Here's a quote on the Mission Valley site from October of 2013...
"The Qualcomm site drawing board always was there. Now that the economic and housing issues have improved, redeveloping the Qualcomm site is something we're discussing with out development partner as something of interest... The site is perfect for private development, for building an urban village."
Here's another quote on the Mission Valley site from March of 2015...
"If (CSAG) is going to do what we proposed back in 2004, which is construct the stadium along with an urban village around the stadium, to then pay for the stadium without any taxpayer money, that would take years... to get through the entitlement process. It would have worked in 2004 or 2005 when we proposed it and had time, but now we don't. The city doesn't even own the site, the water department owns half the site. The site is polluted by a huge plume that has leaked from the gas tanks there. there's no more redevelopment, so you can't capture the tax increment off the site."
Both of these quotes came from the same person, Chargers' Special Counsel Mark Fabiani.
So what the hell happened to the Mission Valley site in the last 18 months?
Why is Fabiani Being Intentionally Misleading?
Mark Fabiani is a very smart man. He's the kind of person who doesn't simply spout off quotes without knowing exactly what the ramifications would be. He knows these comments can be easily compared and fact checked, as in the case of this superb takedown of the gas plume excuse by Voice of San Diego's Lisa Halverstadt.
It appears he's simply throwing crap at the wall, and seeing what might stick.
This is because he's not speaking to the people of San Diego. As the members of CSAG have explained, and other media members have said (notably Mighty 1090's Scott Kaplan - skip to 26:05), Fabiani has a whole other audience in mind.
The 29 other NFL team owners who aren't potentially looking to move their team to Los Angeles. Fabian needs to convince 24 of them to allow the Chargers to relocate, or convince at least 8 of them to block someone else's relocation.
What Is Fabiani's Strategy?
I see three options:
The Chargers have already decided to move to Los Angeles
In this scenario, Fabiani continues advocating for a downtown stadium which he knows he can't get, enlists the help of some local opinion makers, and then presents the disconnect to NFL Ownership as proof that San Diego can't get anything done. NFL Owners aren't likely to waste their time trying to figure out whether Fabiani is telling the truth. The result is the Chargers making the case that they have to go to Los Angeles, no matter how much better another owner, project, or team might be in the Los Angeles market.
This is the Chargers exerting leverage to get the best possible deal from the city of San Diego and the NFL. Since the Chargers aren't getting their preferred downtown location, and they've already expressed dissatisfaction with the Mission Valley site, they'll be looking to secure a better/higher percentage of revenue out of the deal. They'll also be looking for compensation from the NFL in exchange for releasing the Los Angeles market. Of course, with Option 1 a possibility, the team ultimately feels that it has the leverage to force a deal on terms it wants, or make the play for Los Angeles.
Good Cop, Bad Cop
Fabiani is playing the "Bad Cop" as part of a "Good Cop, Bad Cop" routine in an attempt to help reach a deal in San Diego. In this theory, Fabiani supplies a villain for CSAG to work against, and facilitate the perception that CSAG didn't simply "roll over" and give the Chargers everything they wanted. In this scenario, Dean Spanos and his family would emerge to make the deal, as Fabiani fades into the background, or reverses his rhetoric and re-embraces San Diego as the vote for a stadium closes in.
I'm really not sure which one it is, and it may be some combination of all three options.
Assuming Option 1 isn't the option, Fabiani and the Chargers should be concerned with the possibility of a backlash if the San Diego community believes the team is acting in bad faith. At this point, he comes across as The Mouth of Sauron to most everyone in San Diego.
"If this team ends up in Los Angeles, it won't be because ownership exhausted all opportunities to reach a deal in San Diego. It will be because, when it came to crunch time, they didn't try." - UT San Diego Editorial Board 3/25/15
It's also apparent the NFL has noticed the accelerated timeline CSAG has pushed, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell indicated he was at least pleased with it.
I think we'll all get a really good handle on the Chargers' intentions by the middle of April, when NFL VP Eric Grubman is scheduled to meet with CSAG. According to Bernie Wilson of the AP, Grubman will be meeting via teleconference with the entire group on April 7th, and then personally meeting with a sub-group of CSAG members Jason Hughes, Walt Ekard, and Rod Dammeyer on April 15th.
This means we'll know how serious the Chargers are in May, because that's when Grubman reports his findings to the NFL at the next round of owners meetings. We'll also see CSAG's financing plan in May, assuming the NFL and/or the Chargers haven't forced a restart for downtown or told CSAG not to bother.
In less than 2 months, we'll know how serious CSAG, the Chargers, and the NFL are about reaching a deal to keep the team in San Diego.