SAN DIEGO (CNS/CBS 8) - Mayor Kevin Faulconer on Monday endorsed Measure C, the Chargers' initiative to build a stadium and convention center annex in downtown San Diego, hours before opponents held a news conference to reiterate their fight against it.
Faulconer came to support the initiative after Chargers executives agreed in writing to cover any cost overrides related to the construction or land purchases, guaranteed that the city's general fund would not be used and, among other concessions, turn over to the city revenue generated from non-NFL events.
The team would also repay the city preliminary costs if the Chargers relocate before construction begins, and include a pledge to remain in San Diego until the project's initial debt was paid off.
"This wasn't about the short term of the November election, it was about the long-term protections that we need for decades to come," Faulconer told City News Service.
The mayor, who acknowledged that a two-thirds requirement for the measure to pass is a "very, very difficult threshold to achieve," said the negotiations led to "the principles, safeguards and the accountability" that San Diego needs for a long-term solution.
The Chargers have sought to replace Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley for years. In January, NFL owners rejected plans to build a joint facility with the Oakland Raiders in Carson. Team owner Dean Spanos then said he would give San Diego another try, although if local efforts fall through, the Chargers and the Los Angeles Rams could share a future stadium in Inglewood.
Faulconer and other local officials had initially offered to build a replacement on the Qualcomm Stadium site, but the team rejected the plan, opting for an East Village location near Petco Park.
Measure C opponents, including City Councilmen David Alvarez, Chris Cate, and Scott Sherman, along with Councilman-elect Chris Ward and other civic leaders, continued to criticize the initiative at an afternoon news conference.
"A lot of promises are being made by the Chargers and by others," Alvarez said. "Talk is cheap - the only thing that matters is what's on the ballot. That is the only thing that's legally binding."
He said Measure C contains "giveaway after giveaway after giveaway" to Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos, including limited public input on the project, the right to put up two electronic signs and large billboards, plus ancillary revenues like naming rights.
Earlier, Cate and the chairman of the No on C coalition, April Boling, issued a statement as a response to Faulconer's endorsement. "The promises between Dean Spanos and the Mayor are not legally binding," says Cate - voicing his concern over past dealings with the Spanos' and the city. Cate warned that Spanos can renege on non-legally binding deals by coming back to city leaders if Measure C passes and say that a deal is a deal.
According to the No On C website, "Dean Spanos cannot change the language of his 119-page initiative - Measure C on the November ballot. Any promises he, Mark Fabiani or their surrogates make between now and Election Day are NOT legally binding."
Boling says in her statement, "It is the only legally binding document underpinning this $1-billion-plus tax increase and it was developed by Dean Spanos, Mark Fabiani and Goldman Sachs without any input from taxpayers, neighborhood groups or city officials. Any side deals crafted by Dean Spanos are not legally binding. Measure C is legally binding."
Ward, who will represent the downtown and East Village area beginning in December, said his future constituents want the Chargers to stay in San Diego, "but not at all costs, not at the cost of investment in our communities."
Measure C on the Nov. 8 ballot would raise San Diego's hotel room tax to help pay for the project, which has an estimated price tag of $1.8 billion. The levy is currently 10.5 percent, with a separate 2 percent fee that funds tourism marketing. Measure C would raise the tax to a total of 16.5 percent. The Chargers and NFL would kick in a combined $650 million toward the project. Team executives said the combined facility would not only result in a state-of-the-art football stadium, but space that could be used for around 300 days a year.
Tony Manolatos, a spokesman for Measure C opponents, said the plan is a "bad deal for San Diego."
"It would divert more than $1 billion in new taxes to a stadium project and subsidize a NFL franchise worth more than $2 billion," Manolatos said.
"Anyone who says it's a good deal for San Diego is more interested in politics than good public policy."
"Mayor Faulconer and his team carefully examined the initiative from every angle, weighing the opportunities and challenges for San Diego residents, businesses, and government," chamber President and CEO Jerry Sanders said in a statement.
"The safeguards he negotiated will provide the protections our city needs so we can continue to create jobs and grow our economy," Sanders said.
"In this plan for a multi-use sports and convention complex, our community can accomplish two things - keep our NFL team in town, and drive progress in the East Village, downtown, and the entire San Diego region."