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Ex-San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio Joins Stadium Debate

Ex-San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio Joins Stadium Debate

Former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio has decided to join the civic debate over the best way to provide the Chargers with a new football stadium.

The Republican talk radio show host announced Thursday morning he has joined a group of real estate developers and contractors to pitch a plan to build a billion-dollar stadium. They say it can be done without tax increases or taxpayer subsidies.

Ex-San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio Joins Stadium Debate
Ex-San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio Joins Stadium Debate GUEST:Andrew Bowen, reporter, KPBS News

From a Chargers stadium plans do San Diego's need? Today we just got another one. Former San Diego skinny -- City Councilman Carl DeMaio announced a stadium plan today that he says would not require a tax increase or a taxpayer subsidy. KPBS much or reporter Andrew Bowen is here with more details and Andrew welcome. Thanks Maureen. What is the latest proposal? And true Carl DeMaio fashion and is from a libertarian perspective. The ideas that a stadium can and should be built in San Diego for the San Diego Chargers without any public money, and from the city or county general fund's and none from an increase in a hotel room tax. Where would the money come from? He estimates a stadium would count -- cost about $1.5 billion and he has identified exactly 10 potential funding sources -- sources. None of them are guaranteed. About $150 million would come from the charges. Put that in as a cash investment or lease the stadium. $200 million from the NFL which they have RD offer that. About $200 million from a hotel developer and it would actually use the stadium to double as a hotel and the luxury boxes you could watch games from would also double as hotel rooms. Retail on the ground floor, that would be about $300 million. The most intriguing option is what he calls St. Laurent stadium shares. That would allow Chargers fans to put their money into the stadium construction and become investors. This is an idea that has been done by the San Francisco 49ers and to succeed it requires -- it's a high bar of success. Fans have to be not only extremely loyal but also have -- they also have to be exceptionally wealthy and not a lot of people and a lot of charger fans really have the disposable income to pony up a couple thousand dollars or tens of thousands of dollars to invest in a stadium for that team. And we're seeing recently that the shares and the 49ers stadium have been dropping in value because possibly because that team didn't perform very well this last season nor did the Chargers. When your money is dependent on how will the team does that is a little risky. Besides the fact that the fans would have to get on board with this, what else has to happen for this to become a reality? First you have to have the mayor and the City Council at least entertain the idea by holding some public hearings. Curl DeMaio isn't exactly the most popular figure in town so that is a big if. Then they would have to draft an amendment to the Chargers initiative which is currently getting it signatures verify. And that amendment would basically eliminate the hotel room tax increase, which is basically the basis of the Chargers financing plan. And it would lay out the various funding options. The amendment would then go through a mail-in ballot vote that would be separate from the presidential election in November. Ballots would be do about a week later. So that on its face shatters the idea that this has no public money involved because presumably it would be the city that would be paying for that election. But the Chargers plan and this amendment would then have to pass with the majority of votes and on top of that the Chargers have to say yes and they still have about a year to decide if they want to move to LA. While you are here and are, what is the status of the signature gathering effort by the Chargers to put their own stadium proposal on the November ballot? They turned in about 110,000 signatures to the county registrar of voters. Those are being verified and it's well above what they actually need so it looks very likely that the Chargers plan will become something that San Diego birders can cast a ballot on in November. I've been speaking with San Diego -- KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen. Thank you so much. Thanks Maureen.

They've identified $1.4 billion to $2 billion in financing that could be used to pay for what it is billed as a "multi-use sports, hospitality and entertainment complex."


A sizable portion of the money would come from a crowdfunding-like effort from Chargers fans. In lieu of the "personal seat licenses" that allow fans to reserve special tickets to games, they would be allowed to become investors in the project and own a share of the entire stadium. This method was already used by the San Francisco 49ers to build Levi's Stadium, with mixed results.

More funding would come from unnamed partners, including a boutique hotel developer, retail developers and Mission Valley developer. The NFL would contribute $300 million in loans and grants — something it has already offered. Another $150 million would come from the Chargers, $125 million from SDSU and UC San Diego athletic leases and $100 million from a San Diego Port District lease — something DeMaio acknowledged would need state legislation to be legal.

The plan also proposes $25 million from an "enhanced infrastructure financing district" — something DeMaio described as a "dedication of tax revenues from the hotel, retail and property that the stadium sits on." DeMaio said the plan does not need all the funding sources to succeed.

"The mayor, City Council and Chargers cannot ignore these creative alternatives and taxpayers deserve to see a public vetting process on them to see if we can improve upon the proposals put forward to date," said DeMaio, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2012 and for Congress in 2014.

The Chargers have submitted signatures for a stadium initiative that would be on the Nov. 8 general election ballot if it qualifies. It would increase the city's hotel room tax to 16.5 percent to pay for a $1.8 billion stadium and Convention Center annex downtown. The Chargers would contribute $350 million to the project and the NFL would give a $300 million loan.


Attorney Cory Briggs and others also are trying to qualify for the November ballot what they call the "Citizens' Plan." The measure would increase hotel room taxes by 5 percent to 15.5 percent and keep the Convention Center from expanding along the waterfront. It also would require a public vote if any taxpayer money is proposed to be spent on building the Chargers a stadium.

DeMaio announced his proposal at a news conference at the San Diego County Registrar of Voters Office. He is aiming for his plan to be voted on in a mail-in only special election on Nov. 15, eight days after the November general election. Such an election would be financed by the city government, and would need support from Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the City Council. DeMaio's plan would appear as an amendment to the Chargers' own initiative. If the Chargers' initiative fails on Nov. 8, the amendment would be obsolete.

Councilman Scott Sherman, whose district includes Qualcomm Stadium, was provided with an advance copy of the plan, DeMaio said. A spokesman for Sherman said in an e-mail: "It’s an intriguing idea. Once the report is further studied, public hearings aren’t out of the question."

The 68,500-seat stadium would be managed by a private entity instead of the city, and include a 250-room all-suite hotel, nightclub and 200,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, DeMaio said.

The Chargers didn't immediately comment on the plan.

Corrected: December 4, 2023 at 2:35 PM PST
KPBS reporter Andrew Bowen contributed to this story.