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Referendum on San Diego baseball stadium?

Dennis Conner is building latest version of Stars and Stripes, in Rhode Island

— It has an extravagant name, and it turns out it carries a very big price tag. It's the "North Embarcadero Visionary Plan." Approved by the San Diego City Council last December, the plan has been adopted as a pet project by the Union-Tribune, which called it "a wonderful public amenity built for San Diegans and tourists alike, but it's also an excellent investment for the city." That's U-T speak for spending at least $60 million in local tax dollars on an expensive redevelopment project along Harbor Drive from downtown to the airport. Insiders claim the plan is out of control and expect its cost to soar to at least $100 million, all of which will be funded from increasingly strained city, county, and port coffers. They cite a city document dated April 5 describing a cost overrun for planning. "The original budget for the consultants was exceeded by $150,000 of which the city's share was $37,500. Phase 2 will cost a maximum of $500,000 for the total EIR [environmental impact report] budget, with the city's contribution being $165,000." The document adds that the port district "will be the administrative lead for the Alliance for phase 2." It was the port, of course, which was responsible for multimillion-dollar cost overruns at Lindbergh Field.

Boomerang

Will the proposed downtown baseball stadium go back to the voters? The "R" word is being bandied about by those opposed to the construction of the project. R stands for referendum, which could get underway as soon as the city council approves an ordinance to pay for the $225 million (some claim much more) complex. Under state law, the council would be required to put the stadium financing on the ballot if sufficient signatures were gathered in a month's time. Such a scenario probably wouldn't go over well with Padres owner John Moores, who spent more than a million dollars to win last November's electoral battle over the stadium, in which opponents were outspent by about 1000 to 1. And the Union-Tribune, which downplayed taxpayer costs and the sweetheart deal Moores got from the city on real-estate development in the stadium area, could be expected to launch a volley of savage attacks in its editorial and news columns against anyone who asked voters to reconsider the matter. Still, some think the political climate has changed radically since last fall, when the Padres were the golden boys of the National League. And national opposition to the project has suddenly surfaced in the form of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. So city financial types are said to be searching frantically for a way to avoid the ballot, perhaps by using private borrowings from Moores himself or bankers who Moores selects for a finder's fee ... Jerry Mailhot's lawsuit appeal against the stadium deal doesn't happen until next month, not this week as reported here earlier.

Best of the Lot

Ernst & Young handed out its annual "San Diego Entrepreneur of the Year" awards last week, including one for Christopher Crane, president and CEO of Comps.com, a real estate website that fizzled in its stock market debut a few weeks back. Last year, the big accounting firm nominated now-controversial Metabolife founder Michael J. Ellis, reportedly once convicted in connection with a methamphetamine-making scheme, as a finalist in its "consumer products/retail" category. This year's consumer products winner was John Sarkisian of Oscar's restaurants ... Dennis Conner is building the latest version of his Stars and Stripes, America's Cup boat, at New England Boatworks in Rhode Island...The hottest place for summer deals on travel to Cuba is a website run by Tijuana's CubaTravel.com ... Old American Bandstand host Dick Clark says he's going into the cable TV business in Mexico. Clark's outfit DDD Cablevision, Ltd., has merged with Info America Corporation, an over-the-counter stock company that wants to build systems in La Paz, Los Cabos, Tijuana, and Mexicali ... American Film Technologies, which once colorized movies in Carlsbad, is being sued by shareholders who claim that chief executive officer Gerald Wetzler so mismanaged the company that he's the only remaining employee.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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