New Stadium Money Gap: Sell Off City Property?

NBC 7's Gene Cubbison offers this analysis on the latest dealings behind the Chargers stadium scramble.

In the wake of the City Council’s approval of $2.1 million for a stadium “capital improvement” plan, officials now have to scare up $225 million that’s just been taken out of construction financing in order to qualify for a quick EIR approach.

The reason the city did that?

The money represents what private buyers would have been expected to pay for 75 acres to create “ancillary development” on the current Qualcomm Stadium site -- hotels, commercial and retail facilities -- which would have required a more extensive, time-consuming EIR process.

New taxes, cuts in city services and mega-bonds would seem off the table for filling the new construction funding gap.

Informed sources tell NBC 7 that one approach could be selling off millions of dollars’ worth of city property.

Prime example, and probably the largest readily developable site that would raise the most money?

The Valley View Casino Center site, formerly known as the San Diego Sports Arena complex, a relatively under-performing city asset that the Chargers themselves have called for 'leveraging' in the past.

It covers more than 100 acres that encompass a three dozen commercial businesses and two apartment complexes to the north.

The arena’s operating leaseholder is the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), which developed the "L.A. Live" complex and Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.

AEG once came close to forming a partnership that would have housed the Chargers in their proposed Farmers Field stadium complex, before negotiations with the team fell through.

It could make sense, sources say, for AEG to invest more in the Sports Arena site property – so as to develop not only a new, buffed-out arena seating perhaps 25,000, but a satellite convention center that could handle overflow Comic-Con events.

Conventioneers would be attracted stay in newly developed hotels on the sold-off property, along with the many hotels in Mission Valley and Mission Bay.

A leading Bolts backer, for starters, is intrigued by the idea.

“It's beautiful property, closer to the ocean and a lot nicer than a little inland,” said Sean Farrell, organizer of the “Save our Bolts” movement. “I think it's a definite possibility to be a great proposal."

But we're also told of so-called "devils in the details," which don't necessarily amount to deal-breakers.

“The coastal (building) height limit in San Diego is 30 feet, and it's nothing you can penetrate very easily except with a vote of the people,” said Scott Lewis, editor of Voice of San Diego.

“Maybe that would be a way to get buy-in to the project and get through the height limit,” Lewis exlained in an interview Tuesday. “The next thing they have to deal with is neighbors (in Point Loma and Loma Portal) are not looking forward to more traffic in that area. It could be a big-time controversy."

Lewis also points out that city property sales involving 80 acres or more would necessitate a public vote, but that could be avoided by carving 20-some acres out of the footprint of the Sports Arena property.

A spokesman for Mayor Kevin Faulconer declined comment on alternative funding options, or other ideas suggested by the mayor’s stadium advisors that could generate “in excess of $50 million over a 30-year period.”

Those sources include naming rights within the stadium, contributions from concession vendors and “supportive-services” sponsors – even crowdfunding.

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