SAN DIEGO – To no one’s surprise, the city of San Diego and the Chargers missed a deadline set by Mayor Kevin Faulconer to agree on a new stadium that would keep the team from moving to Los Angeles.
The city and team had to strike a stadium deal by Friday to allow enough time for a measure to be put to voters on a Jan. 12 ballot. Faulconer wanted an election before an anticipated decision by league owners, potentially early next year, on whether to return a team to Los Angeles after a two-decade absence.
The missed deadline is a reminder of the wide gulf and acrimony between the city and team. Negotiations collapsed in June after only three meetings, and neither side suggests they will resume soon.
The city insists the team refuses to engage, which Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani said was a narrative spun by “politicians looking to cover their own backsides.” Fabiani likened the city’s proposals to curdled milk because they look worse with age.
The Chargers and Oakland Raiders plan to jointly build a $1.7 billion stadium in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson, one of two proposals to bring the NFL to the nation’s second-largest metropolitan area. St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is part of a group planning to build a nearly $2 billion stadium in the city of Inglewood.
San Diego plans to make its case directly to NFL owners next month in New York. A move to Los Angeles would require approval of 24 of the 32 owners.
“We made it very clear that we wanted to achieve a special election, and (Friday) was the date we had to do that,” Faulconer said. “The Chargers chose — that was their decision — not to engage in discussion. They broke them off some time ago. That has not deterred us.”
The team contends that the city’s plan to build a venue at the site of the team’s existing home at the aging Qualcomm Stadium is deeply flawed. Fabiani said the Chargers worked 14 years on a new stadium in San Diego and that the city has tried only eight months, spending some of that time on a mayor-appointed task force that the team questioned from the start.
In May, the task force proposed a $1.1 billion stadium that includes contributions of $121 million each from the city and San Diego County. Negotiations stalled over a review required under the California Environmental Quality Act to address impacts including noise and traffic, which the Chargers say won’t survive lengthy legal challenges.
The city produced its 848-page draft environmental review in August, an unusually fast turnaround.
“The quickie (environmental impact report) is more like curdled milk, which looks worse the longer it sits around,” Fabiani said in email Thursday. “In short, the Chargers are unwilling to go along with the city’s ill-conceived legal strategies.”
Faulconer remained committed to a public vote if the two sides ever strike a deal, saying Friday that an election could be held next year in June or November. But Fabiani ruled out Chargers support for any proposal predicated on the same environmental review.
“If that’s your foundation, then nothing will ever happen,” Fabiani told a group of civic leaders Friday.
The Chargers say they will respect whatever the owners decide.
Councilman Todd Gloria, who parted with the mayor on spending $2.1 million for the accelerated environmental review without the Chargers’ support, said the team’s future was largely outside the city’s control.
“We stay engaged, but it’s hard to make a deal when you’re at the table by yourself,” he said.
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