San Diego’s City Council voted Tuesday to spend $2.1 million in an attempt to stay in the NFL stadium game and keep the Chargers in town.
When city leaders met with NFL officials in June, the message was clear — fast tracking an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is key to the project moving forward.
The money approved by the city council will be spent on an EIR for the Mission Valley stadium site proposed by the mayor’s Citizens Stadium Advisory Group (CSAG).
“Regardless of what ultimately happens with the team, this environmental impact report is valuable to taxpayers," said Mayor Kevin Faulconer in a release. "Whether a new stadium is built or Qualcomm Stadium is simply demolished, this environmental analysis can be used.”
Other city leaders and the Chargers team itself disagreed. Councilmembers Todd Gloria, David Alvarez and Marti Emerald voted against funding the EIR, and Chargers' special counsel Mark Fabiani said the team wanted nothing to do with this "debacle" that is a sequel of the convention center saga. He was referring to a proposed expansion of the convention center that was tossed out after lawsuit challenges.
"All of this begs the question: What part of 'no' do stadium boosters not understand?" said Emerald. "The Chargers say they want no part of this and I say it's time to listen. Take them seriously and let them go to Carson."
The EIR, which assesses the environmental cost of destroying the current Qualcomm Stadium and building a new one, usually takes a year to complete.
This report can be expedited, the mayor's office said, because the project would be the same type of facility on the same site. Work on the EIR started on June 22.
Fabiani said a "fast-tracked" EIR process in San Diego is impossible because even if it does get finished in a few weeks for under $3 million, the issue will still get tied up in the courts and eventually invalidated, just like the convention center.
Faulconer’s office said the money for the report would be from unrestricted state funds that were previously owed to the city. The money will pay for city staff time and the professional services of planning firm AECOM to create the EIR.
However, NBC 7’s partners at the VoiceofSanDiego report that now that the City Council approved the expense, the plan to use retail development money to help pay for the new stadium would no longer be an option.
When CSAG delivered the completed proposal for a new NFL stadium in Mission Valley, their proposal included $225 million from development of some of the land at the current Qualcomm Stadium site.
“They are taking major piece of the puzzle that we all thought was going to help pay for the stadium off the table,” said reporter Liam Dillon. “This is a major development.”
However, spokesperson Matt Awbrey denied the mayor’s plan includes money from the sale of space for retail shops and condos.
“Our plan will not include new taxes, does not rely on the development that’s around it and we need to keep moving forward,” Awbrey said.
Tuesday's vote commits the city to moving forward with stadium plans. According to the mayor's office, if a lawsuit is filed, the city council will see the litigation in a closed session and direct the city attorney on how to proceed.
Negotiations between Chargers team owners and city officials kicked into high gear five months ago when it was announced that the Chargers and Oakland Raiders were involved in negotiations to build a joint-use complex in Carson.
CSAG proposed a plan to build a 65,000-seat stadium at the current Qualcomm stadium site. The financing plan would include a $1.1 billion price tag and has the Chargers paying for $300 million of it.
The Chargers have said the teams' owners prefer a downtown stadium site.
Moving forward with an environmental review of the Mission Valley site only shows the NFL that when it comes to keeping the team in town, San Diego means business, Awbrey added.
He said an EIR for a multiuse stadium would be valuable for the city because such a site could be used for other purposes “if things don’t work out with the Chargers.”
Fans in support of keeping the Chargers in San Diego held a rally in front of city hall before the vote.
A planning meeting is slated for July 15 at Qualcomm Stadium to go over a draft EIR for the Mission Valley site recommended by CSAG.
City officials say it's possible to get environmental approval for the stadium in Mission Valley and be able to put the issue to an anticipated special election on January 12, 2016.
A downtown stadium is not off the table, officials said, but if the Chargers do decide to go with the idea, the timeline would increase and the costs would increase by at least $150 million.
The Chargers have said an NFL owners' special meeting in August may offer insight into what is likely to occur during the remainder of 2015.