In 2015, Carson became a 4-letter word to Chargers fans. But in an ironic twist of fate, now the same strategy the Chargers used to try and make their jump to Los Angeles is likely going to be used to try and build a new stadium in San Diego.
A lot has been made of the Chargers “coming back to the negotiating table” with Mayor Kevin Faulconer and County Supervisor Ron Roberts. If the Chargers plan plays out, local politicians will still have significant input into the process because the team will want and need their support. But, in the end, the content of the citizen’s initiative and the campaign to win support for it will be decided on and funded by the Chargers.
Through a review of financial disclosures in Carson, NBC 7 SportsWrap has learned the members of the team the Chargers put together to fully entitle the land in Carson via a citizen’s initiative. A source close to the Chargers, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the team’s desire to have a citizen’s initiative be their course of action for whichever site is chosen, be it Mission Valley or Downtown San Diego.
“No matter which site is selected — Mission Valley or downtown — the quickest and most legally defensible way to gain the necessary local environmental entitlements will be through the citizen’s initiative process,” said the source. “That process will also involve all interested parties — community groups, fan organizations, organized labor, and the private sector — helping to provide the effort with real momentum in the way that would not be possible as the result of months of quiet, behind the scenes negotiating.”
In reality, the team feels citizen's initiative might be its only option. The Chargers still fear the so-called "quickie" EIR the City did for the Mission Valley site will not stand up to legal challenges and miss the August certification window, making it impossible to put on a November ballot. One more reason to believe the Bolts will be focusing their efforts on Downtown.
Chargers owner Dean Spanos has said publicly he prefers the Downtown stadium idea. To get that done, his best bet is to assemble the same team that got the Carson site entitled in a mere two months.
That team, according to public disclosure forms, consists of the law firm of Latham & Watkins; the political law and lobbying firm of Nielsen Merksamer; the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olsen; global investment firm Goldman Sachs; and of course Chargers Special Counsel Mark Fabiani, and the campaign and signature-gathering team that Fabiani and his partner Chris Lehane assembled. Together they were able to push a citizen’s initiative through in Carson.
Fabiani and Lehane were also able to help Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson secure a new arena for the Kings when it seemed they were destined to move away from the California capitol. The Chargers may have lost out with their Carson proposal, but it’s not because the team working on the legal aspects did not do their jobs.
So with that success in their back pocket, the Chargers’ A-Team is about to be re-assembled for a run at a citizen’s initiative in San Diego, and the Bolts plan on starting that process soon.
NBC 7 SportsWrap was granted access to internal team documents that detail the timeline for putting the citizen’s initiative on the November ballot.
The first major deadline is March 24. That is when the measure must be drafted and ready for filing because the very next day a Notice of Intention, the full proposed legislation and an explanation of it, must be posted for the public to review.
Then on April 15 the public gets involved. That’s the day the petition can be circulated and the signature drive can begin. The Chargers paid for the signature drive in Carson and plan on doing that again in San Diego. This time they’ll need nearly 67,000 people to sign within an eight-week period in order to submit it to the City Clerk for verification.
The next major fencepost is July 18, when the City Council (assuming the signatures are verified) will have options on whether to adopt the initiative by Council action (which is what occurred in Carson) or to put it on the ballot. Assuming the Council chooses to place it before voters, the last possible day to place the citizen’s initiative on the November ballot is August 12.
All that leads up to the November 8 election. If all goes according to the Chargers plan November 8 will also be the day they find out if they can go ahead with a new facility in San Diego or if they take the deal to move in with Stan Kroenke in Inglewood.
That is the timeline we are working with but there is one more factor. Expect a big P.R. push from the Bolts as they try to win back fans and win favor from local decision-makers. The team understands having as many community leaders as they can on a united front makes what they’re about to attempt a whole lot easier.