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.
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.
According to a tweet from Xtra 1360 FSSD, Mark Fabiani has already responded to Mayor Faulconer’s speech today.
Mark Fabiani has already responded to the Mayor’s speech today… pic.twitter.com/3U6P2MHIVa
— XTRA 1360 FSSD (@XTRA1360) August 10, 2015
I suppose that we all should have expected something similar to this being said, but it just shows the impasse between the City and the Chargers continues to grow.
It is looking more and more like the team has already started packing for Los Angeles. Maybe it already looked that way, and I’ve just been in denial.
The fact of the matter is, the City and the Mayor are making a fourth-quarter push. The question would then turn to, is it too late?
It sure seems like it.
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.
I am going to get right to the point. A press release was sent out today regarding the Chargers’ thoughts about a December 2015 vote being put in place to keep the Chargers in San Diego. I have been fortunate enough to be in contact with Mark Fabiani, special counsel to the Chargers, about this topic.
Here’s the press release:
Chargers release statement on today’s negotiations with city pic.twitter.com/ydLQuXVxLE
— Marty Caswell (@MartyCaswell) June 16, 2015
Below he provides the reasoning behind why the Chargers and their team don’t believe that a December 2015 vote will work.
By the end of our meetings with the city and county negotiators today, and then with our attorneys afterwards, we came to the conclusion that there was no legally viable way to make a 2015 ballot. It was really that simple. We ran through all of the ideas we had, and that the city ‘s experts had, and concluded that it just wasn’t viable.
Marty Caswell of the Mighty1090 interviews cornerback Brandon Flowers during OTAs.
Fans start a petition asking for the removal of Mark Fabiani from the stadium negotiations with the City and County of San Diego.
Here are four links to Chargers.com articles involving LaDainian Tomlinson’s career:
Michael Gehlken of The San Diego Union-Tribune writes about the Chargers retiring Tomlinson’s number.
One of the biggest dilemmas hovering over the people who cover the Chargers is writing about the offseason and future seasons of the Chargers in San Diego. Additionally, they must also cover the black cloud over the team and the new stadium talks. How do you separate the two? How do you give readers and listeners all the information they need to know about the team, but keep them updated as to what they may not want to know about the progress, or lack thereof, in dealing with the stadium issue?
A media forum was put together May 27 by the San Diego chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. The moderator was Matt Hall, public engagement director of The San Diego Union-Tribune. The panel consisted of Bernie Wilson, who has covered the team for many years with the AP, Marty Caswell, producer of the Darren Smith Show on 1090am, Kevin Acee, former beat writer for the team for over eight years and now a columnist with The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Scott Lewis, editor in chief of the publication Voice of San Diego.
Many topics were covered that I’ll relay to you here. One was how the Chargers deal with the media. The NFL, in general, is like no other sport in how they really try to control what the media is allowed access to and when. The Chargers are by far one of the most controlling, which has been known for sometime now. Acee mentioned how the Chargers don’t like the press except when they need it. Bernie, who has a rule of not using any “off-the-record” stories, has basically been blackballed by Mark Fabiani in the front office. He concluded, his relationship with the team is “no relationship”. Which is sad, because Bernie is one helluva great reporter. Caswell mentioned that the one person they want to talk to is Dean Spanos. He has been off limits. She added that if the Chargers don’t like the coverage they are receiving from a certain reporter, they threaten them with press access and moving their seats in the press box to control the message that gets out there.
As for the stadium, it was interesting to learn that the reporters actually share with the fans one common theme when dealing with the stadium issue, fatigue. They are just as tired of hearing about it, reporting it and thinking about it as the common fans are at this point. But they have a job to do, and this could be the biggest sports story in the history of San Diego.
Caswell brought up that it’s actually difficult to cover this because you don’t know who to believe. “CSAG and the Chargers are both pushing their own agendas her,” Caswell said. “How do we advance the story? What is really news and what’s not?”
Scott Lewis actually likes the story for many reasons. He covers a little more of the political coverage of this situation and that is really all it is now a political game. Lewis mentioned an interesting aspect that fans are learning more about politics in their city than they may not have otherwise. “You have a public vote to discuss, public land use, and other civic-minded issues that largely probably would not be discussed among many football fans that are not into the city’s everyday political issues.” This is where Scott Lewis is a wonderful tool for fans to learn about such issues as they relate to the stadium. He is sometimes thought of as too negative, but he tells us the truth. In a way we are learning how the political games and issues are probably the biggest factors in play with this whole stadium situation.
“It’s hard to think how they can come together on a feasible plan just four months before the Chargers can file the relocation papers in January of 2016,” Caswell said. “The last thing the Chargers want is to be the third team in Los Angeles.” Bernie chimed in by saying, “The NFL puts on a show. It’s all about the money. We have to decide if we’re (San Diego) in the bidding for the show. Can San Diego even afford an NFL team anymore? We can’t even afford to fix the potholes in the street.”
How do you cover this so as not to be seen as negative by some fans, but still stay credible with others? Kevin Acee has spent a career telling fans the rah-rah stories, as well as the hard truths about the team. Some think he is way too negative in his reporting. “I’ve gotten a lot of gruff by the fans for not being a fan,”Acee stated.
Scott Lewis touched on this topic by stating, “There are a lot of people who want to hear it’s all going to be okay.” He mocked the mantra of some groups carrying the just-get-it-done attitude like the Save Our Bolts fan campaign. “There are only a few things you can tell the fans that they want to hear,” he said. He claims he is not being a jerk and people should look at his reporting as a “warning alarm”. Marty said that people are most accessible when it best suits their purpose. Bernie Wilson again touched on Mark Fabiani by claiming, “All of my emails are answered back as couldn’t get the info or it wasn’t available.” Scott Lewis seemed to sum it up by saying, “The Chargers are being honest about what they want. Fans should push back against the NFL and its demands. The Mayor and his team are doing the best to protect the Mayor. Fans should want straight talk. It’s our responsibility to explain how rare it is that companies can demand so much of a city and get it.”
Finding a source for this story is very easy. So much is being pushed by the city and the Chargers that if you want a story or information it’s normally being handed to you if it fits that person’s personal agenda. How is it that a National media outlet like the Associated Press can’t talk to Fabiani, but BoltBlitz.com, this very blog you’re reading right now, has interviewed him twice and been given documents in the last six months? Is the media being slowly being pushed out of the NFL for a different kind of coverage?
NFL team’s websites are not reporting at all. They are writing puff pieces designed to get fans excited to buy tickets and merchandise for their teams. That is not news. That is propaganda. What separates actual reporting from these other outlets are things teams don’t want out there. So how does one reporter trust a source as credible? Many times it’s a player in the locker room that wants a story to get out. “It’s a chore to find someone who says something that comes to fruition again and again over time,” Acee said.
So, what about the topic of the meeting? Do the Chargers and Dean Spanos really want to stay in San Diego? The answers are not what we want to hear, but these people are the ones that deal with this topic and the necessary role players daily. Their responses should give everyone concern as to what is really going on.
“Every shred of evidence says there are leaving, but I’m not at that point yet,” Acee said. “I’m not being negative, I’m telling the truth about what is really going on.” Scott Lewis added his opinion. “I think they want to go to LA. I think they are gone, but may fail in their bid to do so.” He came to this conclusion by their real estate demands, restrictions they have set forth and the back channels everyone is receiving. Bernie Wilson added, “I think they are gone. The NFL is just about making money now”. Marty Caswell may have put it best on the night and the frustrating situation as a whole. “Yes, and I don’t know. It depends on the day,” she said.
In the end, no one knows anything. The Chargers are unwilling to talk to anyone and the city, although doing a much better and more efficient job of communicating with the people of San Diego, has their agenda, too. One person knows for sure, though. Let it be clear right here and right now, one person knows. But besides of speaking to other owners in the NFL, he hasn’t been heard from. Dean Spanos, where are you? You sent mailings out to the fans to buy season tickets. You’re selling your merchandise in all the stores and via online. Your eyes are on Los Angeles, but when will your mouth turn to all the loyal fans that have supported your team for all these years? Where are ya, Deano? Scott Lewis said, “Maybe the Mayor of St. Louis, Oakland and San Diego should stop treating their communities like a cartel, and say you’re treating my constituents like garbage.” Not just them but the fans as well. But then again, let’s face the cold hard truth. Maybe, just maybe, San Diego and the fans don’t fit the Chargers’ agenda anymore.
The agenda is to use the blueprint of CSAG’s stadium plan on how to come to a compromise between the City and the Chargers. The final plan in the end will most likely look nothing like the plan that was announced May 18. But it is the closest the city and the team has ever come to reaching a deal.
There is still so much that needs to be worked out. How much will the Chargers pay in the end? CSAG recommended the Chargers get 100% naming rights and half the PSL money. How will the public and private financing of the plan be detailed? Everything is on the table for change, however. I’m sure the talks will get heated on both sides throughout the negotiation process. So there could be a “blackout” on stadium news for a while during the talks; which could take a couple of months for the two sides to reach a compromise. For fans, that probably is a much-needed rest to gear up and get excited for the 2015 season and training camp.
As for the much debated issue of having a vote when one is not needed, the thinking here is it will avoid lawsuits compromising the urgency needed to get this done and finalized in a timely manner. It will more than likely be a Special Election held in late 2015 or very early 2016. The Chargers can file relocation papers in January of 2016, so time is of the utmost urgency right now.
So, for now, it’s time to let the talks begin, allowing fans to sit back and watch it all unfold while waiting for the beginning of the 2015 Charger season. It’s about time, too!
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.
EDITOR’S NOTE: With all of the uncertainty regarding the stadium situation in San Diego, we here at BoltBlitz.com thought it would be helpful to request and obtain an interview with Mark Fabiani, special counsel to the Chargers. Mr. Fabiani was kind enough to agree to the interview. BoltBlitz reporter Thomas Powell asked some very difficult questions, and Mr. Fabiani did not shy away from answering any of them in a very blunt and honest manner.
Thomas Powell: In your meeting with CSAG in January, they said your position on the location of a new stadium was “agnostic”. Many people believe the Chargers favored downtown for a variety of reasons. What do you believe led to the miscommunications, if there were any?
Mark Fabiani: One of many problems created by meetings that aren’t public, and that aren’t transcribed in any way, is that people can come out of those meetings and say whatever they want about what occurred in the meeting – and there is simply no way for the public to sort out what actually happened.
That’s why, right when I appeared before CSAG, we made public the text of my testimony. That testimony can be read in full here: http://www.chargers.com/news/2015/02/16/chargers-remarks-stadium-task-force-extended-version. I’m sure that fair-minded readers will conclude that the team’s position is made very clear in this testimony.
Indeed, over the last 14 years, we’ve made our position on various sites extremely clear. We have spoken regularly with the media and with the community at hundreds of public events. And over all of that time, our position hasn’t changed: What’s most important is finding a funding solution that works for the public, the elected officials, the Chargers, and the NFL. Once you figure out a mutually acceptable financing solution, the exact site chosen is of secondary importance. Remember, over the last 14 years, we have carefully evaluated sites in Chula Vista (two separate sites), National City, Oceanside, and Escondido as well as several in the City of San Diego.
Of course, having worked on this for 14 years, we have our own strong views – formed with the help of people who we’ve hired and who we believe to be the best experts around – about which sites are financeable and which ones aren’t.
Now, CSAG has said that it believes that the Mission Valley site can be financed in a publicly acceptable way, and we look forward to reviewing the plan when it is released in May.
Thomas Powell: Eric Grubman is the NFL executive VP for the NFL. Tony Manolatos is the CSAG spokesperson. Tony accused you and Grubman on an LA Radio Sports Station of being in a bluff scheme regarding the Carson stadium issue. I found his statements to be damaging to the process of getting a deal done here in San Diego. Tony said on the show, The Beast 980am, “We do think that Carson was collectively a big bluff, if you will, built around PSL’s. Mr. Fabiani used to be a consultant for Goldman Sachs. Mr. Grubman used to work for Goldman Sachs. So, there are many existing relationships there. We are not surprised that Goldman stepped up and said, ‘we’re going to be involved.’ I wanted to give you a chance to respond to Tony’s comments here.
Mark Fabiani: I can’t explain why the Mayor’s Office and CSAG chose to hire the spokesperson they hired, and why they apparently agree with his continuing efforts to criticize NFL officials, the Chargers, Carson elected officials, and Goldman Sachs. That’s really a question for the Mayor’s Office and CSAG.
Thomas Powell: In an article in the San Diego Reader on April 3, 2015, by Matt Potter, questions were raised about Jason Roe. Jason is Kevin Faulconer’s top political consultant. Now the city is negotiating with Delaware North, a food and beverage service contractor for sports’ venues. They have been rumored to have an interest in replacing Centerfield as the Padres’ main concessions provider. Roe has a new lobbying firm that was retained to provide support for Delaware North taking over said contract. What concerns do you have, if any, about Jason Roe and his relationship with the Mayor Faulconer?
Mark Fabiani: On February 17, we sent a letter to the Mayor asking what we thought were reasonable questions about Mr. Roe’s role. A copy of that letter can be found here. The Mayor chose to not answer those questions. Since then, although the Union Tribune has religiously avoided any critical reporting on this issue, other media outlets have launched their own inquiries. Take a look here http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/government/city-council-deal-could-pump-millions-into-an-endangered-qualcomm/, or here http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2015/apr/16/ticker-could-feds-be-prowling-mayors-qualcomm-DEAL/.
Thomas Powell: Many fans wonder, as it relates to the Carson and Inglewood projects, why are the Chargers so active in Los Angeles, yet so quiet here in San Diego? What message can you relay to the Charger fans in San Diego regarding this matter?
Mark Fabiani: Quiet in San Diego? I don’t think I agree with that assessment. On the contrary, ever since the Mayor announced in January that his task force would deliver its results in October, we have been extremely public about the need to speed up that timetable. And since then we have been extremely public about the concerns we have about how the entire task force process is unfolding.
But even before January, take a look at the last 14 years. We’ve made nine separate proposals. We have made available $400 million in funding from the Chargers and from NFL loans. To date, spanning 14 years, these are the only serious proposals that have ever been made, and ours is the only serious money that has ever been pledged to the project.
Thomas Powell: The Carson City Council just voted to enact the stadium initiative sponsored by the Chargers and the Raiders. What does that mean for the prospect of a new stadium in Los Angeles – and for San Diego’s prospects?
Mark Fabiani: The Carson City Council vote puts the stadium site in Carson on exactly the same footing as the proposed Inglewood stadium site. Both sites are now fully entitled, with financing plans in place and NFL teams committed to the sites if the teams cannot find solutions in their home markets. Ultimately, it will be up to the owners of the NFL to make the final decision, and the matter will only come to the owners if a team (or teams) submits a relocation application for Los Angeles. That would start a formal review process by NFL officials that would eventually culminate in a vote of the owners.
At the same time, both the Chargers and the Raiders have made clear from the outset that their first priority is to find solutions in their home markets. And both teams have made clear from the start that they intend to respect the decision of the NFL owners.
Thomas Powell: Speaking of NFL owners, the Chargers met this week with the NFL’s Los Angeles Committee, which is made up of some of the most influential owners in the League. Tell us about those meetings.
Mark Fabiani: Yes, on Wednesday afternoon at NFL headquarters in New York City, the Chargers and Raiders made a joint presentation to the LA Committee of owners. Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve been before the Committee. Previously we have presented, with Goldman Sachs, the financing plan for Carson, along with our strategy for securing entitlements and initial architectural renderings of the proposed Los Angeles Stadium.
At this week’s meeting, our goal was to update the owners on the progress that has been made in Carson, unveil new LA stadium renderings that are the result of two months of close collaboration between the Raiders and Chargers, and update the Committee on the situations in each of our home markets. So the Chargers provided an update on the San Diego market, and the Raiders did the same thing for Oakland. Since Eric Grubman and Chris Hardart of the NFL had visited both cities just last week and had already reported back, I don’t think we added much that was new to the League about our home market, but we appreciated the opportunity to offer the update and to answer questions that the owners had.
Thomas Powell: Have the Chargers changed their stance at all regarding controlling the naming rights to a stadium and a revenue-sharing program? Is this a possible negotiating tool after the financial plan is announced in due time?
Mark Fabiani: As I made clear in my February testimony to CSAG, the only reason for any team to have a new stadium is to allow the team to remain financially competitive with the other teams in the NFL. If the stadium developer needs to take all of the stadium revenues to pay for construction, then the team would receive no stadium revenues and would be in a dramatically less-competitive financial position than the team is in its current stadium. And, throughout the NFL, teams generally receive the revenues derived from naming rights. So if the Chargers are going to be financially competitive over the long term in San Diego, the team needs access to the same revenue streams – including naming rights – that other teams receive in their home markets.
Thomas Powell: I would stand behind a special election in early 2016 on a stadium vote. Do the Chargers have a position on a possible special election?
Mark Fabiani: A special election will not lead to a successful result. The turnout in special elections is always extremely low, and the voters who do turn out in special elections in San Diego are inclined to vote against major public projects such as this one. Our only hope for success at the ballot box would be a high-turnout, general election – and unfortunately the next one of those elections is in November 2016.
Thomas Powell: Have the Chargers considered moving forward in San Diego just as you are doing in Carson, with the so-called “citizen action” strategy: Gathering signatures, qualifying a measure for the ballot, and then asking the City Council to adopt the measure as is once the signatures are certified?
Mark Fabiani: Yes, we have looked closely at this option for San Diego and concluded that, unfortunately, it is not likely to succeed here. Simply put, in San Diego, the stadium question is going to end up on the ballot, one way or the other.
That’s because any action taken by the City Council is subject to the referendum process. Opponents of the Council’s decision can gather signatures and demand that the Council’s decision be placed before the voters. Once that happens, everything stops and the Council’s decision is effectively nullified to allow the voters pass judgment on it. Generally, that would occur at the next regularly scheduled election.
We are seeing this process play out right now in San Diego around the One Paseo development project. After six years, the project finally emerged from the entitlement process, at which point opponents started to gather signatures to put the entire project on hold until voters can decide its fate at the next regularly scheduled election. And the exact same process is playing out now statewide, as opponents of the California legislature’s plastic ban bag qualified a referendum and so put a halt to the law’s implementation. Here is a good explanation of what happened to the legislature’s plastic bag ban law: http://www.latimes.com/local/political/la-me-pc-california-plastic-bag-ban-20150223-story.html
So, what would happen with a controversial City Council vote on the San Diego stadium project is that opponents would likely qualify a referendum – and the whole matter would end up on the ballot in 2016 anyway. That’s why, under these circumstances – if you have the time – you always try to put your project’s initiative on the ballot yourself, so that you can control the precise wording of the measure and the timing of the election.
Thomas Powell: There was a proposal to the Mission Valley site regarding the river walk presented by councilman Scott Sherman. You have studied the Mission Valley site for years. It seems to bring up a lot of potential obstacles that could aid in the effort to fund a stadium. What is your heart-felt message to the voters and Charger fans in San Diego? Have the Chargers communicated an opinion on the river walk proposal?
Mark Fabiani: We have a great relationship with Councilman Sherman, and we welcomed his recent involvement in the process. Councilman Sherman is exactly right when he says that the parking lot at the Qualcomm site in Mission Valley could be put to a much more productive and better use, including by creating a riverfront park.
This was the exact premise of the proposal we made to the City in 2004, which would have required the Chargers to finance the entire project (including a river-front park) in return for the City providing 60 of the 166 Mission Valley acres to the team. As you know, the City at the time refused to support our proposal.
What we encountered in 2004, and what Councilman Sherman’s press conference participants encountered more recently, are questions about what kind of density can be supported in Mission Valley in light of all of the other development that has occurred there in recent years. These issues are vital to the residents of Mission Valley, and they potentially create huge infrastructure improvement costs that must be added on to the cost of any project in Mission Valley.
One way or the other, though, as Councilman Sherman said, these issues will have to be dealt with at some point in the future, either as part of a stadium development or as part of a new use for the entire Mission Valley site.
We have promised to evaluate carefully CSAG’s Mission Valley proposal when it is made public. We look forward to doing that.
Thomas Powell: Are you okay being labeled the villain in all of this? Some view you as the most negative influence in all this, and the main reason there is so much friction between the Chargers and City Hall. Do you care about your reputation in San Diego? Or are you just focused on doing your job and being a good soldier? Basically, for the people who don’t know you, who is the real Mark Fabiani?
Mark Fabiani: If it were easy to build a new NFL stadium in Southern California, several new facilities would have been built a long time ago – in LA, in San Diego, in Orange County. This is very difficult stuff. And when you try to do difficult things, there’s inevitably going to be controversy. And then there’s the old saying: Incoming fire is evidence that you’ve been hitting the right targets. So that’s pretty much how I look at it.
Thomas Powell: Some fans were deeply hurt by the team’s decision to negotiate with Carson over the past 9 months in private, and the mutual announcement with the Oakland Raiders. Why was that decision made, and do you have a message you’d like to deliver to the fans here in San Diego? If so, please do it here.
Mark Fabiani: We explained the Carson decision on the day it was announced, and that full explanation can be found here: http://www.chargers.com/news/2015/02/20/chargers-and-raiders-join-forces-carson-community-group-support-new-los-angeles-nfl/.
And, of course, we understood that fans would be upset by this decision. That’s why we waited 14 years to make this decision; we did everything we possibly could do over that time to avoid making an announcement such as the one we made in Carson. So we hope people in San Diego will keep that in perspective as they evaluate all of this.
We also hope that fans understand that the steps we have taken in Carson have only been taken as a last resort – taken only after 14 years of inaction here in San Diego and only after an aggressive move by another NFL franchise to take over the LA and Orange County markets.
Finally, and most important of all, we hope fans will remember what we have said again and again: Our first priority remains to find a solution in San Diego in 2015, and the Carson option will be exercised if only if we fail to find such a solution.
We’d like to thank Mr. Fabiani for taking the time to do this interview. This was not our first interview with him, and hopefully it won’t be the last.