The Morning Report
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Friday, May 19, 2006 | Two county supervisors have joined the flurry of activity that has followed the amendment of the Chargers’ contract with the city of San Diego, proposing the formation of a subcommittee to handle potential talks with the team or other interested parties over the push for a new football stadium.
The Board of Supervisors is slated May 16 to consider creating a subcommittee that would act as the board’s intermediary between the Chargers or others involved in the search for a new stadium, such as business leaders, developers or other mid-sized cities within the county interested in wooing the team away from Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley.
Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Ron Roberts, who floated the subcommittee idea, also propose that they serve as its two members.
After more than three years of legal wrangling and negotiating with the team, the San Diego City Council voted last week to allow the Chargers to talk with other cities within San Diego County before Jan. 1. At that time, the team is free under its contract to begin negotiating with groups around the country.
“We thought it would be good to have some dialogue to find out what they’re thinking,” Roberts said. “I keep hearing rumors about Chula Vista, National City and Oceanside and all these things. And it would be nice to hear from them to see what they think are viable solutions.”
Officials from Chula Vista have moved quickly to study the economic viability and public palatability of a local stadium deal since the San Diego City Council’s decision last week. Parties from Oceanside and National City have also expressed interested in talking with the team in recent years, but have been unable to because of exclusive terms in the team’s contract with San Diego.
Neither Roberts nor Jacob said they knew what the county’s role would be in future attempts to keep the team in the region.
“It’s not clear to me that we even have a role,” Roberts said. “Until we meet with them, you know, I just don’t know. It may be to help them reach an agreement with someone else. But until you start to talk about specific sites and proposals, you really don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Both supervisors said it was too early to say what sort of financial commitment, if any, the county would make toward a stadium. They also said they didn’t know if the county had sufficient land holdings to house a stadium.
“For the county to become involved in a deal, it would first of all have to be a good business decision and a good deal for taxpayers. That’s how this board has approached other decisions and why the county is in an excellent fiscal position to be able to participate should it work out that way,” Jacob said.
All five supervisors are alums of San Diego State University. The loss of professional football in San Diego, many boosters say, could leave the team without a home stadium and thereby threaten the school’s status as a Division 1 football program.
Mark Fabiani, the team’s special advisor, said the team won’t be able to talk to outside parties until the amendment to the contract is formalized. He said in an e-mail that the team has not been contacted by any cities or parties since being contacted last month by Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.
The team cannot talk to interested cities outside of the county, such as San Antonio, Los Angeles or Las Vegas, until Jan. 1 and couldn’t formally relocate from the city of San Diego until Jan. 1, 2008.
It’s unsure how real the threat of relocation is from the competing cities. But if outside proposals do arise come 2007, it could raise the stakes for any local group negotiating with the team.
The Chargers announced in January that an expected November ballot initiative on a new stadium and mixed-use development proposal had died for the lack of a development partner. The team said the city’s financial and political crisis, as well as the behavior of City Attorney Mike Aguirre, deterred homebuilders from teaming with the Chargers on the $800 million proposal. However, some potential partners were also thrown off by more pessimistic analyses on the local housing market.
The proposal called for the city to give the team 60 acres of Mission Valley land, on which the team would have built and sold 6,000 condos to finance a $450 million stadium. The team would have also had to make hundreds of millions of dollars in improvements to nearby roads and parkland.
Mayor Jerry Sanders proposed last month to amend the team’s contract with the city, saying the city’s financial crisis precluded structuring a deal with the team. The amendment was designed to give other cities in the county a jump on national competition in talking with the team.
Since the announcement, many eyes in the community have turned to the county in hopes that the more stable of the region’s two big governments could pilot a deal with the team. But neither Jacob nor Roberts was ready to give up on the city of San Diego’s chances of retaining the team at Mission Valley, or on another site.
“Frankly any location is going to have to have good freeway access and good mass transit access – trolley access to get in and out,” Jacob said. “When you look at that criteria and you look throughout the region, it takes you back to Qualcomm.”
She said she has had “very informal” talks with the team regarding its previous proposal. Jacob and Roberts said they haven’t had any recent discussions with the team over any possible sites in San Diego County.
County officials said it was necessary to know what the team needs in terms of land for a stadium, parking and other issues.
“I would like to see the Chargers stay and hopefully we can get something worked out,” Roberts said.
The county and the city partnered in the original construction of what would become Qualcomm Stadium in the 1960s, forming a joint powers authority. The county provided a piece of land on which Friars Road was built, though the city owned the land that housed the stadium and the stadium itself. The county had representatives on the stadium authority’s board of directors until it was dissolved in the 1990s, when stadium control was ceded entirely to the city.
The Chula Vista City Council is slated to vote Tuesday on a proposal to create a committee of community leaders to study the viability of a program. Officials there hope to put an advisory initiative on the ballot in November to see if the public is open to pursing a deal with the team. City officials are also slated to meet this week with officials from HomeFed Corp., a residential developer with major land holdings in Chula Vista that is interested in partnering with the Chargers.