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Mayor Wants Plan For New Chargers Stadium By This Fall

Kevin Faulconer made the announcement in his first State of the City speech

State of the City Reaction, San Diego 2014

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Despite anticipation that Mayor Kevin Faulconer would reveal a plan to build a new stadium for the San Diego Chargers or an expansion to the Convention Center in his first State of the City speech, the mayor's only announcement Wednesday was that he is creating a task force to come up with a plan for a stadium by this fall.

Despite anticipation that Mayor Kevin Faulconer would reveal a plan to build a new stadium for the San Diego Chargers or an expansion to the Convention Center in his first State of the City speech, the mayor's only announcement Wednesday was that he is creating a task force to come up with a plan for a stadium by this fall.

The announcement came among other promises for improved street repairs, job creation programs and neighborhood development.

Faulconer said the stadium plan has not yet been created, but he is considering two options: build a stadium at the current location in Mission Valley or build a stadium in conjunction with a Convention Center expansion downtown. He announced he'll form a group of "civic leaders" to recommend a location and develop a financing plan. The members of the group will be revealed at the end of January.

"They will explore all possibilities to finance the project, with the clear direction that it must present a good and fair deal for San Diego taxpayers," Faulconer said.

"Most importantly, this plan will be completed and made public this fall," he added. "There’s been a lot of talk about a new stadium. This is my commitment: For the first time this year, we will have a real plan to consider on the Chargers' stadium. This is San Diego’s team and San Diegans have the final say with a public vote."

Other task forces have attempted to figure out a stadium plan with little results. A 2002 Citizens' Task Force on Chargers Issues recommended the Chargers pay for a new stadium, but that hasn't happened.

Related: Final report of the 2002 Citizens' Task Force on Chargers Issues

In 2006, then-Mayor Jerry Sanders also announced plans to build a new Chargers stadium during his inaugural State of the City address. The team worked to build support for a stadium in San Diego's East Village, which didn't materialize. So in 2011, another team of architects again proposed renovating Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley.

Photo by Milan Kovacevic

Former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders entering the Balboa Theatre for Mayor Kevin Faulconer's State of the City speech, Jan. 14, 2015.

It was rumored that Faulconer would also make an announcement about the San Diego Convention Center in his speech. After a judge's ruling last summer blocking a funding plan for the $520 million expansion, the project sits in limbo.

But the mayor made no commitments about the expansion, saying only that his Convention Center expansion special adviser, Steve Cushman, "will continue to lead on this effort during this year of action."

It was the Republican's first State of the City speech after taking office last year following a February special election to replace Democrat Bob Filner, who resigned in disgrace amid a sexual harassment scandal.

Faulconer used the address at the Balboa Theatre to outline other plans for the city, including creating more jobs for San Diegans.

"Our city is home to the most innovative businesses, providing thousands of high-paying jobs in engineering, science and technology," he said. "But many San Diegans don't currently have the training to fill these positions."

To help shrink the "skills gap," Faulconer said he's bringing together employers, innovators and members of San Diego's education community to develop solutions. Within six months, he said, the group will submit ideas to help San Diegans find more affordable options for higher learning and better-paying employment opportunities.

After highlighting the need for street repairs, Faulconer said he would bring to the City Council this spring a five-year plan to "double our street repair efforts." Faulconer did not say what that plan was but hinted it wouldn't involve increased funding for infrastructure.

"If you wrote a check for $2 billion and said, go fix all of our neighborhoods, the city couldn’t do it right now," he said. "We have to first fix how the city manages its projects and money. ... The city has hundreds of projects on the books, there’s no effective plan for coordinating them based on data and there are tens of millions of taxpayer dollars languishing in accounts for projects that are years away from being built."

The mayor did commit to continuing his campaign promise of dedicating half of all major revenue growth to infrastructure every year during his term.

"Over the next five years, that’s almost $100 million for our neighborhood," he said.

Photo by Milan Kovacevic

San Diego City Council President Sherri Lightner outside the Balboa Theatre after Mayor Kevin Faulconer's State of the City address, Jan. 14, 2015.

Faulconer also proposed updating the city's policies to move projects along more quickly.

"This year I will bring forward a series of reforms, through both executive action and City Council vote, to ensure the highest quality repairs are made as quickly as possible, and that our city is better prepared to take on our infrastructure backlog," he said.

Faulconer said his administration also is setting a course to build a permanent shelter and provide more services for homeless families and veterans.

“For years, San Diego has cared for our homeless citizens by putting up temporary tents in Barrio Logan and Midway during the winter months. That’s not good enough. Not even close,” he said.

His goal is to build a permanent shelter for 350 homeless people that is open every night, not just during the winter.

The mayor also announced the “Innovate San Diego Challenge,” a collaboration with U-T San Diego and Hero X, which will ask residents to submit plans to tackle housing, entrepreneurship and "creating a 21st century work force." The best solution will get private funding, he said.

Additionally, the mayor unveiled plans to triple broadband speeds in every library; use his Performance and Analytics Department to analyze the city's efficiency and "develop performance measures so the public can hold City Hall accountable;" "use tools like open data to make government more transparent;" and work with Code for America to revamp the city's website.

At two spots during the speech — first in his opening remarks and later in the address — he spoke to the audience in Spanish.

Tijuana Mayor Jorge Astiazaran was in the audience, and Faulconer called him a friend. Faulconer said San Diego and Tijuana will host regular meetings based on an agreement the two mayors signed in November to work together on economic development and environmental issues.

Faulconer also touched on the national debate over immigration.

"I will continue to support efforts to overhaul our broken immigration system and pass comprehensive immigration reform that will benefit San Diego," he said.

The mayor did not give specifics on which immigration efforts he supports.

Photo by Milan Kovacevic

San Diego Councilmen Todd Gloria and David Alvarez outside the Balboa Theatre after Mayor Kevin Faulconer's State of the City address, Jan. 14, 2015.

After the speech, City Council President Sherri Lightner said the upcoming year "sounds very, very promising," and includes many ideas she has talked about in the past.

"The emphasis on public safety, infrastructure, workforce development, education, outreach — all things I've been talking about for a long time, and it's very exciting," Lightner said.

Councilman Todd Gloria said many of the themes echoed ones in his State of the City address last year, as he neared the end of his tenure as interim mayor.

"I think that the speech was light on details, specifically how do we repair every one of our neighborhoods," Gloria said. "He outlined a plan for $100 million for our neighborhoods when we all know the problem is in excess of $3 billion."

In regards to the Chargers stadium, he said San Diegans are tired of waiting for a plan. The city had a stadium task force 10 years ago, he said.

City News Service contributed to this report.


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