SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Wednesday he will evaluate a downtown stadium initiative proposed by the Chargers through the prism of protecting jobs and San Diego taxpayers.
The Chargers want to build a $1.8 billion stadium and convention center annex and are proposing that San Diego's hotel room tax be raised from 10.5 percent to 16.5 percent, one of the nation's highest rates, to fund construction, operations and maintenance.
Because the city also charges a 2 percent fee on hotel rooms to pay for tourism promotion, the effective rate increase would be four percentage points.
The team will begin collecting petition signatures in three weeks in a bid to qualify the initiative for the November general election ballot.
"After more than a decade, the Chargers are putting forward a plan of their own and San Diegans may finally have the ultimate say on a new stadium in November,'' Faulconer said.
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"The convention center element makes this proposal more than a stadium and the long-term future of San Diego's tourism economy is now intertwined in this plan,'' he said. "As always, my top priorities are to protect jobs, protect taxpayers and do what's right for all San Diegans. I will evaluate the proposal's details through that lens.''
In a nutshell, the initiative proposes to make the Chargers responsible for the football side of the project, with the city in charge of the 385,000-square-foot convention center and the 65,000-seat stadium when not in use for football.
"We are excited to report that our citizens' initiative has been finalized," said Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos. "We believe this is a great opportunity for the community to come together and create something special: an iconic, modern multi-purpose venue while also supporting and expanding our tourism and convention industries."
Spanos has been demanding a replacement for aging Qualcomm Stadium for around 15 years.
In January, fellow National Football League owners turned down his bid to build a stadium in Carson, in Los Angeles County, but gave him an opportunity to join the Rams in a future Inglewood facility.
Spanos negotiated a placeholder deal with Rams owner Stan Kroenke and then said he would give staying in San Diego -- the team's home for 55 years -- another try. The Chargers announced last month they would seek to build a stadium downtown.
Faulconer and county Supervisor Ron Roberts had offered a plan to build a replacement on the Qualcomm Stadium site.
Fred Maas, who is advising the Chargers on the project, said team officials hope to pick up far in excess of the 66,447 signatures of registered voters needed to qualify for the ballot.
"San Diego election law requires the publication of the citizens' initiative in the newspaper,'' Maas said. "Once that occurs this week, then signature gathering can begin on the 21st day after that publication."
The Chargers said they will provide opportunities for fans to become involved in the process, including the collecting of signatures.
Below are additional responses to the Chargers' downtown stadium initiative.
The Chair of the San Diego Convention Center Board of Directors, Rabbi Laurie Coskey, has released the following statement:
"Our clients choose San Diego for a reason, and they told us decidedly in a recent study that they prefer a contiguous expansion. Our clients love to hold their conventions in San Diego and don’t want to be prohibited from returning due to a lack of exhibit space. We must grow as they grow. We remain committed to an on-site contiguous expansion.
A separate building, any number of blocks away, does not provide the preferred meeting model that will serve our existing and future clients.
We continue to stress, expanding on our current footprint will allow us to maintain a competitive edge and provide the greatest return on investment for the citizens of San Diego.
The San Diego Convention Center is an economic engine for the region. This year, we expect a record number of out-of-town attendees from around the world to attend conventions that bring them to San Diego to learn, dine, shop and stay for the vacation, generating $1.2 billion for the region."
Councilmember Todd Gloria released the following statement Wednesday:
"I want the Chargers to stay, just like most San Diegans do, but not at any price. My understanding of the Chargers’ proposal is limited to what they published today. After briefly reviewing the document, I have many questions about how this plan will impact the City and its residents.
Like every taxpayer, I look forward to hearing from the team's owner how the details of this deal advance the public's interests. Ultimately, professional football is a private business and voters should consider the Chargers’ stadium plan accordingly."
READ THE FULL CHARGERS - SAN DIEGO STADIUM INITIATIVE (PDF FILE)