By Doug Porter
There are a boatload of people who’ve declared their intention to run for Mayor of San Diego.
The Daily Fishwrap has hammered home the meme that ours is a city teetering on the edge of ruin following nine months of bullying and grabbing on the eleventh floor of city hall. Hotel executives are metaphorically scattered throughout the Gaslamp District with tin cups in hand trying stave off the looming economic disaster brought on by the former Mayor’s insistence that taxpayers be protected.
Into this power vacuum have stepped the San Diego Chargers, a professional football team owned by an ultra-wealthy family that believes it’s entitled to taxpayer assistance in building a new football stadium.
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s been a full court media press on over the last few days extolling the virtues of a recycled proposal for a downtown venue that would turn San Diego into a world class city overnight. Former Mayor Jerry Sanders was on KUSI TV this morning saying, “We’ll find the Chargers a new stadium in the not-too-distant future, I predict.”
Yes indeedy, a new stadium will make everything okay. Our long regional nightmare will be over.
Gone would be our collective horror at the antics of the masher Mayor. Gone would be the need to mar our city’s waterfront with an expanded Convention Center build expressly to serve the needs of those freaks of nature otherwise known as Comic-Con. Gone would be poverty, as the economic miracles trickling down from this behemoth would miraculously restore neighborhoods, eliminate racism and end homelessness.
Today we’ll look at this well-oiled campaign. First they needed to alert the public to the seriousness of the crisis…
The Monday Morning Quarterback blog on Sports Illustrated.com trotted out a stadium horror story so scary it should have been prefaced with a warning against letting small children near any screen displaying it.
Entitled “An Insult to Dumps Everywhere”, the SI account ladles up heaping helpings of civic shame:
Actually, calling Qualcomm a dump really is an insult to dumps. The JumboTron is so old that some replacement parts can only be found on eBay. There’s no capacity for a hi-definition video board or for new electronic signage. In an era in which the NFL is trying to heighten the stadium experience to allow fans to keep up with scores and stats from other games via their smartphones, connectivity is limited in part by structural issues within the stadium. (At the preseason opener this year, one Chargers exec could not communicate via email with his staff during the game because of poor wifi.) White trash bags cover large electrical connectors that hang from a lower wall, and cracks are visible in the concrete in various places. Heavy rains often cause the drainage systems to back up, which is why the team has rubber boots on hand for fans whose seats are flooded. It’s not uncommon for sewage to leak onto the field and into the visiting locker room. According to an independent audit performed for the city, the stadium needs $70 million in maintenance and repairs.
Whereupon the writer follows up with the eminent reasonableness of the Spanos family’s ideas for building a new facility. A mere $300 million in public funding is needed for the $1 billion project, monies that could easily be raised if it wasn’t for the FACT we’ve had the “most dysfunctional city government in the country” for the past God-only-knows-how-long.
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith is quoted : “The city needs mayoral leadership for big projects, and right now it is not there. But, we will get through this turmoil.”
A ‘New’ Plan Emerges
The Chargers repackaged an old stadium plan and rolled it out last week via a “selfie” interview on their own website. Contrary to rumors spread via social media, they did not promise a free pony for everybody in San Diego.
As the plan for the $520 million convention center expansion nears a crucial hearing before the California Coastal Commission, theSan Diego Chargers are reviving the multi-use stadium plan. They say their plan could actually be completed more quickly, and bring more revenue to San Diego.
Mark Fabiani, general counsel for the San Diego Chargers said in an interview published Thursday on the Chargers web site, “there is a more cost-effective and environmentally-sensitive way to expand the convention center as part of a multi-use stadium in the EastVillage. And that’s the concept we presented to the Coastal Commission.”
Here’s the UT-San Diego’s Nick Canepa using a made up source (my guess is that it was UT CEO John Lynch dictating over the phone) to explain away any objections:
“The Convention Center expansion doesn’t have to be contiguous; that’s a total lie,” says someone close to the situation (not Fabiani or a member of the Chargers). “Even if you take the Chargers out of this completely, you’re looking at a total catastrophe if the city’s plan goes through. We have experts and engineers who say it isn’t going to work.
“They built a beautiful terminal, but on the wrong side of the airport, now this. I can’t tell you how many people don’t think it will work, but they allowed labor to just push it through. It’s just terrible land use, blocking the waterfront and the bayside park.
“From a land-use perspective, we know this is a stupid way to expand the Convention Center. The Chargers’ proposal makes more sense. It pulls activity into the community, rather than the railroad tracks. Remember all the crap about Comic-Con leaving? Totally fabricated. Comic-Con never was leaving; it’s going nowhere.
“The lack of scrutiny on this thing is mind-boggling. Do we know the Convention Center is not able to operate to full capacity during Padres home games? Do we know there’s a 30-percent hold in the financing of the Convention Center expansion? The new proposal can be financed without hotel tax. It could be dynamic, really exciting and cool and much more marketable. The economics of it are compelling and the Chargers will be an asset rather than a liability. But I don’t know if there is one creative mind down there.”
Neil deMause, who writes about such things over at Field of Schemes, calls it what it is:
So, basically what’s going on is that the Chargers management has decided that in all the chaos over the mayor of San Diego resigning over sexual harassment charges and nobody much wanting to take his place, this would be a perfect time to throw out a new stadium proposal, this one to build a new stadium and convention center complex at a different downtown site than the existing convention center. Which nobody knows how to pay for, and no one in elected office seems too excited about, but hey, the city’s plan to expand the current convention center comes up for a hearing next month, so best to throw a monkey wrench in that now, right?
Meanwhile, there’s a wide open field for journalists wanting to investigate whether this Chargers proposal is workable in the slightest. Normally I’d turn to the Voice of San Diego for this sort of thing, but they seem to have only just noticed that it’s football season, so maybe they’re preoccupied with other things. Seriously, anybody?
Last night on ESPN Monday Night Football we got The Lecture on what a great city San Diego could be if we only had a football field. Then, as if to prove the point about what a bunch of losers we collectively are, the Chargers went into full dis-function mode.
Maybe It’s Not Such a Bad Deal…
I need to throw in the disclaimer here that I’ve yet to see a NFL stadium deal outside of Green Bay that could stand any realistic Return On Investment assessment. It’s always about intangibles…Civic Pride… Potential Tax Revenues… yada-yada. BUT….
This may come as a shocker to some of my lefty friends, I would actually support an honest stadium deal that made a reasonable argument for long-term taxpayer benefit.
I like football. Stadiums and arenas are a necessary part of a mass culture (as long as they have WiFi & Craft Beer). But don’t tell me about the nifty retractable cloth roof. Tell me the truth about the money.
I think I have a better chance of seeing a unicorn than an honest proposal from the Chargers.
One Final Note
The Chargers lost last night to Houston. The whining has already started online. Some “fans” are calling quarterback Philip Rivers a communist because of his way of sharing the ball with other teams.
He’s not. Rivers is a red blooded American, fighting the Mongol hordes on and off the football field. Proof from Buzzfeed:
Conspiracy Theorists Please Note
I will be taking a much needed vacation starting Wednesday, September 11th (coincidence?), and therefore this column will not be published for a week.
My absence is not being caused by either the downtown anti-Filner cabal OR the smug purveyors of “everybody knows” on Twitter. Nor will I be attending brainwashing sessions at Daily Kos.
In reality I’ll be visiting family and attending a wedding.
If for some reason I should not return, it’s most likely because Iowa is granting permits to acquire or carry guns in public to people who are legally or completely blind.
You’ve been warned.
On This Day: 1913 – The Lincoln Highway opened. It was the first paved coast-to-coast highway in the U.S. 1963 – Twenty black students entered public schools in Alabama at the end of a standoff between federal authorities and Alabama governor George C. Wallace. 1996 – Wal-Mart banned Sheryl Crow’s 2nd album because of the song “Love is A Good Thing.”
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