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San Diego Chargers Stadium: A Hail Mary for Mission Valley?

Four San Diego City Councilpersons are proposing a low-cost lease to the Chargers for the Mission Valley site

A rendering of the proposed Mission Valley Stadium from 2015.
Populous / City of San Diego

Last night, members of the San Diego City Council were prepared to make an initial offer to keep the Chargers in San Diego.

The key feature of the offer is a lease of the 166-acre Qualcomm site to the Chargers at $1 per year for 99 years, with the Chargers controlling development rights.

The letter was signed by Councilpersons Scott Sherman, Chris Cate, Lorie Zapf, and Myrtle Cole. The letter can be read here.

According to this article by Bernie Wilson of the Associated Press, Sherman had this to say:

"At the end of the day, 166 acres in the geographic center of the eighth-largest city in the country is the perfect spot to develop. I'm convinced we could get over 50 percent (of a vote) with that. This is all just a starting point to start the discussion. The way we laid it out with the lease, it's a large incentive to come to the table."

Sherman followed up with some other details in an interview with Dan Sileo on Mighty 1090 AM this morning.

Any development of the Qualcomm site would certainly come with some infrastructure improvements to the City, as it regards freeway access and parking structures to allow for development elsewhere at the site, not to mention mitigating the risk of the southern side of the lot being flooded by the San Diego River.

Any new development would require re-zoning of the Qualcomm lot, which means either a) a Citizen’s Initiative which needs to be approved by the City Council (or voters) based on the planned development or b) an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) would need to be drafted for the development.

There’s also the issue of the remaining bond debt on the Qualcomm Stadium expansion from 1997, as well as deferred maintenance at Qualcomm Stadium.

Lastly, what about the idea to turn the Qualcomm site into an expansion for San Diego State University. This plan seemingly kills that concept.

This proposal is similar in concept to a plan the Chargers pitched for the Mission Valley site in 2004. The Chargers pursued it until 2006-07 when the housing bubble burst and potential investors were no longer interested.

In fact, developing Mission Valley with a partner was on the team’s radar as recently as October 2013.

Of course, the Chargers were not shy about telling people they will not be pivoting back to Mission Valley during the “campaign” for Measure C.

Measure C, for a downtown stadium joined with a convention center annex, was defeated by City voters in November, by a margin of approximately 43% to 57%. The measure required a two-thirds majority to pass because public financing elements of the plan relied on a Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) increase from 10.5% to 16.5%.

This new Mission Valley proposal is similar to an offer proposed to the Oakland Raiders by Oakland Civic Leaders, but there’s one crucial difference. The development rights to the 105-acre Oakland Coliseum site would be controlled by a 3rd party developer called Fortress Investment Group. NFL Hall-of-Famer Ronnie Lott and former NFL QB Rodney Peete are also involved with the proposed project.

Oakland City officials and Alameda County officials are expected to vote on the term sheet today.

This letter goes to the NFL just as owner’s prepare to hold their Winter Meetings.

Among the topics certainly to be included are the Chargers’ potential move to Los Angeles, as well as the Raiders’ potential move to Las Vegas.

Pardon my speculation, but I don’t think it’s an accident that the plan offered by San Diego’s City Councilpersons is essentially what the NFL and Raiders reportedly wanted from Oakland. It provides the NFL an opportunity to invest in a market they (may) want to keep, while also giving the Raiders a soft landing spot in the event the Chargers go to Los Angeles and NFL Ownership rejects Mark Davis’ move to Las Vegas.

There have been discussions between Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Chargers Special Advisor Fred Maas, but little to no details have emerged from those meetings.

That the letter was released publicly prior to being seen by the Chargers or the NFL smacks of political grandstanding, though the Chargers have zero room to criticize anyone for selectively leaking information to the media.

The Chargers have had the option to join the Los Angeles Rams since last January. This option must be exercised by January 15, 2017, or the option to move to Los Angeles reverts to the Raiders.

The next month should be fun the same way getting repeatedly kicked in the stomach is fun. At least we’re still numb from 2015.

Stay tuned, or not - I get it either way.