”
The letter assured Frye the Chargers will never opt for stadium in Mission Valley that would partially be paid for with a massive development that would prevent her vision from being realized. This partnership in understanding helps enable supporters of the Citizens Plan backed by Frye and the Chargers initiative to work in tandem despite the initiatives appearing to be in competition. Both sides feel they are in an uphill battle against the City, and have taken the approach that their boats can rise together if they do not allow the media and the City to pit themselves against each other.
A substantial reason the Chargers have no interest in Mission Valley is the cost for a stadium project there would be vastly more expensive than their downtown proposal. In downtown, construction costs are saved by sharing expenses with a non-contiguous expansion of the Convention Center. In Mission Valley, Faulconer and (CSAG) ignored several known obstacles that would undoubtedly greatly inflate the cost of the overall project.
A few members of CSAG met with stadium advocates days before the group announced they were focused on Mission Valley. Jason Riggs, the Chairman of the San Diego Stadium Coalition, and myself brought a lengthily list of known obstacles to Mission Valley and we campaigned hard for downtown.
Riggs became frustrated that members of CSAG were clearly focused on Mission Valley, but were not able to come up with substantial obstacles for downtown. Riggs then said I have a list of obstacles for Mission Valley right here and challenged CSAG members to provide the obstacles to downtown. There was a pause, a hem and a haw, and then one prominent member of CSAG admitted the real obstacle to downtown was the hoteliers. He even went as far as to define the hotelier’s political power by the number of rooms their establishments represent.
Our lists of obstacles were politely received and we were told they would be taken under advisement, but neither CSAG nor Faulconer ever addressed them.
CSAG repeatedly justified their decision to choose Mission Valley because the City owns the land. Eighty of the 166 acres of the Qualcomm site is actually owned by city of San Diego’s Water Utilities Department, according to NBC San Diego.
Faulconer has continued to regurgitate the fallacy of the City owning the Mission Valley land in recent interviews. This could be a preview for the foundation for an argument to reject the Chargers initiative after the report on the cost of moving the MTS bus yard is released. The argument would continue to be that the expense of the bus yard would not factor into the stadium if Mission Valley were the site. Therefore downtown is more expensive for taxpayers.
That argument does not hold merit when factoring the fiduciary responsibility that the Water District has to their rate payers to be fairly compensated by the City for their land.
For decades, the city leased the 80 acres for a measly $15,000 a year. The City had been paying rent to Water District until 2005 when the lease ran out. The City then stopped paying and justified withholding of funds by claiming the land had no real value because the stadium was a money losing operation.
“It’s illegal, flat-out illegal,” said City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. “We got to treat the water fund fairly. The water fund is different than tax payers.”
It was also reported that Goldsmith said compensating the water district for past rent and negotiating a future lease with a new appraisal would add millions to any new stadium development in Mission Valley with.
When CSAG released their stadium plan, they recommend selling 75 acres of the Qualcomm Stadium land. CSAG claimed the sale would generate $225 million. There are experts who believe the Mission Valley land is worth nowhere near the valuation CSAG assigned, but within hours Faulconer backed CSAG’s plan giving credence to the valuation for the property.
The acreage CSAG recommended selling is largely owned by the Water District, but there was no plan to compensate them for the land. The Water District was apparently supposed to forgo their fiduciary responsibility to their rate payers so that the funds of the sale could go to the stadium.
In the process, CSAG affectively told the Water District their previously worthless land was now valued at $240 million.
There is no exact science to determining a fair lease value on the land. When speaking to real-estate professionals, a conservative 5% of return for a long-term contract was suggested.
Just for the sake of argument, let’s assume CSAG’s valuation is accurate and assign an annual fair lease value at 5%. That would equate to a $12 million a year lease. This is on-par with Goldsmith’s estimation that compensating the Water District would add millions to the project.
The Water District is now in position to reasonably argue they are entitled to $132 million in back rent plus interest. They would also need to have been fairly compensated for their land if sold. Much of any sale would have to have gone to the Water District and not the stadium project.
“Perhaps the water fund could retain the water rights under Qualcomm, but then get other compensation by having a land exchange for something else owned by the city,” Goldsmith explained. “But you’d better make sure these appraisals are honest and make sure there’s an arm’s-length transaction. Another option is to buy the 80 acres from the water fund.”
If the Water District maintained ownership of the land, then a fair compensation plan would need to be established for the next 30 years, the time expected to payoff stadium construction bonds. With the same 5% rate of return, and with no inflation on CSAG’s $240 million valuation, then it is fair to argue the Water District should be compensated $360 million over 30 years.
Add in the now 11 years of unpaid rent, the total compensation for the Water District’s share of the land could represent a near a half billion shortfall .
Even if CSAG valuation for the land is not correct, this one obstacles illustrates there was no real plan for Mission Valley.
CSAG and Faulconer also completely ignored known infrastructure needs. Ever since the Chargers turned their focus to downtown in 2009, the pre-existence of needed infrastructure was always touted as a major cost savings for building downtown. In 2012, that saving was estimated at $200 million when the Chargers released art work for a downtown stadium.
Steve Cushman has been particular outspoken against the Chargers plan to build a stadium with a non-contiguous expansion of the Convention Center because Cushman has fought for a contiguous expansion. Cushman acknowledged the cost savings of a downtown stadium after he thought he won a contiguous expansion and suggested the Chargers use the site at Tailgate Park for a stadium in a KPBS interview.
“The advantage of downtown is there is already lots of infrastructure,” Cushman said. “The Trolley is there. There is lots of parking.”
Councilman Scott Sherman, who has been out spoken against the Chargers downtown vision, acknowledged the need for infrastructure in Mission Valley in a recent Union Tribune interview where he discussed his vision for development.
“It has to be done right with the infrastructure,” Sherman said. “It just has to be. We’ve got to get the bridge that goes across to Camino Del Rio North down by the stadium, you know, behind IKEA there. That bridge has been proposed and killed several times. And that would just alleviate all kinds of traffic because that road is very underutilized.”
The bridge Sherman referred to is also just one of 16 infrastructure needs that the Chargers made CSAG and the mayor aware of in a website provided by the Chargers that had previous stadium plans the team had proposed. The infrastructure needs were in the Chargers 2003 plan for Mission Valley.
In 2003, when the Chargers offered to pay for the entire cost of building the stadium in exchange for the Mission Valley land, they also offered to pay for these infrastructure projects after conducting engineering studies. This further validates the need for this infrastructure, because it is unlikely the team would have wanted to pay for any additional infrastructure that what was not required.
Since 2003, there has been a substantial amount of development in Mission Valley without the addition of corresponding infrastructure improvements. With a higher density in Mission Valley today, it is likely the infrastructure needed for a major project has only increased.
None of the 16 known infrastructure needs from 2003 were included in either CSAG’s or the mayor’s plan. Let alone any new infrastructure. It’s possible the infrastructure cost alone needed for a Mission Valley stadium project could in itself exceed the cost of moving the bus yard.
16 known road infrastructure needs of 2003 provided to CSAG:
- Friars Road/SR 163 Interchange Roadway & Ramp Improvements including improvements at Friars Road and Frazee Road Intersection
- Friars Road/Interstate 15 Exchange, Roadway and Ramp Improvements
- Friars Road/Qualcomm Way, Ramps and Intersection Improvements
- Texas Street/Camino Del Rio South Intersection Improvements
- Camino Del Rio South/Interstate 15 North bound improvements
- Friars Road/Mission Center Road, Ramp and Intersection improvements
- Rancho San Diego Road/ Ward Road, Intersection Signalization
- Friars Road/Mission Center Drive, Interchange Improvements
- Interstate 8 Hook Ramps Westbound from Camino Del Rio South to near Interstate 805
- Camino Del Rio South to 4 lanes from Fenton Parkway/Mission Center Parkway to Interstate 805
- Camino Del Rio North to 4 lanes, from Fenton Parkway/Mission Center Parkway to Interstate 15
- Mission Center Parkway Bridge over Interstate 8, widen to 4 lanes
- Bridge over San Diego River at Fenton Parkway
- South Development Road Connection offsite, west to Fenton Parkway
- Western Development Road Connection, offsite to Northside Drive
- Extend Murphy Canyon Road South to development area
The issues surrounding fill dirt were also not addressed. One of the biggest obstacle to construction at Mission Valley is that the entire 166 acre site would have to be brought up to Friars Road level, as illustrated in councilman Sherman’s plan he presented for a stadium.
There are several variables with fill dirt, such as where it is coming from and the quality of dirt, so without knowing those variables ahead of time it is hard to estimate a true cost for a project of this magnitude that would likely take multiple millions of cubic yards (CY) of dirt. Consider one dirt truck only carries 16 CY of fill dirt, it would take 62,500 trucks to deliver each million yards of fill dirt.
The Draft EIR for Mission Valley revealed 920,000 CY of contaminated dirt would be exported from the site and may also entail dewatering. The fuel plume that Kinder Morgan is responsible for the mitigating was only a contributing factor to the contamination. Organo-chlorine pesticide is listed is also listed as a contaminate and is pervasive throughout the site, so it is unclear who would be responsible for cleanup costs.
To provide an idea of how much 920,000 cubic yards of dirt is, it would equate to 57,500 truck loads, or roughly three truck loads of dirt for every parking spot currently surrounding the stadium.
It also represents the same amount of ruble that is expected to be created by the demolition of Qualcomm Stadium, according to same Draft EIR. The fact the Draft EIR came up with the same number for the cubic yards of dirt that is need to be exported, and the rubble generated by the demolition of the stadium, may validate the concern that the Draft EIR was indeed rushed.
The difference between the Qualcomm Stadium debris and contaminated dirt is the debris would be trucked to the Miramar Landfill, while the soil will likely have to be hauled out of state. The SF Giants ran into this problem when they built their stadium and it cost them over $1 million to export just 18 thousand CY of dirt to Utah.
The mostly likely destination for Qualcomm’s contaminated dirt is Arizona, according to the contractor who discovered the organo-chlorine pesticide in 2005. An Arizona official said they “may” take the dirt.
After the dirt is removed, it would be replaced and then enough additional clean dirt would need to be brought into raise the entire site to Friar’s Road level.
The same company that discovered the contamination, quoted me a drive time of around $110 an hour to export the dirt. Each trip would also need require a disposal fee and labor to load the dirt. They also said that they said they had several hundred thousand CY of certified dirt available for fill. This dirt was nearby Mission Valley and could be brought in for $60 to $70 a truck load.
That, however, may not even replace what needs to be exported. If not enough fill dirt could be found locally for the project, then same high cost of drive time would need to be applied for importing new dirt.
It is important to note that the fill dirt obstacle was discovered after the proposal the Chargers made in 2003 to develop Mission Valley, and may be a huge contributing factor on why the team decided to look elsewhere for their stadium plans.
Parking was also dramatically underfunded, especially in the CSAG plan that proposed a 12,000 space parking structure. This would be the largest in North America, but CSAG only allocated a $144 million in funding.
The Mickey and Friends Parking Structure, a 10,250 space garage at Disneyland, came in ahead of time and under budget in the neighborhood of $240 million in 2001, according to Michael Tomczak, an assistant construction manager on the project. A 1994 Los Angeles times article supports that claim by estimating the project would cost $223 million.
The 12,000 spaces is also dramatically insufficient. There are currently over 19,000 parking spaces at Qualcomm Stadium. On game days, the parking lot is typically full and the Trolley is extremely busy. The Trolley set a record in 2014 when it carried on average 15,202 passengers to Chargers games.
When factoring in the Trolley, it would take an unattainable four person per car average to accommodate 63,000 fans with only 12,000 parking spaces.
Qualcomm Stadium is a virtual land locked island, so unless there is a significant investment in public transportation, nearly all of the 19,000 spaces would be needed in a new stadium at the location. After speaking to multiple contractors, I learned a fair estimate for a parking structure of that size would be north of $350 million.
These obstacles were brought up again when stadium advocates meet with the team after they announced downtown. They were acknowledged that these and others greatly contributed to the decision to focus on downtown.
None of the estimations made are meant to be set in stone examples. They were not derived from any actual quotes for a job, and estimations can dramatically change based on the contractor. With enough time and money any of these obstacles could likely be overcome.
What is important is these obstacles were either completely overlooked, or dramatically underfunded by both CSAG and the mayor’s plans. With an understanding of the existence of these obstacles, and a rough idea of the costs associated with them, we can hold the mayor accountable.
We must not allow Faulconer to again suggest Mission Valley would be cheaper than downtown in an effort to not embrace the Chargers vision and/or their initiative.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer would like San Diego to believe that he is open to the Chargers downtown Convadium project which would combine a new stadium with a non-contiguous expansion of the Convention Center. He just needs more time to research the project’s viability and the overall economic impact it will have on San Diego and its taxpayers; time that takes him past next week’s primary election on June 7.
Faulconer and his handlers have taken the approach of avoiding controversy with hopes that he can be re-elected in the primary and not have to run in the general election in November.
Donald Trump, the Republican presumptive nominee, is one source of controversy that Faulconer is doing his best to avoid. Faulconer has repeatedly said he will not support Trump because he is divisive. Faulconer’s colleagues, however, believe this is just a pre-election position to appease the masses.
“Well you know in a matter of weeks we’re going to have a primary for many of our officials,” Darrell Issa, the Republican U.S. Representative for California’s 49th congressional district, told the Independent Voter Project. “They would like to get their 51% and end their races; that’s politics. The mayor has absolutely not had his election yet. I would expect him and the local establishment to come on board (support Donald Trump) in July.”
When a politician calls out another politician of the same party for just playing politics to gain support in an election, we should take note and heed it as a WARNING!
For over a year, I have publicly shared an unpopular belief that everything Mayor Faulconer has done on the stadium issue has been nothing more than theater designed to protect the interests of those that prefer a contiguous expansion of the Convention Center over non-contiguous, and to provide political cover for the mayor if the Chargers were to move to LA.
I was told repeatedly that a solution could be found if only the Chargers would come to the table. From the Chargers announcing their decision to focus on downtown, to publishing the language of their citizens initiative, to the official launch of the initiative, the Chargers have received persistent political blowback for their efforts.
Tony Manolatos, former spokesman of the Citizens Stadium Advisory Group (CSAG), District 1 city council candidate Ray Ellis, and accountant April Boling have been particularly outspoken.
Steve Cushman continues behind the scenes to apply political pressure. “If you were going to line up the people in San Diego who have done the most to block a new stadium over the years, there is no doubt that Steve Cushman would be near the head of that line,” Mark Fabiani told Chargers.com.
Let’s take a look at the interconnectivity of relationships that go back years between Faulconer and those that have been most outspoken against the Chargers plan to build a multi-use stadium that includes a non-contiguous expansion of the Convention Center.
By analyzing the actions of these individuals and their relationships to one another, it is clear that Faulconer’s stadium effort has been politically motivated, less than sincere, and most importantly it is unlikely he will ever be supportive of the Chargers downtown plans, even if he wins re-election.
Steve Cushman and Faulconer have worked together to expand the Convention Center since at least 2009. At that time, Cushman chaired the Mayor’s Citizen Task Force to expand the Convention Center and councilman Faulconer was included in the communications of the task force.
Cushman and April Boiling have collaborated on Convention Center issues involving Hoteliers since at least 2004. Both played critical roles to bring the Hilton hotel to the bay front. Cushman then served as the Commissioner of The Port Commission which granted a coastal development permit for the project. April Boling served as vice chairwoman of the Convention Center Corp. board, and she told commissioners that the hotel will play a “pivotal role in the success of the Convention Center.”
Cushman as outgoing Port Board Chairman in 2010 presented an award to Wayne Darbeau for efforts to “Foster a Constructive Port Culture.”
Darbeau was fired as the CEO of the Port in 2014, after a scandal broke that he used his power over people and influence to help get a job for his son. Manolatos was heavily involved in the issue as a consultant for the Port.
Manolatos worked as spokesman for councilman Faulconer until he resigned following an arrest for Domestic Violence and Vandalism in 2012 which came after the police were called to his house on multiple occasions.
Although charges were not brought, it may pay to have friends in high places, Manolatos as spokesman of CSAG shows a clear lack of leadership by Faulconer. It’s reprehensible that Manolatos spoke on behalf of San Diego for our attempt to get a new NFL stadium, especially considering the domestic violence is a huge issue in the NFL.
In 2013, Boling returned to the Faulconer campaign trail as the treasurer for not only the Faulconer campaign for mayor, but also as the treasurer for both Super PACs that supported his campaign.
This sounds legally dubious, as Fabiani might say. We are supposed to believe that there was no coordination between the campaign and the Super PACs to allow a substantial amount of money to flow into the campaign.
In October of 2013, the Coastal Commission ignored its own staff recommendation to not expand the Convention Center contiguously because it would further wall-off public access to the bay. The approval of a contiguous expansion was made under a false premise that contiguous is the only way for expansion. This allowed the Convention Corp and Coastal Commission to go back on previously made promises to the public.
The ruling appeared to kill the possibility of a non-contagious expansion and the Chargers preference of multi-use stadium downtown.
“The result is no surprise, given the influence of the powerful groups supporting the project,” Fabiani said in reaction to the approval. “Now attention will turn to an appeals court ruling on the legally dubious tax that was invented to pay for all of this.”
Cushman thought he had won his contiguous expansion and then appeared on KPBS and suggested the Chargers use the site at Tailgate Park for a stadium that was to be used for a non-contiguous expansion of the Convention Center. At this point, Cushman thought the possibility of including a Convention Center expansion with a stadium was off the table.
Cushman touted the benefits of a downtown stadium. “The advantage of downtown is there is already lots of infrastructure. The Trolley is there. There is lots of parking.”
Contrast that statement to all the public reasons given by the mayor and CSAG to not choose downtown for a stadium.
In March of 2014, Cushman and Manolatos served together on Faulconer’s transition team to mayor in which Cushman was the co-chair.
In August of 2014, Cory Briggs won a lawsuit throwing out the legally dubious tax that Fabiani had warned about. This halted the contiguous expansion of the Convention Center.
With no clear path to a Convention Center expansion available for the City, the Chargers privately engaged Faulconer and tried to revive the multi-purpose concept.
Instead of hashing out a deal that would have secured both the Chargers and Comic-Con to San Diego, it was Faulconer that walked away from the table and announced the creation of CSAG in his State of City Address.
It was clear from the beginning that the formation of CSAG was just political posturing and the Chargers organization did not support this. Fabiani quickly voiced concern that Cushman would be part of CSAG because Cushman had repeatedly been a roadblock to their downtown efforts.
Cushman was ultimately not appointed to CSAG, but Faulconer did re-appoint Cushman to the San Diego Convention Center Corporation (SDCCC) Board of Directors. This appointment allowed the two to continue their work together to achieve their goal of a contiguous expansion of the Convention Center. Work that had been ongoing while CSAG supposedly deliberated between downtown and Mission Valley for a stadium.
Days before CSAG announced Mission Valley, when faced with the question of what were the real obstacles to downtown, a CSAG representative explained to citizen stadium groups that it was the hoteliers.
When you have that knowledge and the fact that Faulconer and Cushman were continuing to work together for a contiguous expansion, the only intellectual conclusion you can reach is that CSAG’s choice between downtown and Mission Valley was nothing more than a political illusion.
At the Downtown San Diego Partnership’s dinner in 2015, Faulconer joked about the Chargers not wanting Cushman on CSAG. Falconer said he was creating a new stadium task force that would have everyone in the room “except for you, Cushman.”
Faulconer also promised to get the expansion of the San Diego Convention Center back on track. “We’re just going to build it wherever Cory Briggs promises not to sue us,” Faulconer said.
Faulconer, however, has yet to endorse the Chargers concept for a non-contiguous expansion which is supported by Briggs. It is clear it is just the opposite
Ellis recently received a $100,000 donation from the political PAC “Neighborhoods, Not Stadiums.” The phone number for this PAC is owned by Boling.
Manolatos is now the communication director for the Ellis campaign. Manolatos recently sent out a press release touting Ellis’ anti-stadium stance.
When you know the history, and connect the dots, it becomes crystal clear how vitally important this primary election is for the future of the Chargers in San Diego. Armed with knowledge, please refer to this voter guide when voting.
Please share the knowledge by sharing this article.
As a part of their ongoing boycott, members of The San Diego Stadium Coalition and Save Our Bolts demonstrated outside a fundraiser for Mayor Faulconer on Thursday night. The event was hosted by hotelier Bill Evans (owner of The Bahia, Catamaran and Torrey Pines Lodge) at his garage on Pacific Highway where Evans stores his high-end car collection.
Approximately thirty concerned citizens demonstrated, holding signs that read “For Sale Mayor” and “Stop Hotelier Cabal.” Participants voiced their concerns that a few hoteliers have had a tremendous negative impact on San Diego. They were particularly concerned that mayor Kevin Faulconer is beholden to the interest of a few hoteliers who prefer a contiguous expansion of the Convention Center over the Chargers’ plan for a multi-use facility stadium downtown that would include a non-contiguous expansion.
Jason Riggs, Founder of the San Diego Stadium Coalition said, “What started as an effort to expose the Hotelier Cabal and their obstructionist maneuvering against a downtown convention center/stadium project, has grown into something much more significant. It is now abundantly clear that this particular special interest group has wreaked havoc on the entire civic landscape of San Diego in a way that goes well beyond one specific issue.” He added, “It’s time to shine a bright light on this systemic plague that has permeated almost every corner of City Hall for more than a decade.”
Marc Angelo, who runs NorCal Dolfan, promised his support of the boycott. “We are coming to San Diego with about 300 or so people. I have already asked for a list of hotels that are cooperating with your guys’ mission. We will book rooms at those hotels only. If there was a hotel that would actually help you guys, I would rather be loyal to them.” Angelo talked about the past spending habits of his group when visiting San Diego. “Almost every night we were hanging in the lobby, spending money in the lobby. People were going into the bar ordering beers. Each person is probably $200 a night.”
Riggs continued, “This boycott has already touched a nerve with the Hotelier Cabal and the politicians who represent them. We’ve barely begun.”
San Diego mayoral candidate Lori Saldaña took note of the protest and shared it on her campaign page. The Saldaña campaign wrote the protest was bad timing for mayor Kevin Faulconer who just two days earlier claimed the hoteliers had no influence over him in a debate.
David Agranoff, co-founder of Save Our Bolts said, “It is not too late for the Mayor to show leadership, but it is impossible for us to ignore a big money fundraiser being organized for the Mayor by Bill Evans who has influenced so many civic failures. This event highlights the underlying problem in San Diego politics and who is really calling the shots. We want the Mayor to prove us wrong.”
Save Our Bolts along with The San Diego Stadium Coalition and their combined 42,000 members have joined forces and received support from various civic leaders and fan groups in solidarity for their boycott against several of the hoteliers hosting Thursday’s fundraiser.
For more information San Diego’s destructive Hotelier Cabal, please visit HotelierCabal.com.
Stadium advocacy groups Save Our Bolts and the San Diego Stadium Coalition have made unified political endorsements that best support development of a new stadium and convention center expansion downtown. These endorsements include both opponents to mayor Kevin Faulconer.
“In this primary there are three elections of critical importance to Chargers fans and the future of a downtown San Diego stadium and Convention Center,” said Chairman of the San Diego Stadium Coalition Jason Riggs. “Based on their voting records, public comments, action and/or inactions with respect to the Chargers, the following are the most ardent anti-Chargers officials in this election.
- NO – Mayor Kevin Faulconer
- NO – Councilman Scott Sherman
- NO – Candidate Ray Ellis”
While Faulconer hasn’t taken a position opposing the Chargers initiative or plans for downtown, it is clear where he stands by the actions of those closest to him and by what stadium groups are hearing from those that are engaged with the mayor.
District 1 city council candidate Ray Ellis and accountant April Boling have been two of the most outspoken voices opposing the Chargers’ downtown vision. Both have deep connections tying them to Faulconer.
Boling served as the treasurer for multiple Faulconer campaigns. When Faulconer ran for mayor, Boling was not just the treasurer of the campaign, but also treasurer both super PACs that supported the campaign.
Ellis recently received a $100,000 donation from the political PAC “Neighborhoods, Not Stadiums.” The phone number for this PAC is owned by Boling.
Tony Manolatos, former spokesman for the Citizens Stadium Advisory Group (CSAG), is the communication director for the Ellis campaign. Last week, Manolatos sent out a press release touting Ellis’ anti-stadium stance.
Faulconer’s allegiances clearly lie with the hoteliers. These same hoteliers are hosting a fundraiser for Faulconer this Thursday at Evans Garage, a venue owned by hotelier Bill Evans. It has become abundantly clear Faulconer’s stadium effort, which include CSAG, was designed to protect the interests of a select few hoteliers that favor a contiguous expansion of the Convention Center.
If Faulconer remains mayor, he will have many opportunities to block the Chargers plan from ever being realized. Hurdles to development would include failing to move the MTS bus yard or not acquiring Tailgate Park, for example.
In addition, sources at City Hall have been actively working to sabotage positive efforts to support a downtown stadium. On Friday, a contact at City Hall leaked a false story to NBC San Diego probably to create chaos among fan groups and delay the endorsements given today. The story indicated that the mayor and the Chargers struck a stadium deal in Mission Valley and was quickly shut down as reporters reached out to those in contact with the team. This serves as another example of purposeful deception targeted against the downtown effort.
The Chargers are currently circulating an initiative with hopes of getting it on the November ballot for the general election. The two pro-stadium organizations would ideally like to endorse candidates that have backed the Chargers plan, but no candidate for mayor has gone that far yet.
“No one has earned our vote,” said co-founder of Save Our Bolts David Agranoff. “Not one candidate has taken action or shown an understanding of what is needed to give San Diego the kind of effort needed in the years to come. Most importantly our fear is that a majority in the primary ends Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s need to campaign. We feel the issues facing the city whether it is downtown, 911 delayed response, the harassment of the homeless with inhumane policies need more discussion than a primary election allows. We are asking San Diegans to vote in the primary for Ed Harris or Lori Saldaña for the primary to ensure that we have more time to weigh the candidates. If in November you choose to change your vote we understand. The future of San Diego is too important to decide as early as June 7th.”
In addition to Harris and Saldaña, Save Our Bolts and the San Diego Stadium Coalition have endorsed councilman candidate Justin DeCesare. All three of these candidates have endorsed the Citizens’ Plan that provides a clear path for a stadium and Convention Center expansion downtown. All three of these candidates have indicated through their campaign management a willingness to implement the Chargers plan when it passes
Harris has promised to facilitate a downtown solution. “The days of Qualcomm are nearly over,” Harris said. “Now, we need to make a path for a downtown stadium, expanded Convention Center, and a public park along the San Diego river. As mayor, I will never stand on the sidelines when real leadership is required to tackle major issues.”
Saldaña echoes this solution-orientated message. “As a native San Diegan and a lifelong Charger fan, I am proud to have the support of my fellow Charger fans,” Saldaña said. “In the absence of leadership from the Mayor who called this his ‘number one issue in San Diego’ I am proud of my fellow San Diegans for taking up their cause and engaging in our political system to achieve what they believe is best for our City. As your Mayor, I will be committed to supporting your efforts and keeping the Chargers in San Diego.”
DeCesare is running against Scott Sherman in District 7. Sherman suggested the Chargers stadium plan is a con in a Voice of San Diego op-ed published on Monday. In a meeting with Riggs and myself, Sherman made it clear his stadium plan for Mission Valley is really a development plan. DeCesare opposes major development in Mission Valley. He favors the Chargers moving to downtown for the positive environmental impact that can be made with the Mission Valley land after the move.
“I’ve always thought that if a new stadium is to be built, downtown would be a far better location in order to protect the environmental concerns of the San Diego River and minimize the traffic impacts on the already overburdened residents of Mission Valley,” DeCesare said. “Once elected, one of my top priorities for the residents of District 7 will be protecting the Qualcomm site from condo development, and instead turning it into a major public park that can be enjoyed by all San Diegans while protecting SDSU’s football program.”
The June 7 primary election will have an impact on the future of the Chargers in San Diego. Its magnitude cannot be underestimated. “It is critically important that all Chargers fans vote. Fans must get their family and friends to vote as well,” Riggs said. “Abstaining in this election is actually casting a vote for the politicians who are trying to drive the Chargers out of San Diego.”
Full List of Save Our Bolts and San Diego Stadium Coalition endorsements for June 7th primary
Mayor: Ed Harris and Lori Saldaña
City Council, District 1: Barbara Bry
City Council District 7: Justin DeCesare
City Attorney: Bryan Pease
In October of 2014, BoltBlitz.com was among the first to report on the conflict between a few hoteliers and the Chargers’ effort to build a new multi-purpose stadium in conjunction with a non-contiguous expansion of the convention center. The obstructionism of these hoteliers, now known as the Hotelier Cabal, has transformed pro-stadium voices into true activists.
On Monday, the San Diego Stadium Coalition, Save Our Bolts and other civic and fan groups came together in support of a national boycott against San Diego hotels that are owned and/or operated by the Hotelier Cabal. The hoteliers identified in the boycott are financially influencing local politicians who are collectively opposing the development of a downtown mixed-use facility.
“Whether you feel strongly about the Chargers and their quest for a new stadium or not, the influence that the hotel industry wields over local officials has created a dysfunctional political ecosystem where voter and taxpayer interests are being mortgaged to the highest bidder.” said Jason Riggs, San Diego Stadium Coalition Founder and Chairman.
He added, “In 2008 we started working with various civic groups to find a stadium solution in San Diego. During that time one roadblock has remained consistent and that’s the hotel industry’s opposition to a downtown multi-use facility. Until these hoteliers and the politicians that represent them come forth to transparently discuss and negotiate the Chargers’ downtown convention center/stadium solution, we are asking everyone not to patronize their hotels.”
Save Our Bolts joined the San Diego Stadium Coalition in taking a hard-line stance against the Hotelier Cabal in organizing the boycott.
“Despite a downtown plan that includes a significant investment from the Chargers and zero general fund dollars, we have been surprised at the lack of support from local politicians and outright characterizations in campaign materials,” said David Agranoff, co-founder of Save Our Bolts.
“We fear that a group of powerful San Diego hoteliers are influencing local politicians and creating a united political front against the Chargers. Follow the trail of donations and it is shameful that these hotels are using politicians to pit neighborhoods against millions of Chargers fans. The reality is this plan doesn’t hurt your neighborhood in any way. It is time to hold them accountable. And our national fan base is ready to make sure when friends and family come to visit they know where NOT to book a room.”
Evidence of hotelier obstructionism has been present throughout the search for a stadium solution. Days before the Citizen Stadium Advisory Group (CSAG) announced they would focus on Mission Valley for a new stadium, a few of their members meet with stadium activists, including the leadership of the San Diego Stadium Coalition and Save Our Bolts.
In that meeting, when faced with the question of what were the real obstacles to downtown, a CSAG representative admitted that it was the hoteliers.
Steve Cushman has been particularly outspoken against the Chargers efforts downtown claiming, “If you were going to line up the people in San Diego who have done the most to block a new stadium over the years, there is no doubt that Steve Cushman would be near the head of that line,” Mark Fabiani told Chargers.com.
Mayor Faulconer re-appointed Steve Cushman to the San Diego Convention Corporation Board of Directors in October of 2015, a move that allowed the two to continue to work together for a contiguous expansion of the Convention Center.
When analyzing Faulconer’s actions and CSAG’s admission to stadium leaders, the only intellectual conclusion that can be reached is that CSAG’s choice between downtown and Mission Valley, and the mayor’s stadium effort last year, was nothing more than a political illusion designed to protect the interest of the Hotelier Cabal.
The cabal will now likely feel financial ramifications for their corruptive influence on San Diego politics. Save Our Bolts along with The San Diego Stadium Coalition have a combined 42,000 members that will be utilized to spread the word of the boycott. Family, friends and Chargers fans who live out of San Diego will be encouraged to avoid Hotelier Cabal properties.
Riggs added, “We know it’s going to take some real financial pressure on these hoteliers before they’ll negotiate in good faith to resolve our lingering Convention Center and stadium issues. We feel this is a good start.”
The hotels identified in the boycott include:
- Lodge at Torrey Pines
Town and Country Hotel
Town and Country Hotel
Pacific Terrace Hotel
Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn & Suites
The Dana on Mission Bay
Sheraton La Jolla
Hilton Harbor Island
Best Western Island Palms Hotel and Marina
- Holiday Inn San Diego Bayside
- Days Inn San Diego Hotel Circle (near Sea World)
For info on the political influence of San Diego Hoteliers, visit http://www.hoteliercabal.com
BoltBlitz.com fully endorses and agrees with the aforementioned parties on boycotting the local hotels of San Diego. They seem to be the ones standing in your way of keeping the Chargers in San Diego.
Thanks a lot for reading.
*submitted to BoltBlitz.com via email from Dan McLellan.
Booga: There is a feeling among the fans in San Diego that the brunt of the work on finding a stadium location has been placed on the Los Angeles area (Carson and Inglewood). Although that sentiment warrants some consideration, over a dozen years have been spent trying to find a solution in San Diego. How would you respond to the fans that feel that way?
Mark: I can’t blame fans for feeling that way, because we have made such quick progress in Los Angeles in just a few months while making so little progress in San Diego even after 14 years of work.
What we’ve tried to explain to fans is that the Los Angeles and San Diego markets are significantly different. In LA, the market is large enough to finance the stadium out of revenues generated by the stadium. In our smaller market here in San Diego, that same type of financing solution simply isn’t possible.
But no amount of explaining will keep our passionate fans from feeling frustrated, and I can’t blame them. After 14 years of work, the fans have every right to expect more progress than they’ve seen here in San Diego.
Booga: To show the readers that you are a fan of the team, what is your favorite moment in Chargers’ history?
Mark: The epic, overtime playoff game against Miami in the early 1980s. The incredible performance by Kellen Winslow and the rest of the team. I’ll never forget watching that game – I still remember to this day that Don Criqui was the announcer. Criqui was old school.
Booga: After CSAG submitted its initial proposal regarding their plan for a stadium in San Diego, what were your thoughts regarding the work they put into devising a plan that they believe would be workable?
Mark: My thought after the CSAG report was released was pretty much the same thought I had when the Mayor announced the creation of CSAG: We are running out of time. With the pressure that Stan Kroenke and the Rams were putting on us in Inglewood, we had hoped to move forward quickly to get something before the voters in San Diego in 2015. We felt this way in January, when the Mayor created the task force, and we have felt this way every day since. And while we are pleased that the city has now assembled a good group of experts led by Christopher Melvin of the Nixon Peabody law firm, it sure would have been nice to have been working with these experts last year – or even starting in January, when CSAG was created. Waiting for CSAG to conclude, and only then starting with the experts on June 2, constituted a huge loss of time – time that we can’t get back.
Booga: It appears to some that Mayor Faulconer and his team have no desire to explore downtown San Diego as an option for a stadium. The Chargers and Dean Spanos seem to be interested in seeking a viable option in downtown. Has the focus turned to downtown, or is the team willing to find a solution at the Mission Valley site?
Mark: Yes, the Mayor and his allies in the hotel industry have made it absolutely clear that they have no interest in the downtown option. CSAG’s chair said that anyone who believed downtown was viable was “delusional.” And the CSAG reports lists reason after reason why the downtown option can’t work. With all of this, it’s hard to see how the downtown option can be revived, at least in the short term.
Booga: How big of a role do the hoteliers have in deciding whether or not a stadium could be built in downtown?
Mark: The hoteliers call the shots on many of the important issues facing the City of San Diego, and they certainly do so on the possibility of a combined stadium-convention center downtown.
Of course, most people don’t follow the machinations of the hoteliers very closely. But if they did, they would be very surprised at what they would see.
For example, for years the hoteliers have insisted that any expansion to the Convention Center be contiguous – which means that the expansion must be connected to the existing facility. The hotel lobby said that a contiguous expansion was essential because that’s what the customers of the Convention Center wanted.
Of course, the hoteliers’ plan for accomplishing this has been thwarted by the courts; the legally dubious taxing mechanism proposed for the project was decisively struck down by the courts, and several environmental challenges against the project are still pending. Through that whole process, more than four years and $10 million in taxpayer money were wasted – only for the city to come up empty in the end.
So, at the behest of the hoteliers, the City is paying for another study of Convention Center customers to re-evaluate the idea of a contiguous expansion. And I’m going to go way out on a limb here and predict that this study is going to show – as Gomer Pyle used to say on The Andy Griffith Show – “surprise, surprise, surprise!” It turns out that our customers have changed their minds and now want a non-contiguous expansion after all! And when this happens, I bet no one will call out the hoteliers for carrying out this elaborate but obvious ruse.
Booga: The NFL owners and the NFL play a bigger role than most are aware of involving the stadium issue. Can you explain to the fans what their impact means to achieving a resolution to keep the Chargers in San Diego?
Mark: Most fans probably know at this point that the relocation of an NFL franchise from one city to another requires a three-fourths vote of the owners – 24 votes out of 32 owners. From the start of our new stadium efforts 14 years ago, we have always shown the utmost respect for the process established by the NFL’s owners. We have done everything possible to keep the League fully informed every step of the way, and the requirements imposed on us by the NFL’s relocation guidelines have been at the top of our minds throughout. In short, we have been very clear on this fundamental point: We will respect the decisions made by the owners about Los Angeles and San Diego.
Booga: Can you explain how the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) affects the situation via the courts?
Mark: CEQA law is pretty turgid stuff, and we only know so much about it because we have paid millions of dollars in legal fees over the years to understand it – because unless you understand CEQA, you will never be able to complete a major construction project in California.
So, despite the complicated nature of the topic, I will take a shot here at summarizing what CEQA means, and why it presents such a challenge for us right now here in San Diego. But readers, please be warned: Prepare to be bored.
CEQA is the landmark California state law requiring that all state and local legislative bodies fully account for the environmental impacts of proposed legislation before the legislation is passed.
For major projects, such as an NFL stadium and a possible ancillary development, CEQA requires that the legislative body conduct a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR), submit the EIR for public comment, incorporate or otherwise account for the public’s input, and then certify the EIR. Once the EIR is certified, the legislative body is free to adopt the project. At that point, for controversial projects in California, complaining parties typically sue to challenge the adequacy of the EIR, and on complex projects the resulting litigation can stall the project and consume several years of time.
What does all of this have to do with the City of San Diego and the Chargers?
An action by the City Council to place a stadium ballot measure before the voters is a legislative act and so must be cleared under CEQA. The standard method of accomplishing this for a complicated stadium project is to conduct a full-blown EIR – a process that usually takes from 12-to-18 months from start to certification by the City Council.
Even though the Mayor Faulconer took office in 2014, the city’s leaders have as of this date not even begun an EIR on the stadium project. Clearly, then there is no longer the opportunity to complete a legitimate, legally defensible EIR in time for a 2015 vote.
To get around this problem, the city has proposed, in three formal negotiating sessions and many informal conversations, four means of circumventing the traditional CEQA EIR process:
- Legislative Exemption: At our first formal negotiation session, the city’s team said that the only way to clear CEQA in time for a 2015 vote was to persuade the California state legislature to pass a law exempting the entire stadium/ancillary development project from CEQA. No other project of this type in California has ever received such a complete exemption, and we do not believe that such an exemption will be forthcoming from the legislation in this case. In any event, an exemption passed by the state legislature in 2015 would not take legal effect until next year and so would not apply to any 2015 ballot measure.
- Categorical Exemption: There are exemptions in CEQA for some projects. At our second formal meeting, the city argued that the stadium project was exempt from CEQA because we would simply be “replacing” the old stadium with the new stadium. This argument received serious legal scrutiny both by our legal team and by experts quoted in the media, and a consensus quickly emerged that this option was legally dubious.
- Reliance on 1983 Stadium Expansion EIR: At our third formal negotiating session, the city proposed to create an addendum for a 1983 EIR that was prepared for a 7,000 seat expansion of the stadium. The city maintained that the addendum could be prepared quickly and would not be subject to public review. Once again, we concluded based on all the advice we received that this approach was legally invalid because the 1983 EIR – which is all of 20-odd pages long – had nothing to do with the construction of a brand new stadium, the demolition of an old stadium, and an ancillary development. Therefore, it would not be possible to create a legally sufficient addendum that would pass CEQA muster.
- Quickie EIR: When it became clear that the city’s first three ideas for circumventing CEQA were untenable, the city proposed to conduct an EIR in time for a January 2016 ballot measure. To accomplish this, the city would have to begin the EIR immediately, spend roughly one month writing the EIR, begin the 45 day public review process, and then take time to account for the public comments – all prior to the mid-October date when the City Council would have to vote to place the matter on the January 2016 ballot.
Preparing a full EIR for a project of this magnitude in such a short period of time is unprecedented in California, and the resulting product would be so slipshod that plaintiffs’ lawyers would have an easy time having the document invalidated by the courts.
Booga: How did the Carson and Inglewood projects avoid the CEQA process?
Mark: Citizen’s initiatives are not subject to CEQA, and both the Carson and Inglewood stadiums were entitled through citizen’s initiatives.
A successful citizen’s initiative must be sponsored by a group or entity that has the financial resources to draft the initiative, gather signatures, and manage an effective election campaign. Starting from scratch today, the soonest a citizen’s initiative could reach the ballot in San Diego, if everything went smoothly, would be April or May of 2016. Finally, there is now a move in the California legislature to close the CEQA loophole that allows citizen’s initiatives of this type, and it is quite possible, even likely, that the law will be changed before there could be a vote on a citizen’s initiative in San Diego.
Booga: Why can’t an EIR be done in a month or two, if the city is prepared to throw significant resources behind the effort?
Mark: There is an entire class of plaintiffs’ lawyers in California that exists solely to challenge EIRs and then collect legal fees from taxpayers when the lawyers win in court. No EIR is legally bulletproof, but to get as close as possible to that goal would require 12-to-18 months of serious work. It is simply not possible to do the necessary work in a month or two.
Booga: San Diego’s mayor believes that the options identified for circumventing CEQA are legally defensible. Why isn’t that good enough for the Chargers?
Mark: The city has a very different tolerance for risk than the Chargers do. For example, four years ago the current city leadership proposed a novel way of increasing the hotel tax, without a public vote, to finance a convention center expansion. Many observers, including the Chargers, said at the time that the tax measure was illegal and that it would be struck down by the courts. The city’s leadership decided to move forward nonetheless and take their chances in court. Now, five years and $10 million in taxpayer money later, the tax was declared illegal by a unanimous court of appeals and the city has no Convention Center expansion plan.
The Chargers are in no position to roll the legal dice in this way. The team would be expected to fund, at a cost of perhaps up to ten million dollars, the election campaign, the vote, and the subsequent legal defense of the vote. And even if the team prevails at the ballot box, the project would be stalled by years of litigation which the team and city are likely to lose in the end.
Booga: Why must there be a public vote? Can’t the City Council simply adopt the stadium funding plan?
Mark: A City Council vote on a stadium plan would still require CEQA clearance and a full EIR.
In addition, a City Council vote would be subject to the California referendum process, which allows citizens who don’t like what the Council did to gather signatures to qualify for the ballot a referendum invalidating the City Council’s action. Opponents of taxpayer funding for a stadium in San Diego would almost certainly gather sufficient signatures to qualify a referendum for the ballot. The entire project would then be put on hold until the next regularly scheduled election. In short, there will likely be a public vote on the stadium project one way or another. The only questions are how the matter reaches the ballot, and when.
Finally, the Mayor and a majority of the City Council and County Board of Supervisors have insisted that there be a public vote on the expenditure of any public money for a stadium. These political leaders are unlikely to reverse their positions.
Booga: The City and County of San Diego are committed to spending several hundred million dollars of public money on a stadium project. Isn’t that significant?
Mark: The City and County haven’t committed anything yet. Any expenditure of public funds would have to be approved by voters. In the case of a tax increase, a two-thirds vote of approval is required under California law.
In addition, even if there is voter approval, the City and County of San Diego are both proposing to finance the project with money from their General Funds. In the City’s case, this would likely require the sale of Lease Revenue Bonds; in the County’s case, this would require several different appropriations over a period of years. Taking money from the General Fund to pay for a stadium will generate a vigorous public backlash and legal challenges by those who believe that vital services — such as police, fire and public pensions — will be imperiled by this funding mechanism.
Booga: How badly do you want the Chargers to remain in San Diego? Or are you strictly focused on what provides the Spanos’ family with the most lucrative deal possible?
Mark: If Dean and his family didn’t want the Chargers to remain in San Diego, we would have given up long ago. There have been stadium options available in LA going back to 2003, when AEG was proposing a stadium near Staples Center. Ed Roski’s stadium site in the City of Industry was fully entitled in 2008. AEG’s Farmers Field site has been fully entitled for years now as well. If the Spanos family wanted to move the Chargers out of San Diego, the team would have been gone a long time ago.
Booga: There has been a dark picture painted of you via the media and other outlets. It would appear that some do not understand that you have a job to do, and that you must do your due diligence to weigh all options in an effort to find a successful model for a stadium. How do you respond to the critics? Or do you?
Mark: We knew we would create plenty of controversy in January that when we decided to increase the pressure on San Diego political leaders to act. But we felt we had no choice, because of the move that the Rams made in Inglewood.
So, when I speak to fans, or e-mail with them, I try to ask a simple question: If we had simply remained quiet and allowed CSAG’s work to continue until the Fall – which is the schedule that the Mayor first proposed – would our chances of solving this problem have increased, or decreased? My strong view is that if we had simply said nothing, right now we would all be sitting around and waiting for CSAG to finish work in October or November – just as the NFL owners are in the process of considering the Los Angeles question.
Of course, fans have every right to their own opinions about the wisdom of our strategy, and I have no business trying to talk them out of those opinions. But I’m comfortable with the new strategy that we pursued once our hand was forced in January by events in Inglewood.
Booga: In closing, do you have anything to say to the fans of the San Diego Chargers that gives them a true sense of hope when it comes to their team staying put in America’s finest city?
Mark: Anyone who tells you how the Los Angeles relocation process is going to play out at the NFL ownership level is engaging in pure speculation. There isn’t anyone who truly knows how the situation will ultimately resolve itself. And whatever resolution occurs is going to be impacted by important events that have not yet occurred.
Finally, a great deal might depend on how the San Diego political leadership decides to treat the NFL and the Chargers going forward. The good news here is that the city has finally assembled experts in stadium finance who might, we hope, advise a different, more sophisticated approach to the Chargers and to the NFL than the one that some of the city’s political leaders have taken so far.
This is another one of those articles that I do not enjoy writing. That being said, I am very interested to see what the fans have to say. But I have a feeling that I know what the majority of the responses will be.
The back-and-forth between the Mayor’s office and the Chargers has gotten a bit ugly at times. Name calling on both sides have polluted social media via interviews on the radio and the internet. It seems to have toned down recently, but I don’t expect it to remain that way. I suppose we’ll all have to remain patient as we wait for the scenario to play out.
Let’s face it, we are now reaching the eleventh hour in this process. Mark Fabiani, special counsel to the Chargers, has repeatedly stated that they have been working with San Diego for 14 years in order to keep the team in America’s finest city. (Go ahead and take a drink) But how much progress has truly been made? At this point, after the shuffling of downtown and the Mission Valley site as being the prime location, it is hard to say if any progress has been made.
I suppose steps in the right direction have commenced, as Mayor Faulconer seems to be genuine in his remarks regarding the team not leaving for Los Angeles. I can say that I know for a fact that the CSAG members are putting in countless hours — of volunteer, unpaid time — to work toward a viable solution. But the clock is ticking.
Honestly, I have no clue exactly how I would feel if they moved. I can guarantee that I would be extremely angry initially, but part of me believes that I would get over it and remain a fan. Again, I don’t know. I really want them to stay in San Diego. I didn’t move here from Charlotte, North Carolina to watch them leave for Los Angeles, or anywhere else for that matter.
In an effort to avoid rambling on and on, I’ll get right to the poll question. Please place your vote on the poll and explain that vote by leaving a comment below. I’ll be doing a follow-up piece on this using your responses on Twitter and Facebook.
Thanks a lot for reading, voting and commenting.
What will a joint venture between the City of San Diego and the County of San Diego mean to the Chargers? To begin with, it does is alter one bone of contention – the vote. Or does it? Secondly, it paves the way for the two entities to (hopefully) meet on mutual ground in the bid to keep the Bolts in San Diego. Third, it perhaps gives the team, and its fan base, hope for the future. Finally, it may prove that the deal in Carson is what many believe it to be – a bluff rather than reality.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced Thursday that the city and the County, behind Supervisor Ron Roberts, will be splitting costs in the hiring of attorneys, consultants and other experts to assist with the impending issue. Each side will present its findings/proposals by the May 20 deadline. It has to be fair to all the involved parties – the city, the county and the team. Keep in mind that this undertaking not only affects Chargers football but that of San Diego State in addition to other events which provide revenue.
Does a new stadium need to be voted on? Since the City and County are pledging to work together, it does not appear that the two-thirds vote is going to be needed. However, Mayor Faulconer has indicated that even if a ballot measure for that two-thirds approval is not required, he feels it is mandatory for San Diego voters to have a say. The likelihood of a “yay” vote occurring in the sole circumstance of the City voting is like paddling your canoe upstream against the current. This team has fans that trek not just from downtown but also fans that travel from inland North County and the coastal communities as well as from East County and South County. Do you see where this is headed? Why should only those registered voters in downtown San Diego be responsible for making a decision that will ultimately affect those who reside outside its boundaries? Let us not forget what has been common knowledge for quite some time: the city coffers are not in the best financial state. Enter the county which is in a better position to assist. To best serve the San Diego Chargers and their many devotees, a county-wide ballot must be proposed, as it was back in the day when San Diego/Jack Murphy/Qualcomm stadium was initially presented in 1964.
The team has tried for many years to gain approval for a new home in San Diego. The city hasn’t always wanted to play ball even though its former mayors had stated that they would help facilitate such a project. Now, at the nth hour with Los Angeles becoming a mecca as it were, the timeframe is tightening. The facility that the San Diego Chargers currently play in is decrepit, falling apart, outdated and before long will not be a viable venue for anything. So, while the City and the County of San Diego each hire and task their chosen attorneys, advisers, and specialists with searching for a plausible, cohesive plan to make dreams reality, Dean Spanos and his special counsel, Mark Fabiani, will continue to pursue Carson, CA as an alternative.
Bottom line, it is do-or-die for Mayor Faulconer, Supervisor Ron Roberts, and the Citizens Stadium Advisory Group.
Thank you for reading! Please share your thoughts below.
It seems everyone has their diaper in a bunch over the Chargers moving to Los Angeles (LA). Sure, we are in the 11th hour and the threat of moving should be taken very seriously, but it is not time to panic. There are many reasons to believe that the Bolts aren’t going anywhere. In fact, it is just a matter of time before they break ground on a new stadium and construction begins! Yes, if you haven’t guessed, this is the optimist’s look at the stadium situation in LA. Let’s take a look at five reasons to believe that the Chargers are staying put in San Diego. If nothing else, they may help you sleep at night.
- The Chargers Want to Stay: They must want to stay, or they would have left a decade ago. They have certainly satisfied the NFL’s requirements that state that a team must make a sincere effort to work things out with their city before a move. They could have paid the City a few million bucks and headed north for the big money in LA at any time, but they didn’t. They chose to stay and try to work something out in their home town. Just because we are 14 years into this issue, it doesn’t mean that there is not chance. There is a new Sherriff in town…and his name is Mayor Faulconer (said in my best Eddie Murphy voice).
- The New Mayor Wants the Bolts to Stay: Sure there have been many new Mayors in San Diego over the last 14 years who could have chosen to tackle the stadium issue. In fact, there have been seven other Mayors since the year 2000 and nothing has been accomplished. That’s okay; let’s not judge Mayor Faulconer using the failures of his predecessors. Give the man a chance! Mayor Faulconer has made it clear that he has knocked out much of the issues that have kept previous Mayors from working on a stadium. He has filled all of the potholes, gotten the City out of bankruptcy, and a few other important issues over his first year in office. Now he is ready to focus on keeping the Chargers in San Diego. In fact, he has made it clear that he does not want the Bolts to bolt on his watch. That would not look good on a resume.
- CSAG: Mayor Faulconer has appointed a nine member group of brilliant and successful people to take a look at the stadium issue and try to come up with a way to finance the stadium and where to build it. This Citizens Stadium Advisory Group (CSAG) has its work cut out for it. The most likely way to get a vote passed in San Diego is to not raise taxes. As you probably know by now, if the taxpayers have to cover a portion of the financing, it must be voted on and passed by 67% of the voters. If they can be creative enough to come up with a plan that does not raise taxes, say a loan that needs to be paid back, it only needs a 55% approval by the voters. Still a tough task, but far more likely than two-thirds.
- Spanos and Faulconer Meet: Finally, the Mayor and the Chargers CEO met to discuss what was going on and how to move forward. Going into this meeting, many shots were sent from the Chargers across the bow of the City by Chargers legal representative Mark Fabiani. It was as if anything the city said or did was not enough for Fabiani. He ripped the Mayor and the “task force” that he created at every opportunity. Then the real bombshell hit when the Bolts announced that they were looking at and moving forward on building a joint stadium in Carson, California with the Oakland Raiders! Enough was enough, at that point, and the Mayor invited Dean Spanos in for a one-on-one conversation. This may have been the best decision the Mayor has made to date. After the meeting, both the Chargers and the City said they were moving forward to work together, with the CSAG, to try to make it work in San Diego. Although the Chargers are still looking at Carson, they made it clear that it was simply plan B in case San Diego didn’t work out. Can’t blame them for wanting a backup plan, can you?
- SOB: No, I’m not just venting. That is the acronym for a new non-profit group that was created recently to raise awareness about San Diego’s need for a stadium. The Save Our Bolts group was created just a few months ago and already has over 12,000 members on Facebook! The members have already been seen on the TV news at important events and the leaders have actually had an audience with the Mayor to discuss how serious the citizens are about wanting the Bolts to stay. They have more events to come, including a rally where members will attend a public forum with the CSAG members to make sure it is known that the citizens of San Diego love their Bolts! If you want to show support or get involved with SOB, please click this link when you have completed reading this article and leaving a comment. http://tinyurl.com/qd5dhpj
I could go on and get into the fact that the Rams are still in the driver’s seat as far as moving to LA is concerned, but that drums up a lot of angles that do not necessarily lend themselves to optimism. Charger fans have a couple of options.
- They can focus on the fact that the Chargers are still here and go out and do everything they can to help keep them in San Diego.
- They can give up and write this upcoming season off as the last time that San Diego will host the NFL.
I choose the former.
Thanks for reading and please leave your comments below. Remember, this article was written from the optimist’s perspective; it obviously was not intended to represent all of the negative facts to this saga.
Go Bolts!….I mean, Stay Bolts!
(Thanks to:bigozine2.com, facebook.com, ocregister.com, youtube.com, and utsandiego.com for the pics)