Probably the gnarliest question still unanswered in this stadium saga is the one about a public vote. Actually, three questions: When would a public vote happen? What would we vote on? And who, precisely, would vote?
The mayor’s stadium task force did not mention a public vote in its proposal. It did, however, crucially recommend that the city sell 75 acres of land at the Qualcomm Stadium site. The group was aware that if it recommended the city sell 80 acres or more, that would trigger a required public vote.
The task force clearly set the table for the mayor to abandon his pledge to hold a public vote on any plan that came together for a stadium. The NFL recently told the city and task force that it was basically out of time to hold a vote and waiting until November 2016, as a lot of us had imagined, would not be acceptable.
“Nothing in our plan legally or financially requires a vote,” Adam Day, chairman of the task force, told reporters Monday.
That’s not entirely true. The plan calls for $121 million from the County of San Diego. The County Board of Supervisors has a policy requiring county voters to approve a financial investment in a new stadium.
Day told me later that’s not an issue because the supervisors could change that policy.
The mayor quickly put the issue to rest in his own written statement about the task force’s report.
“My continued commitment is that if we reach a stadium agreement with the Chargers, San Diegans will have their say with a public vote. When this measure will be on the ballot will be discussed through negotiations with the team,” he said.
I checked in with Councilman Scott Sherman, who also confirmed he is committed to a public vote.
It’s still however unclear how or when this vote would happen. The city could try for the June 2016 primary election, but the NFL has said that’s too risky.
If it goes earlier, it would have to be a special election, but the Chargers don’t like that idea either.
Suppose we don’t care what the Chargers think, it still could get dicey. If the mayor and Council are committed to a public vote, they should probably hold it before the city sells 75 acres of land. But that would delay the land sale.
And as we’ve explored, the land sale could already be at least two years delayed if zoning for it must be changed to attract high-end buyers.
Now, a vote could actually help this process. It could push through the zoning change and avoid some environmental review and permitting hurdles in the process.
But then, what say would the voters outside the city of San Diego have on this? Come to think of it, why should voters outside the city vote on whether the city sells its land?
That brings up more questions: If we hold a vote countywide, what happens if voters within the city of San Diego – the ones who’d sacrifice the most – reject it but are outvoted by people outside the city?
At some point, the mayor will have to let his preference on this be known. I can’t wait.