Fat arena subsidy good news for Qualcomm chief

Sacramento billboard law "carve-outs" to keep Kings ruled legal by judge

Billboards were central to an alleged covert side deal made between Sacramento and the new owners of the Kings basketball team. Could such an agreement between San Diego and the Chargers sweeten a stadium deal?
  • Billboards were central to an alleged covert side deal made between Sacramento and the new owners of the Kings basketball team. Could such an agreement between San Diego and the Chargers sweeten a stadium deal?

If Kevin Faulconer's Mission Valley stadium environmental impact report case ever gets to court, the mayor may want to consider having it heard in Sacramento.

Those still following the Republican's tortured struggle with the Chargers to keep the football team in town will know that team special counsel Mark Fabiani doesn't think much of Faulconer's plan to run a $2.1 million environmental quick play.

Paid for by funds from the city’s already-stretched public kitty, the costly environmental assessment is the mayor's key pawn in a hurry-up plan to spend millions more in taxpayer money to build a new home for the NFL at the present Qualcomm site.

“The Chargers will have no part in the city’s misbegotten, doomed legal strategy,” Fabiani told the L.A. Times last week. “And if the Chargers aren’t participating, why are some politicians proposing to waste the taxpayers’ money?”

As if on cue, a 34-page letter dated July 20 arrived at city hall from Douglas Carstens of the Hermosa Beach law firm of Chatten-Brown & Carstens LLP.

"We write to express our concern about, and objections to, the process that appears to be taking shape for hasty approval of a football stadium and associated mixed use development in Mission Valley that would involve demolition of the historic Qualcomm Stadium (formerly San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium)," the missive begins.

"The stadium, designed by Gary Allen, is one of the last remaining mid-century multi-purpose stadiums left in the United States."

The letter goes on to call out a number of what it says are numerous legal omissions in the city's so-called notice of preparation of the environmental review, and provides a lengthy list of environmental concerns, including the site's well-known record of wet-year inundations.

"Will flood control infrastructure be required to protect the site from flooding, and if so, what are the implications for other issues areas (biological resources, visual resources, etc.)?"

Adds Carstens, "We helped oppose special exemptions for football stadium proposals in the Cities of Industry and Los Angeles (Farmers Field), and continue to be opposed to public agencies providing special treatment or unique processes for sports stadiums."

Meanwhile, as the GOP mayor of San Diego twists slowly in the legal wind, Sacramento's basketball team — a big chunk of which is owned by the children of La Jolla Democratic billionaire Irwin Jacobs — has just beaten back a court challenge to its arena deal with the city.

Paul Jacobs

Paul Jacobs

As reported here last month, Sacramento and the Kings operation, of which Qualcomm executive chairman Paul Jacobs and his wealthy brothers Jeff and Hal are vice chairmen, were hit by a lawsuit asserting that a giveaway of billboard rights by the city to secretly subsidize the team was illegal.

"In total, the plaintiffs’ group estimates the city gave the Kings up to $200 million more in value than the publicized $255 million investment," reported the Sacramento Bee..

"The legal carve-out allows the Kings to offer team sponsors prime advertising space in front of hundreds of thousands of eyes daily on freeways throughout the city," according to a May 15, 2014, Bee story.

On July 24, superior court judge Timothy Frawley held that the billboard deal wasn't really a subsidy as alleged, and ruled it legal.

“To the Kings, the additional value might be used to ensure the long-term viability of the team,” said Frawley's ruling, according to the Sacramento Business Journal.

“But the City didn’t provide additional value to subsidize the team; it provided it to make the Arena deal happen.”

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If you don't want to see it demolished and replaced, calling it "historic" may help the cause.

This stadium drama is chumming the shark infested waters. Fabiani may be unpopular, but he is an experienced lawyer nonetheless. He knows there are going to be legal challenges to any stadium construction. This is just too juicy for the civic activists and environmental lawyers to let slip by. The more complicated the deal, the more the legal eagles will find it tempting to torpedo it. And profit from their deeds.

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