When talking about the issues the Chargers have with the way the San Diego government is going about its stadium proposals, the one thing Chargers Special Counsel Mark Fabiani cites more than anything else is the Environmental Impact Report. Fabiani has said multiple times the attempts to expedite an EIR will fail legally and the franchise refuses to be a part of it.
So why do Mayor Kevin Faulconer and his team think their process is going to work? That’s a question lead negotiator Christopher Melvin was able to answer.
“We have spent more than 7,000 man-hours in the production of the EIR,” said Melvin after he helped the Mayor’s team present San Diego’s latest stadium proposal to the NFL and its owners. “We believe it’s an exhaustive and comprehensive document that will withstand any challenge that anyone could bring.”
Melvin believes it’s likely the EIR will be challenged, but does not think the document will lose any of those challenges. Still, there is a way to fix it.
“There is sufficient time in the schedule to fix or amend the EIR so that it would be in compliance by the end of 2016,” says Melvin. “At the appellate level one of two things will happen. The appellate court will say it’s fine and we will qualify for the expedited litigation process, or they could say you need to do some further work.”
Melvin expects the city to know about any areas of concern brought against the EIR by the end of November. Since the city will be alerted to the areas of concern, if the courts decide a section of the EIR based on, for example, traffic or noise need more work, that work can begin immediately.
“There would be plenty of time after September 1 to do that additional work, which is not going to take more than a month. Even if we lose in the appellate court, which I think is highly unlikely; it will be completed by the end of 2016.”
That would give the appellate process a 270-day window, clearing the EIR by September of 2016 … just before the start of the next NFL season.
Melvin says the reason the city is attempting an expedited EIR is not out of negligence or a belief it can somehow beat the system. It’s being done out of necessity.
“We only have this tight window because the city was committed to meeting the timelines that have been offered up by the NFL.”
Teams must file relocation request papers with the NFL by February 15 each year. Melvin says the Mayor’s group is happy to wait for the June primaries or even the November general election. They only went through the process to tell the NFL they are capable of meeting their time frame.
Throughout his time with the San Diego group, Melvin has been impressed with what he sees as a true commitment to keep the Chargers in San Diego.
“I have probably worked on the financing of two dozen professional facilities,” said Melvin. “In my experience it’s rare for two jurisdictions to come together and commit dollars in such a short amount of time, both for the capital expansion and for funding the EIR and all the professionals that they needed to get in to this competition. The commitment is extraordinary.”
If the Chargers come out of the NFL owners meeting in Chicago feeling like they need to give San Diego another shot, they’ll have to get on board with the EIR and return to the negotiating table to hammer out a deal. Any agreement must be agreed to by the city, county and franchise by mid-to-late September (the NFL has said it will consider a two-week extension). If that term sheet is not agreed upon, it doesn’t get on the ballot because the agreement is what’s subject to a special election.