Will GOP's Sherman play his stadium card for Alvarez?

Big-money closed-door deal looms over city-council presidency vote

Councilman Scott Sherman offered this plan for the existing Qualcomm Stadium site
  • Councilman Scott Sherman offered this plan for the existing Qualcomm Stadium site

As the battle for the presidency of the newly reconstituted San Diego City Council heads for a showdown, the contest is increasingly shaping up as a way for Mission Valley development interests to strengthen their grip on the fate of Qualcomm Stadium, likely soon to be vacated by the Chargers.

Such is the word around the city hall and its political environs in light of the battle between Democrats David Alvarez and Myrtle Cole over the powerful leverage that the council presidency can bring — and the big money given to Cole during the last face-off over the stadium real estate, in which Mission Valley developers hoped to both hang on to the Chargers and build a lucrative new office and residential complex for themselves.

Myrtle Cole and Dwayne Crenshaw

Myrtle Cole and Dwayne Crenshaw

Fourth District councilwoman Cole's stake in the deal involved her legal defense fund, set up to defray expenses left over from a court battle with fellow Democrat Dwayne Crenshaw, who alleged that a Cole hit-piece had defamed him during their 2013 electoral showdown.

The case was thrown out of court in 2014, but not before Cole had run up $42,159 worth of unpaid legal expenses.

Tom Sudberry

Tom Sudberry

Rather than cover the cost herself, Cole set up a political committee to raise cash from a corps of city-hall lobbyists and related special interests, most notably Tom Sudberry, whose Sudberry Properties is developer of the giant Civita complex off Friars Road, just down the street from Qualcomm Stadium.

Kevin Faulconer

Kevin Faulconer

Led by Republican councilman Scott Sherman and mayor Kevin Faulconer, the city council last year authorized spending of $2.1 million on a hurry-up environmental impact report for the stadium-cum-development project, although the Chargers-owning Spanos family loudly opposed the site and said that the council's action would not dissuade them from leaving town.

"I own two L.T. jerseys," Cole said before voting yes on the expenditure, alluding to ex-Chargers star LaDainian Tomlinson.

"That's an investment and I want to wear those jerseys."

The same plan, calling for at least $350 million in tax funding from the city and county, is currently being touted by some football backers as a last-ditch way to keep the Chargers in town in the wake of voters' rejection of November's downtown stadium scheme, though the team has yet to express any interest in pursuing the previously spurned Mission Valley proposal.

John Moores

John Moores

Should the team depart for Los Angeles, the environmental advance work could be used to build the massive commercial portion of the complex, over the efforts of ex-Padres owner John Moores and his JMI development company.

Moores has been seeking to build his own development on the city-owned propertyin concert with San Diego State University, which would likely preclude the plan promoted by Sherman and Faulconer.

"The JMI team (represented by President John Kratzer and Steve Peace), working in concert with Steve Black of Cisterra Development, another prominent San Diego developer (and SDSU alumni), will unveil their proposal to develop the Qualcomm Stadium site into a civic gem that all SDSU alumni and San Diego County residents will claim proudly," said an invitation to a dog-and-pony show at the university this past March.

Frank Urtasun

Frank Urtasun

In the weeks leading to the July 14, 2015, vote on the $2.1 million environmental report pushed by the mayor, Cole's legal defense fund collected money from a host of perennial city hall players, many financial supporters of Republican Faulconer, including SeaWorld president John T. Reilly, with $550 on May 1, and Sempra's Frank Urtasun, who donated $250 on April 23.

Another major Faulconer backer, Republican Tom Sudberry, also weighed in, giving $550 on April 28. The same day, Jane Sudberry contributed $550. The Sudberry firm’s Estean H. Lenyoun, III, gave $125 on April 23, along with the same from Karen Lenyoun.

Doug Austin, an architect frequently used by Republican U-T ex–publisher Doug Manchester, gave Democrat Cole's fund $300. Austin was appointed to the planning commission in April 2014 by Faulconer in what critics characterized as payback for Manchester’s support of the mayor's 2014 special election bid.

Scott Sherman

Scott Sherman

Cole's opponent for the council presidency is the eighth district's David Alvarez, who voted against funding the Mission Valley stadium environmental impact report, noting that “without a financing plan for this project, we are simply not being serious.”

Alvarez's fellow Democrats Todd Gloria and Marti Emerald joined him in opposing the expenditure. Council Republicans and Cole carried the day, and the money was spent.

But the Mission Valley developers could yet have a chance of prevailing in some form, even if Alvarez obtains the council presidency. As noted by the Union-Tribune, Alvarez has "formed strong relationships with some of the council's Republicans, particularly Scott Sherman."

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Let's hope a genuine coalition of Democrats and Republicans on the new City Council joins to elect David Alvarez president of that presently impotent body. If Scott Sherman joins the Dems to make a majority for Alvarez, it will be to Sherman's great credit and for the good of the City. City Council led by David Alvarez would establish council as a countervailing legislative force to offset the present near-total power of the Strong Mayor's office.

Myrtle Cole is a shady Democrat in Name Only (DINO) who poorly represents the needs of her community and serves herself instead. Sadly, she is from the same neighborhood and cut from the same cloth as resigned and disgraced School Board member Marne Foster. Following departing DINO Council president Sherri Lightner, who was also notably AWOL in helping her constituents, Myrtle Cole is happy to collaborate with the Mayor's financiers and fellow GOP council members rather than cooperate with Democratic colleagues Georgette Gomez, Barbara Bry, Chris Ward and David Alvarez to move San Diego forward.

Well, I guess we starry-eyed hope-springs-eternal dopes can just fuggedaboudit: Barbara Bry cast her first Council vote for Myrtle Cole for Council president today. So did Scott Sherman. Termed-out DINO Council president Sherri Lightner was on NPR at midday and had the gall to state her personal preference for Myrtle Cole over David Alvarez, and she added personal insults about Alvarez's (incontrovertible) political professionalism -- something about having to be on time and doing one's homework. I'm looking for a bright side: at least today means charmless robotic Sherri Lightner is elective history.

The only place you can find such childish clowns as are on the City Council is in kindergarten. What a bunch of morons.

I hope they develop the Qualcomm site with ample homes to provide more housing options for future San Diegans (our kids). Demonizing developers is popular on this site, but I'm curious to ask those NIMBY folks: and who built your home? We are in a housing crisis, and denying new home construction will only push low and middle income San Diegans to the brink. Entitled home owners should not stand in the way between future generations and opportunity. We have a responsibility to our children to make sure we have space for them too.

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