San Diego officials have made two chess-like moves in hopes of persuading the Chargers to stay in San Diego and not relocate to Los Angeles County.
After an hour-long meeting Monday with Chargers representatives, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced that the city is prepared to hold a Dec. 15 special election to seek voter approval to build a stadium to replace aging Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley.
The NFL had warned San Diego that waiting until November 2016 for an election might be too late – that the Chargers already may have decided to move to Carson. NFL owners are set to meet in early 2016 to discuss relocation matters, including efforts by the Chargers and Oakland Raiders to build a joint use stadium in Carson, and the possible desire of the St. Louis Rams owner to move his team to a stadium to be built in Inglewood.
Faulconer has pledged to allow a public vote on any stadium proposal – even if not required to do so by law. The $1.1-billion plan unveiled by a mayoral task force envisions a hefty public contribution but not a tax increase that would require a two-thirds vote of the public.
As city and county officials see it, the unknown is whether the Chargers truly want to remain in San Diego or have decided to move to Carson, which promises a stadium that can be built more quickly and in a larger, more lucrative market.
"We can get this done this year if the Chargers want to get it done," Faulconer said.
A negotiating team representing the city and county governments has had two sessions with the team's ownership, with more sessions planned. "If both sides stay focused, we can get this done," said county Supervisor Ron Roberts.
Also on Monday, the city announced that it has retained land-use expert Michael Zischke to help guide the city's stadium proposal through the complexity of state land-use and environmental law. The goal is to prevent a stadium proposal from being slowed by lawsuits like those that delayed the construction of Petco Park in downtown San Diego.
Zischke has written two books on the California Environmental Quality Act and "litigated projects from the North Coast redwood forests to the Sierras to the Colorado River and desert highlands, in addition to downtown and suburban development," the city attorney's office said.
The Chargers ownership declined to comment on the civic announcements.