Mayor Faulconer endorses downtown stadium

SAN DIEGO -- Mayor Kevin Faulconer Monday endorsed Measure C, the Chargers' initiative to build a stadium and convention center annex in downtown San Diego, hours before opponents ratcheted up their campaign.

"It was important to me to get the financial protections and the safeguard and to take a lot of unanswered questions in Measure C and answer them," said Mayor Faulconer.

The team would also repay the city preliminary costs if the Chargers relocate before construction begins, and include a pledge to remain in San Diego until the project's initial debt was paid off.

"This wasn't about the short term of the November election, it was about the long-term protections that we need for decades to come,'' said Faulconer.

The mayor, who acknowledged that a two-thirds requirement for the measure to pass is a "very, very difficult threshold to achieve,'' said the negotiations led to "the principles, safeguards and the accountability'' that San Diego needs for a long-term solution.

"I’m taking the long-term view of what’s the best interest for the city regardless of what happens in November," said the Mayor.

The Chargers have sought to replace Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley for years. In January, NFL owners rejected plans to build a joint facility with the Oakland Raiders in Carson. Team owner Dean Spanos then said he would give San Diego another try, although if local efforts fall through, the Chargers and the Los Angeles Rams could share a future stadium in Inglewood.

Faulconer and other local officials had initially offered to build a replacement on the Qualcomm Stadium site, but the team rejected the plan, opting for an East Village location near Petco Park.

Measure C opponents, including City Councilmen David Alvarez, Chris Cate, and Scott Sherman, along with Councilman-elect Chris Ward and other civic leaders, continued to criticize the initiative at an afternoon news conference.

"A lot of promises are being made by the Chargers and by others,'' Alvarez said. "Talk is cheap -- the only thing that matters is what's on the ballot. That is the only thing that's legally binding.''

He said Measure C contains "giveaway after giveaway after giveaway'' to Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos, including limited public input on the project, the right to put up two electronic signs and large billboards, plus ancillary revenues like naming rights.

Cate said Spanos can come back to city leaders if Measure C passes and say that a deal is a deal.

Ward, who will represent the downtown and East Village area beginning in December, said his future constituents want the Chargers to stay in San Diego, "but not at all costs, not at the cost of investment in our communities.''

Measure C on the Nov. 8 ballot would raise San Diego's hotel room tax to help pay for the project, which has an estimated price tag of $1.8 billion. 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 Chargers and NFL would kick in a combined $650 million toward the project. Team executives said the combined facility would not only result in a state-of-the-art football stadium, but space that could be used for around 300 days a year.

Financial data on Measure C will also be released at this afternoon's news conference.

Tony Manolatos, a spokesman for Measure C opponents, said the plan is a "bad deal for San Diego.''

"It would divert more than $1 billion in new taxes to a stadium project and subsidize a NFL franchise worth more than $2 billion,'' Manolatos said. "Anyone who says it's a good deal for San Diego is more interested in politics than good public policy.''

The Chargers' stadium plans have been endorsed by the Downtown San Diego Partnership, a coalition of property owners and business, and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

"Mayor Faulconer and his team carefully examined the initiative from every angle, weighing the opportunities and challenges for San Diego residents, businesses, and government,'' chamber President and CEO Jerry Sanders said in a statement.

"The safeguards he negotiated will provide the protections our city needs so we can continue to create jobs and grow our economy,'' Sanders said. "In this plan for a multi-use sports and convention complex, our community can accomplish two things -- keep our NFL team in town, and drive progress in the East Village, downtown, and the entire San Diego region.''