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NFL To San Diego: Move Forward With Stadium Environmental Report

A rendering of the proposed Chargers stadium in Mission Valley. It was created by MEIS, a New York-based stadium architecture and design firm.
A rendering of the proposed Chargers stadium in Mission Valley. It was created by MEIS, a New York-based stadium architecture and design firm.

The National Football League advised San Diego representatives during recent discussions to move forward with an accelerated environmental study of a proposed football stadium in Mission Valley, despite opposition from the Chargers, according to a city report released Monday.

Last month, San Diego officials proposed putting together a faster-than-usual environmental impact report, with an eye toward finishing the study in time for a public vote in January. The plan was rejected by Chargers officials, who said it would take 12-18 months to complete a legally defensible EIR.

"Subsequently, the city's negotiating team met directly with the NFL league office in late June and presented a roadmap for presenting an EIR by October," the report from the city's Independent Budget Analyst's Office says.

"They were advised — in conversations that were described as encouraging though noncommittal — that the city should continue efforts towards an accelerated EIR, on a timeline in advance of an August 2015 NFL owners meeting and that could be used for a January election."

The IBA report was prepared ahead of a City Council vote Tuesday on whether to establish a proposed Mission Valley stadium as a project in the city's Capital Improvement Program. The council is also scheduled to decide whether to provide $2.1 million in initial funding — with $1.2 million going to an EIR consultant.

The authors of the report said that, among others, they spoke with Christopher Melvin of Nixon Peabody, the consulting firm hired by the city and county of San Diego to engage in negotiations with the Chargers.

"He affirmed that progress on an EIR is necessary in order for the city to remain in consideration for keeping the Chargers," the IBA report says. "According to Melvin, if the city cannot tell NFL owners in August that the city has made significant progress on an EIR and completed conceptual architectural drawings, potentially allowing for a January election, the NFL is likely to view the city as having backpedaled on its commitments, and that this would likely prove `fatal' to the city's efforts to keep the Chargers in San Diego."

San Diego's NFL franchise has been asking for a new stadium for nearly 15 years and recently acquired land in the Los Angeles County suburb of Carson, where they have proposed a $1.7 billion stadium. The NFL has made returning to Los Angeles a priority.

While no major decisions are expected at next month's owners meeting, the Chargers and two other candidates for a move — the Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams — are scheduled to report on progress in their current cities.

The city of San Diego will also make a presentation, and the report says "significant progress" on an EIR is necessary to ensure the city can make "a competitive presentation to the NFL."

Asked about the report, Chargers stadium special counsel Mark Fabiani said the team's position is "as clear as it can be."

“The city can waste taxpayer money if it wants and I guess the voters will have to decide whether they think that’s a good idea or not but as far as the Chargers go, we’ve said from the beginning that we will not be a part of this misbegotten process,” Fabiani said.

According to a statement issued this afternoon by the mayor's office, the city is now "in direct discussions with the NFL," and moving forward with the environmental analysis is key to those talks.

"The NFL has said time is of the essence and that they are expecting the city to make progress on the environmental analysis by our meeting in late July," the statement says. "This is also a necessary step before placing a stadium plan on the ballot if an agreement with the team can be reached."

Placing the stadium project before voters is not required, since no tax increases are envisioned. However, both San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the Chargers support a vote in order to validate any plan.

The $2.1 million expenditure before the council Tuesday would be funded with a state reimbursement of the same amount recently received by the city. The funds were not incorporated into the current fiscal year's budget.

Corrected: June 30, 2022 at 5:52 PM PDT
KPBS reporter Steve Walsh contributed to this report.