San Diego

City Skybox Seats Targeted For New Giveaway System

San Diego's City Council is looking at another approach to handling its skybox tickets at Petco Park and Qualcomm Stadium.

Actually, the taxpayers' skybox tickets -- which the council has controlled since 1967, when the stadium opened.

It's been nearly a decade since a County Grand Jury first called out the Council's use, and giveaway, of skybox tickets as inappropriate -- if not unlawful.

A few years later, another grand jury recommended the tickets be sold off to benefit the city treasury.

But so far, no dice.

"I could see them wanting to hold on to them,” says Francine Maxwell, a community activist who lives in Encanto. “ But these political favors that are being handed out? People are going to the Beyonce concert at Qualcomm. Charger game after Charger game."

Critics say for all too long, the city-owned skybox tickets at the stadium and ballpark were shared with Council cronies, donors and lobbyists, if not used by the members themselves.

The seats could bring in upwards of a million dollars a year on the open market, according to a study by the city’s Salary Setting Commission, which has investigated the Council’s various "perks" of office.

For the most part, in recent years, the tickets have been turned over to charities, veterans, law enforcement and youth groups.

Now, the latest idea is to start a formal registry and “prioritize” requests from non-profit and community based groups and community organizations, with distribution overseen by the Council President's office.

However, past grand jurors -- and even Mayor Kevin Faulconer, at one point – have said the skyboxes are municipal revenue assets that should be removed from councilmembers' jurisdiction.

"They have no clue what the people think about this,” says attorney Robert Ottilie, who chairs the salary commission. “But the average person knows, 'I don't have a thousand-dollar Charger ticket to give away to benefit me socially, professionally, politically. But you do'?"

In at least one case, Ottilie noted, skybox tickets have wound up on Craigslist.

The new distribution policy, which would prohibit resale or transfer of the seats, is scheduled for a Council vote on Tuesday.

But in the absence of a city attorney's opinion on whether the ticket policy might be an unlawful "gift of public funds", it could be subject to a legal challenge if approved.

Contact Us