San Diego leaders square off in Chargers stadium debate

SAN DIEGO -- Two San Diego political leaders who reiterated their opposition to ballot Measure C, the downtown Chargers stadium plan, explained their positions Wednesday during a debate.

Measure C would provide the framework for building the project if passed by two-thirds of voters in November.

The debate, which was not open to the public other than by invitation, was held at Liberty Station featured the authors of economic impact and marketing studies on the Chargers plans -- which landed on opposite sides of the issues.

Councilman Scott Sherman and Councilman-elect Chris Ward said Tuesday they oppose Measure C. Sherman represents Mission Valley, home of the stadium where the Chargers currently play.Proposed Downtown Chargers Stadium

"After the never-ending drama and bomb-throwing in 2015 as the Chargers organization attempted to leave San Diego, do we have enough trust to put the financial well-being of San Diego in their hands?'' Sherman asked rhetorically. "Trust is an earned commodity and the Chargers haven't earned the taxpayers' trust.''

The East Village-area, the would-be site of the stadium project, will be represented by Ward beginning in December.

"Over the course of my campaign, I consistently opposed public funding of a football stadium and prioritized the needs of our neighborhoods,'' Ward said. "On top of being a bad deal for taxpayers, Measure C disregards public process and smart land use planning. I stand with downtown residents and councilmembers on both sides of the aisle to ask San Diegans to vote No on Measure C.''

Measure C, if approved by two-thirds of voters in November, would raise San Diego's hotel room tax to help pay for the project, which has an estimated price tag of $1.8 billion.

Proponents and opponents of the Chargers downtown stadium proposal participated in debate at Liberty Station.

Proponents and opponents of the Chargers downtown stadium proposal participated in debate at Liberty Station.

The levy is currently 10.5 percent, with a separate 2 percent fee that funds tourism marketing. Measure C would raise the tax to a total of 16.5 percent.

"The last time tourism marketing funds were cut, bookings went down by 40 percent," said Tom Hazinski, author of a study commissioned by tourism industry in San Diego.

Proponents of the Chargers downtown stadium disagree.

"It's an unfair characterization by folks who are prejudiced and biased who want to send the Chargers to Los Angeles. That's fine if it's their position, but to suggest this is going to diminish the tourism industry is just non sense," said Chargers special advisor Fred Maas.

Chargers consultants Rob Hunden and David O'Neal concluded in August that the plans were sound, while an earlier study commissioned by the San Diego Tourism Marketing District found the tax increase would not generate nearly enough extra money to finance the project.

The Chargers and National Football League would kick in a combined $650 million toward the project.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer has not announced his position.

The proposition has gained the backing of San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. President and CEO Jerry Sanders said at a news conference in July that the plan is the best way to keep the Chargers in San Diego and enhance the city's convention industry.