Chargers Convadium Plan: Lipstick on a Pig

by on July 6, 2016 · 0 comments

in Culture, Economy, Environment, History, Politics, San Diego, Sports

chargers design 5Part 2 in a series

By John Lawrence

I previously reported on the 110 Pages of Gobbledygook that represents the Chargers’ proposal to build a combination football stadium and convention center expansion in downtown. It looks like it’s not going to happen because Mayor Kevin Faulconer and a lot of conservative businessmen are against it.

Perhaps the Chargers assumed that Faulconer would immediately climb on the bandwagon and start cheering for the so-called convadium.

Faulconer, however, to his credit has been cautious, questioning the $1.15 billion in new debt the City would have to take on as its part in this endeavor. The Chargers casually gloss over this in their gobbledygook proposal. And they say nothing about the $50 million still owed on Qualcomm Stadium as if that’s not even something worth mentioning.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, recent state Supreme Court ruling means that the Chargers will probably have to have a two-thirds approval from the voters in November instead of a simple majority. This makes their uphill climb that much steeper especially since it has finally dawned on the American public that tax giveaways to billionaire owners of professional football teams are not a good idea.

Chargers design 3

Local Politicians Don’t Want a Convadium

I have now read or scanned the 110 pages, and I have a few (quite a few) reservations about the proposal, but they pale in comparison to the developments involving prominent politicians and businessmen who are against it.

Joe Terzi, the head of the Tourism Authority, said the Chargers’ plan is just not something industry leaders wanted.

Terzi continued:

“The fact is, if you build what is proposed by the Chargers, or another facility, it is not an expansion of the existing center. It will not satisfy the needs of those people, those larger conventions that are with us, want to stay with us and want to come”

He said the Chargers’ apparent vision to use the stadium, with a roof, as convention space was not going to be attractive to convention organizers.

“We believe that you can sell another convention facility if we don’t get the expansion but you better build something that works. What is being proposed right now does not work.”

This didn’t sit well with Fred Maas, the Chargers’ point man for convadium advocacy:

“I find Mr. Terzi’s comments both troubling and misleading: to my knowledge he’s been to one briefing with the Chargers and spent one day in Indianapolis, hardly the exhaustive or thorough review that you’d expect from a fiduciary. Moreover, we have offered the services of one of the leading convention center consultants in the nation (including a stint with our Convention Center) to engage in a dialogue with him to develop a program for the combined facility that addresses his issues but, more importantly, the market’s issues. But we got no taker. It is ironic that someone who makes $500,000 a year at the public trough, purportedly representing tourism, could boldly display his middle digit to the Chargers, the NFL, future Super Bowls, NCAA Final Fours and countless other convention-related events. Maybe there’s something more at stake here than just our initiative.”

So now Mr. Terzi has boldly told the Chargers “Fuck You!” That does not bode well for community relations.

Chargers design 2

At any rate, the Chargers are soldiering on if not charging ahead. Their initiative will probably make the November ballot along with the so-called Citizens’ initiative. Voters will have their work cut out for them wading through all the legalese.

Well now that it hardly matters, here are my qualms about the 110-page proposal.

Under Section 2, item 10, the People of the City of San Diego find and declare the following:

“The Initiative expressly prohibits the payment of any costs by the City to construct and operate the Stadium except for certain costs resulting from the integrated nature of the Convention Center Expansion and Stadium fund and as expressly provided for in this Initiative …”

This item is disingenuous at best because the “exception” is huge: $350 million. That’s what the City is expected to spend on the construction of the stadium itself. This is the amount “expressly provided for in this Initiative.”

The rest of the $1.15 billion the City is supposed to borrow (by the way the biggest bond issue in the history of San Diego) would go to build the non-contiguous Convention Center Expansion that seemingly no one except the Chargers wants. Maybe they should have gotten that one squared away with the Mayor and City Council before they made their proposal. But they expected him and everyone else to just hop on board.

Creating a Lively and Active Pedestrian District?

Under Section 3, Statement of Purpose, item 15.3.1-G-2,

“Provide for a variety of uses that will foster a lively and active pedestrian district during the day and night throughout the year, not only when activities and events occur in the convention center expansion and stadium.”

Are some of those anticipated activities in the pedestrian district similar to those going on there now – the putting up and taking down of tents and tarps lining the sidewalks? The lively activities and variety of uses participated in by the homeless that populate that area at the present time?

Of course, this is all wishful thinking and pie in the sky on the part of the proposal writers and total ignorance of the reality of the situation. Their $1.15 billion in borrowed money they blithely suggest that the taxpayers of San Diego borrow and be on the hook for, in addition to the $50 million the taxpayers still owe on Qualcomm Stadium, has absolutely no provision for the homeless whatsoever. I guess their only concern for the homeless is exactly what the City is doing right now in anticipation of the All-Star game – shoo them away.

Demonstrating their far removal from reality is Section 15.4.2 G-2:

“Envision streets as extensions of downtown’s open space network, presenting opportunities to linger, stroll and gather, rather than simply as traffic movement spines.”

The homeless are already “lingering, strolling and gathering” there, no envisioning necessary. When the City wants to discourage lingering, they call it loitering and fine people for it. But I guess the City will have to distinguish between lingering and loitering. Would it have something to do with appearance and money in the pocket?

sdfp homeless housing

And then there’s Section 15.43-P-1:

“To the extent feasible, provide urban open spaces at the street level to create gathering spaces at primary entry points to the District as a way to create linkages with adjacent neighborhoods.”

Well, I can attest to the feasibility thereof because the homeless have already created “gathering spaces”, and they are well linked with “adjacent neighborhoods”. How thoughtful of the Chargers to be concerned about the homeless experience!

Regarding traffic, the District promises a traffic nightmare, but the Chargers proceed with putting lipstick on a pig in Section 15.5 – Transportation.

The verbiage calls for a “project design [which would] allow pedestrian and bicycle passages that do not cross through the District but provide linkages with surrounding neighborhoods and activity nodes. K Street on the northern perimeter of the District is designated a Green Street [whoop de doo] that should be continued along the eastern side of the District.”

So the pedestrian passages that do not cross through the District seem to be at odds with the “lingering and strolling” activities and “gathering spaces” envisioned for the District. What the hell is a Green Street?

Proposal Doesn’t Provide for Parking

Parking for Chargers games would not be provided as per this proposal. Section 15.5.1-P-3 opines

“Providing parking at standard code rates for each of the uses would provide an oversupply of parking that would discourage transit use and other modes of transportation.”

They go on to say that most Chargers games occur on Saturdays and Sundays when businesses downtown are closed. Therefore, parking would be available in the already existing parking garages. But what about the convention center uses? They don’t just occur on weekends. They will be competing for parking places during the week with businesses.

Under Section 15.6- Historic Resources, the Chargers are ambivalent about incorporating the old Wonder Bread factory facade into the design. They say that development “may” require the relocation of the Wonder Bread building. Or maybe they will relocate just the facade and not the whole building. In any event, “No additional review, approval or clearance related to the Wonder Bread Factory building shall be required.”

So in other words, the Chargers can do whatever the hell they please with the Wonder Bread building.

chargers design 4Under 15.7 – Arts and Culture we find

“Allow a sports history and memorabilia and/or museum and/or regional and local sports museum as a permitted use in the project.” High art indeed. Basically another place to sell T-shirts and jerseys.

Get your merchandise here, sports fans.

They note that there are Geologic and Seismic hazards connected with the site but … not to worry.

Next week in Part 3 we will consider the $1.15 billion that the Chargers want the City to borrow from Wall Street in order to pay for this construction. The major point here is that, although the Chargers’ proposal attempts to dictate the terms of this loan, they are in reality in no position to do so as Wall Street will dictate its own terms and even if they will loan the money in the first place. The attempt by the Chargers to get the public to put its imprimatur on this proposal via a ballot initiative is putting the cart before the horse. It would have been better to get everyone on board first instead of issuing what amounts to a diktat.

Stadium Illustrations are from design concepts presented by the Chargers.

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