Mayor Kevin Faulconer called Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to fast-track a new football stadium in Mission Valley “a big step forward,” but the Chargers on Thursday quickly dismissed it as irrelevant.
Meanwhile, activist attorney Corey Briggs announced a ballot measure to build a new stadium downtown, expand the convention center and pay for the projects with a big increase in the tax paid by hotel guests.
The governor’s action, if ratified by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, will require any legal challenge to the Environmental Impact Report on the Mission Valley stadium project be resolved within about nine months of the city’s certification of the record of proceedings.
The mayor said that will keep the project on track for a 2019 opening.
“This gives our Mission Valley project more certainty and momentum,” Faulconer said. “I thank the governor for supporting our efforts to create a state-of- the-art, environmentally friendly and Super Bowl-ready stadium.”
The Chargers have been asking for about 15 years for a replacement for aging Qualcomm Stadium, and city officials determined the current Mission Valley site was the best location.
The team, however, objected to an environmental study that was completed much faster than usual, contending that it won’t stand up to legal scrutiny.
Among other things, Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani said the governor’s action doesn’t change the fact that the EIR is “fatally flawed” legally, nor does it protect the project against challenges on issues not involving the California Environmental Quality Act.
It also doesn’t include the time the state Supreme Court might need to review a legal challenge, Fabiani said. According to the mayor’s office, an EIR challenge rarely reaches the state’s highest court.
Separately, a citizen’s initiative was announced Thursday that would raise San Diego’s hotel room tax to 15.5 percent, permit hotel property owners to assess themselves to fund an expansion of the convention center, and allow for construction of a downtown stadium in conjunction with the expansion project. It would also clear the way for a project to turn over the Qualcomm Stadium property to university and park uses, subject to approval by the City Council.
“In talking to folks, what became clear pretty quickly is that all of those things are intricately connected to one another,” Briggs told reporters. “What we did is we took all the moving parts and put them together in a way that gives all of the backers a really strong incentive to do the right thing.”
The initiative would be aimed for the June 2016 ballot, according to its supporters, who are associated with Briggs and San Diegans For Open Government.
He said a 21-day review period for the initiative will begin Friday, and when that’s over, they’ll have until mid-January to collect their goal of around 75,000 valid signatures to qualify it for the primary election.
The convention center expansion project has been stalled since a court ruling that the hotel owners couldn’t add a charge to their room taxes to pay for the project without a public vote. The proposed initiative would resolve that issue, but would preclude what tourism officials want the most, an expansion of the center that would keep all the exhibit space together.
Briggs said no one gets all of what they want, but maybe 80 percent. The initiative includes no public money for the Chargers, but the cost of a stadium component of a convention center expansion would be less than that of a stand-along stadium, according to Briggs.
Fabiani said he has no comment on Briggs’ plan because he hasn’t read the ballot measure’s language. A group called the San Diego Stadium Coalition gave the plan its backing and put up $50,000 to start the signature-gathering process.
Mayoral spokesman Matt Awbrey said the initiative contains “a wide range of issues lumped into this single measure,” so it will need to be analyzed for “flaws and issues.”
The review also will look at whether it helps or hurts local tourism and San Diego’s ability to continue working with the National Football League on the Mission Valley stadium plan, Awbrey said.
Briggs said the initiative is simpler than it first appears, and does nothing to prevent the Mission Valley stadium project.
City News Service contributed to this article.