As recently reported here, the San Diego City Council is grappling with how to pay $271 million in debt service for Petco Park, approved by the citizenry in a 1998 simple-majority "advisory" vote.
Sold to the public as a free lunch, the Padres’ playground is currently eating up a sizable annual chunk of taxpayer cash.
Now, Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani says the football team doesn't want a repeat of that experience. Instead, he's demanding two-thirds majority voter approval of public financing for a new stadium.
"The Chargers have no interest in participating in another half-baked scheme to attempt to get around the two-thirds rule," says a February 16 letter by Fabiani to mayor Kevin Faulconer's stadium task force.
"The City of San Diego has just wasted five years and many millions of taxpayer dollars trying to circumvent the two-thirds vote requirement with an illegal Convention Center expansion tax….
"With regard to a new stadium project, we are hearing rumblings of another ill-conceived scheme to avoid the two-thirds vote requirement: Two ballot measures, one that would raise a tax for a general purpose, and one that would be non-binding and would advise the City to spend some of the new money on a stadium. To be clear, we will not support any such effort to circumvent the State Constitution."
Adds the letter, posted on the team's website: "If the funding mechanisms that this Task Force considers cannot win two-thirds approval, when such approval is required by the California Constitution, then they should not be part of your final recommendations."
Fabiani seems to tacitly acknowledge such a super-majority might be hard to get.
"It might be that — despite the great effort that has been expended — there is at least at this time no publicly acceptable solution to the stadium issue in San Diego," he writes.
"If the facts lead you to this conclusion, we hope you will say so, even though you will be under tremendous political pressure to propose something — anything — just to show that the politicians are trying….
"Simply put, we have no intention of allowing the Chargers franchise to be manipulated for political cover — and we will call out any elected official who tries to do so."
Besides those swipes at the city's leadership, Fabiani says the team can't be expected to come up with the kind of cash that other teams have because it can't sell enough Preferred Seat Licenses to fat cats.
"Our studies — and the real world experience of the Padres — demonstrate that we cannot sell PSLs in any significant numbers here in San Diego. A Task Force recommendation that ignores this reality will be worthless….
"In addition," he adds, "some consultants have suggested that the stadium should be financed using revenue streams that, throughout the rest of the NFL, go to the teams. These revenue streams include naming rights, sponsorships, and the like.
“Of course, if the Chargers were to forego all of these revenues, then the team would fall even further behind the rest of the NFL than we are right now."
And no low-balling the stadium's ultimate cost, Fabiani warns.
"We have heard commentators say that the stadium could be built for $700 million, or even less," he writes. "These off-the-cuff estimates ignore the real world costs of stadiums now being built all around the country — from San Francisco to Minnesota to Atlanta. Looking around the country, new stadium costs are coming in at $1.2 to $1.5 billion."
Near the bottom of Fabiani’s letter comes a dire-sounding passage:
"We are keeping a close eye on developments in LA. We do not have a choice but to also monitor and evaluate our options there. Simply put, it would be irresponsible for the Chargers not to be taking every possible step to protect the future of the franchise."