Stadium Foes, Chargers Stick To Game Plans As Measure C Goes To Voters
City of San Diego voters will determine Measure C . Eric Anderson has details. The 100 plus page ballot measure is complicated. The idea is straight forward. Vote yes on Measure C in the city can build a stadium and convention Center Annex in the city's East Village. That's where Chargers spokesman Fred mass joined us. Under the measure the region's hotel room tax goes to 16 1/2%, allowing his city agency to borrow $1.1 billion. Mass says the NFL will kick in the rest. For cities like San Diego that don't have the robust corporate base, the Silicon Valley has. You have different circumstances. If you want to keep your team there will be have to be some envelopment. He is quick to stress that funding will come from out of town visitors. He says locals won't pay at all if they don't stay in the San Diego hotel. It's an important fabric of who we are as the city and that means you support your team. If you want the Chargers Tuesday, you have to vote for this. The team needs votes. The city attorney says Measure C creates a special tax and that requires a two thirds vote to pass. In an effort to round up the votes, the team donated four point Measure C creates a special tax and that requires a two thirds vote to pass. In an effort to round up the votes, the team donated $4.1 million to the campaign. If the vision argument isn't convincing, officials say how about the money. It will create demand for more local hotel rooms. The project should generate $750 million in hotel revenue over the next 10 years. I started as a skeptic and I realized it was smart. San Diego hotel owners balk at the tax hike. And hired there own auditors. Uncertainty is what worries Jeff Kawar, they are mandated to review every ballot measures economic impact. We see measures where the tax increase is sufficient to cover the project related costs, conversely we've seen scenarios where the TLT increase would not be sufficient. This stadium is likened to a Christmas tree ornament. It's something that's designed to win votes. When you're looking at public dollars, you need to have a discussion and negotiation. Bowling said her group has only raised a few thousand dollars but she's optimistic the proposal will be defeated. She says most people already know how they feel. Sometimes there are complicated measures that are on the ballot that people don't quite know what to think about them. April Boling wants to see the measure lose soundly. That will keep the Chargers from pursuing the site if the measure only feels by a few percentage points. Fred mass says the team is focusing on retaining its relationship. It's the way they teach the children values about teamwork or the valleys of players like Antonio Gates or Philip Rivers, people who they are proud to have the kids were there jerseys. We can't lose that. The downtown Stadium convention center plan was born after NFL owners rejected the Chargers plan for a new Stadium with the Raiders in a Los Angeles suburb. The team retains an option to move to Los Angeles after this season. Right now, officials say there is no Plan B, they are only focused on passing dose Measure C . The whole of San Diego will vote on the initiative to build a new stadium. The neighborhoods that are most effective would be the neighborhoods next to. Logan Heights, Sherman Heights, residents, are upset the Chargers did not consult them. After drafting the initiative the team is agreed to focus on local concerns like the threat that the massive development may result in gentrification, that could price people out of there homes and businesses. In the studio to talk about this we have Brent Beltran a member of the group Barrios Against Stadiums and a writer for the San Diego Free Press. We also have Marcela Escobar-Eck act -- a land use consultant for the Atlantis Group. Brent, let's ask you about your concerns about the Chargers Stadium. There is support in your neighborhood but some concerns. We are a community of San Diegans, charger fans. Agrippa charger fan. My family are all's charger fans. My concerns are that building a stadium and convention center in the ensuing development will drastically increase property values in my community. Unfortunately, most of the people in my community are renters. We have the rents go up so dramatically, it's going to push a lot of the longtime residents and businesses out of my community. That's my main concern. Marcella, I understand there is a strategy in which the Chargers propose a land trust. We understand the concerns the neighbors have and barrio Logan is a community that is on the rise and we recognize that land values, not only will go up but are going up. There was a recent purchase by Comic Con by -- of three buildings. Barrio Logan is at the cusp of evolving and we recognize the neighbors have concerns. One strategy the Chargers are offering is to create a land trust to deal with some of the issues that you heard about some folks who aren't actually owners, but are renters and want to remain a part of an important community with a lot of history and heritage. The thought would be, one of the most expensive things in San Diego for development is land. Even developing projects that are moderate rate workforce housing projects, land value becomes the most expensive part of the equation. The thought would be to create inland trusts that could be then used to develop, not only rental but possibly for sale will and moderate income housing units to offset some of those issues. We would work with the community once the initiative passes to come up with parameters, to figure out how people would qualify and how it would benefit existing benefits -- ran is -- This would involve expenditure on the part of the Chargers. What is the guarantee that they would do this? This is not in the initiative. It is not in the initiative. The guarantee, there is a letter that I will leave with you, once the initiative passes there will be a joint Powers Authority formed. That authority will hold everyone accountable, especially to make sure the neighborhoods around the stadium are taking care of. We have offered up a land trust, but other solutions and we feel that as a part of the JP a comma -- some of these promises were made by the Padres and were not kept. The initiative for the Padres was a recommendation, this is addressed. Brent, what is your reaction to this? I think it's a fantastic idea, if it took place 10 years ago. If it happens now, what's going to prevent the people to not get pushed out of our community. How will they developed this and not keep the rents down in the meantime. I just don't see the reality of that. I see something like this being something for future residents, for future working class people that don't live there now. Those that live there right now, are going to be pushed out with or without this. Is the issue that it would take a long time to set this up? No. We would do it concurrently with the development. It would be a process that's concurrent. We can't control the prices of today and that's true in all of San Diego. We can look towards the future. Is this something that you feel, Brent, is not going to work week is prices are already rising? Prices are rising. The available land is not that much. How many years will it take for something is built for residents? It takes time to gather land and create and build. By the time this process is over, the residence that used to live and barrio Logan will live in El Cajon, Santee and farther east. How will it help those people? Marcella, you mentioned Petco Park. Maybe you have concerns that it did not work too well there, the promises that were made ahead of time. What makes you think that the residents should trust that it will work this time? As I mentioned, in the situation of Petco Park, I can only say that I've heard promises weren't kept. I have no basis for that. I think, as far as the promises going forward, we have a strong commitment we feel that can happen concurrently and we are open to sitting down with the community and forming a group to figure out how the residence that have always been a part of the fiber of the community are protected. We are open to suggestions. If there are specific recommendations, we are opening -- open to listening. Brent, is there anything from Petco Park? I know there are people in Sherman Heights that are upset with the process, there are people that have been working with us against this medium -- the Chargers Stadium. The people were very disappointed with what happened with the Padres. That's all I know. We aren't just talking about property values changing, we are talking about the possibility they might be pushing the homeless more into barrio Logan and Logan Heights. And parking and traffic always comes up. The homeless problem is not something that is just a charger issue or stadium issue. That is an issue we all have to be a part of the solution. On the parking issues, we are looking at those. One thing we have spoken to the residence about has been the possibility of a resident only parking permit, similar to what exists in the college area. And working on other issues so there are no infringements on there neighborhood. When the initiative passes, we will have an open dialogue about actual, detailed solutions that are embraced by the neighborhood. Prints -- Brent, the concerns of the community to the team, do these suggestions give you hope that the team is willing to work with the community? I think they are willing to work in some way, with the community. At this point it's an afterthought. If they were interested in the needs, they would have sought us out prior to this and worked with us before. They have wanted to stadium downtown for over a decade, if there was really interest in the Chargers working with our communities, they would've approached us sooner. Marcella how do you react to that? I don't think it's ever too little too late. I think there are always opportunities to move forward. I can tell you just as recently as months ago, we attended a barrio Logan meeting. This will take time in the development and we think there are opportunities to sit down with the community leaders to ensure we address the concerns. I will think both of you Brent Beltran and Marcella Escobar at -- Marcella act. I'm Alison St. John in for Maureen Cavanaugh and you are listening to KPBS Midday Edition. If you happen to be paying attention to your local city Council agendas you might've noticed an item that involves large sums of money for a new emergency communication system called NexGen. Because of the wildfires, San Diego is very well aware of how vital it is to have a communication system. Back in 2003 there were serious gaps and make it hard for emergency responders to work together. That was improved in 2007, it needs to be upgraded to the tune of $17 million. Here to talk about it is Sue Willy, communications systems manager and manages the regional communication systems. This is an upgrade to our current system why does it need to be upgraded. The primary reason is that it won't operate forever, we are based on the mid-90's technology and the support for those both hardware and software are no longer available. Essentially you can't get parts for it anymore and it is like having an old piece of equipment on a car that is no longer viable. Our goal is to replace the system before it comes to a point where we have problems. 70 million is quite a bit of money and it's a big chunk of local city budgets, not San Diego because they have there own system. It's the other 18 city, Oceanside, Chula Vista, it's a significant amount. Why is it that expensive? We have the largest radio systems in the United States. Our system covers 9000 square miles. While we have over 50 radio sites and more than 20,000 user radios on the system, that represent first responders. We have public service agencies that use the system as well. It's large and there's a lot of users of the system and the technology is complex. The cost to replace it is because of how system -- big the system is. It's a question of whether there's a security of the region being compromised while it's being changed over. I believe our migration strategy will allow us to continue eight on the older system. That's part of our planning, to make sure we do that without interrupting operations. What's being communicated, is that audio, radio? It's the communication between all of our 911 dispatch centers and whoever they are dispatching to calls. It's a communications between the responders, between fire and police, ambulances, trauma hospitals, all of those happen over the radio. What about video? It's useful for agencies to have video. Our system does not provide video. It's voice communication. There are other public safety communication systems that agencies are able to tap into for various video feeds. Those vary depending on which agency and what they used to support video, whether it's GIS mapping and that is dependent upon each agencies. Once the $70 million is spent, will it make our region safer or is it just keeping the same? It will definitely be an improvement. We implemented the original in the mid to late 1990's. With the current technology and it will no longer support the number of users. There is no room for growth. There is no capacity left. The new system is based on a national standard that did not exist in the 90's. All public safety agencies are going to this new standard, which allows us to interact with people that come in to help us with wildfires. It adds a layer of interoperability and it in -- it increases our capacity. The FCC has a limited amount of radio spectrum allocated to public safety agencies, commercial cellular care or send an broadcast -- agencies. The new technology doubles our spectrum capability. We get one channel and we get to channels out of that. We can support more radio calls without adding any additional infrastructure. There are 240 agencies, I think KBS is a part as well. Will it communicate with people in Orange County, since the boundaries there? Not across range County, if they come into our County the new standard allows those agencies to interoperate. We would be able to communicate with responders in Orange County. We would be able to communicate with other agencies that use our system. The standard software allows you to program other agencies radios with your information. Just in terms of the budgets, how long will this last? When will cities have to put in more millions to upgraded again? We estimate from the time that we actually are able to implement the system and go live, it will have a 15 year life span. 15 years. Okay. Thank you. That Sue Willy communication systems manager at the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.
The 100-plus-page ballot measure is extensive, detailed and complicated. But the idea is straightforward: Vote yes on Measure C, and the city can build a stadium and convention center in the city's East Village.
That's where Charger spokesman Fred Maas joined us to talk about the plan.
He discussed the measure in the middle of the tailgate parking lot beside Petco Park, the sports facility that's home to the San Diego Padres. A large Metropolitan Transit Service bus yard, a brewery and the Wonderbread building are located nearby. All are in the project’s footprint and would be moved or torn down to make way for a new stadium and convention center structure.
1. Measure calls for shared funding
Measure C calls for an increase in region's hotel room tax. The tax would jump from 12.5 to 16.5 percent. That allows a city-created agency to borrow roughly $1.15 billion. The Chargers and the NFL would add $650 million.
"For cities like San Diego, that don't have the robust corporate base that Silicon Valley has, or the multibillionaire owner like you have in Los Angeles, you have different circumstances here. If you want to keep your team, there's going to have to be some investment," said Maas, a special consultant hired by the Chargers.
Maas is quick to stress that the taxpayer funding for the $1.8 billion project will come from out-of-town visitors. Locals won't pay at all, he argued, as long as they don't stay in a San Diego hotel.
The football team said there is a lot at stake for San Diego.
"It's an important fabric of who we are as a city and how we sell ourselves as a city," Maas said.
"Either we’re a tourist destination or we're America's finest city. And that means your sports teams. Your support for your sports teams. So if you want the Chargers to stay, you ought to vote for this," Maas said.
The city attorney says Measure C creates a special tax which requires a two-thirds vote to pass.
"If you want to keep your team, there's going to have to be some investment," said Fred Maas, a special consultant hired by the Chargers.
In an effort to round up those votes, the team donated $4.4 million to the “Vote Yes on C” campaign. Some of that money is being spent on television spots. One ad features former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders.
"You know I think we should all support Prop C because it's more than football. It's about the future of the city, it's about the vision, a grand vision for the city, and it's about jobs and the economy," Sanders said in the ad.
If the vision argument isn't convincing, Chargers officials ask voters to consider money.
2. There are arguments for and against the financials
The team argues the project will create demand for more local hotel rooms.
The Chargers hired consultant Rob Hunden to review the stadium and convention center idea. He concluded that the project will generate $750 million in new hotel room revenue over 10 years.
"I started out as a skeptic," Hunden said.
He worked with convention planners to evaluate if a convention center annex was a feasible business venture.
"So the more we got into it, we realized that, ‘Hey, this is a smart idea.’ They're not going to be overtaxing. They've got a pretty sound proposal in front of us, from everything we could tell," Hunden said.
The hotel industry hired its own consultant, Thomas Hazinski, who concluded the project creates $2.3 million a year in new hotel tax revenue, but the project's construction and operating costs would top $67 million a year.
And the San Diego Taxpayers Association won't support the plan because it fears the city's general fund might be tapped if revenues fall short of projections.
San Diego's Independent Budget Analyst reviewed the proposal because of a mandate to review the fiscal impact of all ballot measures going in front of voters. That fiscal review was full of uncertainty.
"We've seen scenarios where the project cash flows, in other words, the tourism occupancy tax increase is sufficient to cover the project related cost. Some of the tourism marketing funding that's promised and ultimately would flow some revenue to the city's general fund," said Jeff Kawar, deputy director of the Independent Budget Analyst's office.
"When you're looking at public dollars, you really need to have a discussion and negotiation," said April Boling, a member of the No Downtown Stadium group.
"Conversely, we've seen scenarios that are plausible scenarios where the (transient occupancy tax) increase would not be sufficient to cover the project-related cost," Kawar said.
3. Opponents are organized, but not well-funded
Some opponents have joined forces under the "No Downtown Stadium" banner.
They say San Diego's downtown region doesn't need a football stadium, calling the convention center add-on a Christmas tree ornament hung on the project to convince people to vote for the measure.
The group is not pleased how the Chargers put the plan together.
April Boling is a key member of the No Downtown Stadium group. Like others, she likens the stadium's convention center add-on to a Christmas tree ornament — something she says is designed to win votes. Boling wants to keep the Chargers in San Diego, but she's not pleased how the team's plan came together.
"When you're looking at public dollars, you really need to have a discussion and negotiation," Boling said.
Measure C opponents only raised a few thousand dollars, but Boling remains optimistic the proposal will be defeated.
"This is not a measure, I don't think, where people need to have it explained to them. Sometimes there are very complicated measures that are on the ballot that people don't quite know what to think about them so they need education. This is not one that needs education," Boling said.
Boling wants to see Measure C lose, soundly, by more than 50 percent. She worries the Chargers will pursue the downtown stadium plan if the measure fails to get two-thirds support on Election Day, but still rises above the 50 percent threshold.
Chargers officials say they are not considering what happens if the measure loses on Election Day. Consultant Maas said there is no plan B because they are only focused on passing Measure C.
Maas said the team depends on fans and the fans depend on their relationship with the team.
"It's the way they teach their children values about teamwork," Maas said. "Or the values of player like Antonio Gates or Philip Rivers, people who they're proud to have their kids wear their jerseys. We can't lose that. It's so important to who we are as a city and to those families. We owe it to them."
The downtown stadium convention center plan was born after NFL owners rejected the Charger's plan for a new stadium with the Raiders in a Los Angeles suburb. The team retains an option to move to Los Angeles after this season.