Friday, Sept. 11, 2015, is the day San Diego’s political leaders said they had to have an agreement in place with the San Diego Chargers on a new stadium if any vote was going to get on a ballot by January. Well Friday, Sept. 11 is here, so how have things been progressing?
Simply put, they haven’t.
The deadline passes with Friday’s setting sun with really no progress made, leaving the future of San Diego’s current professional football team in the hands of the National Football League.
So how did we arrive at this point? All the energy and hope that came with the release of a stadium plan in May, followed by a series of planned negotiating sessions, yielded exactly nothing. The Chargers and San Diego officials could not come to an agreement. Things got so contentious that it now seems the two parties can’t even agree to disagree.
According to Chargers Special Counsel Mark Fabiani, the issue is the same thing that’s been the issue for months: the way an Environmental Impact Report is being pursued.
“The Chargers made clear in mid-June that the team would not go along with the City’s proposed quickie Environmental Impact Report,” said Fabiani. “When the City insisted on going ahead with this unprecedented approach to complying with California’s environmental laws, negotiations ended. And nothing has changed since then. Unfortunately, the quickie EIR is not like a fine wine; it does not get better with age. The quickie EIR is more like curdled milk, which looks worse the longer it sits around.”
As a quick recap, the city is attempting to accelerate the EIR process that usually takes in the area of 12-18 months and have it done in a few months. San Diego City attorney Jan Goldsmith and Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s lead negotiator Christopher Melvin both agree the process will stand up to legal inspection. Fabiani says that’s not possible, so until the city decides to change its strategy, the team will not participate in stadium discussions. That’s basically what brought us to this point, but Mayor Faulconer still has hope.
“While it's no surprise that the Chargers have allowed today's deadline to pass for a January 12 special election,” said Faulconer, “San Diego can still hold a public vote on a new stadium during the normal election cycle in June or November – if Chargers ownership is willing to work in good faith with their hometown.”
“Good faith negotiations” is a phrase we’ve heard a lot this year. The problem seems to be both the team and the city think it’s the other party that is not negotiating in good faith, if at all.
“With regard to the repeated statements by politicians that the team has refused to engage with the City of San Diego; this is an untrue statement made by politicians looking to cover their own backsides. The Chargers have been working for 14 years to find a solution in San Diego. These politicians have been working on this issue for eight months — and they’ve squandered most of those months by appointing yet another task force and embarking on a legally doomed environmental review process.”
“City and County leadership remain ready to negotiate a fair stadium agreement. We have the regional political cooperation, fair financial framework and full environmental review necessary to build a new sports and entertainment complex that can be used by the Chargers and for future Super Bowls.”
So the waiting game continues. Barring a miracle change of heart, it’s looking like the Chargers are content to wait and see if they win the Los Angeles lottery. Both the team and the city are trying to convince the NFL Commissioner’s office that their plan (the Chargers in Carson, the city in San Diego) is the best one for the league.
“We will continue to work directly with the NFL ahead of the upcoming ownership meetings to show them that San Diego has all the ingredients necessary for a fair deal for taxpayers, the team and the league,” said Faulconer. “I would like to personally thank the fans, elected officials and civic leaders who have helped put San Diego in the best possible position to make the case to the National Football League that we are an NFL city.”
While the officials are still working on their presentation, the Bolts seem content to wait and see what happens.
“The NFL owners will make decisions regarding Los Angeles later this year,” said Fabiani, ”and the Chargers have said from the start that the team will respect whatever decision the NFL’s owners make.”
Now, that actually offers a shred of hope for Bolts fans who want to see the team stay in San Diego. If the league chooses the Carson project the Chargers have proposed with the Oakland Raiders, the Bolts will leave within a year. If the league chooses the Inglewood project of Rams owner Stan Kroenke, the Bolts could still move and join the Rams in that facility as a second tenant. That time frame is a little cloudier.
If the league chooses to let the Rams move to L.A. and lets the Raiders join them, the Chargers can either attempt to mend fences in San Diego or try and relocate the team to Oakland or St. Louis or San Antonio or London. Really the only thing we know for sure is the Chargers are playing the Lions on Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium and they’ll still have “San Diego” painted in the end zones.