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Five steps to begin curing the Chargers

Time to get behind the Chargers and hope for the best:

1. Look for the next election that might make sense.

2. Forget about four interceptions.

3. Help change the image of the Chargers.

4. Find a new offensive line.

5. Look forward to a new coaching staff.

Roger Talman - St. George, Utah

Maybe change of scenery will help the Chargers

Well, now that this season is over and a new stadium was voted down, the Chargers have only one thing left to do. That is, pack up all (their) belongings and go house hunting in Los Angeles. Just when you think you have seen every way the Chargers can lose a lead in the fourth quarter and the game, they came up with this doozy. Four interceptions should never happen to a professional quarterback in crunch time.

Well, maybe their luck will change with a change of scenery!

Richard Anaya - Las Vegas

Bolts blew it again; now season is as good as over

The Chargers, in spite of Philip Rivers’ worst quarter of football ever in the fourth with his four interceptions, were once again capable of pulling this one out at the end. The Chargers’ rushing “D” led by(Korey) Toomer and (Melvin) Ingram was good, (Darrell) Stuckey shined on special teams, but(Ryan) Tannehill was flawless while Philip struggled to communicate at times with his young receivers, threw errant passes, and was pressured often mainly due to horrid play out of right tackle (Joe) Barksdale. Too many missed opportunities again just might have ended this season.

Dan Teisan - Santee

Chargers remain far too generous to opponents

The Chargers have returned to their charitable ways by giving away yet another game. The most generous Charger today was Philip Rivers with four INTs. Some credit has to go to the offensive line, as Rivers was under pressure all day. The team threw in a couple of timeouts just to sweeten the pot for Miami.

It only took one week for Coach McCoy to return to his 'deer in the headlights' look on the sidelines. I don't like to see anyone out of work as we approach the holidays, but it's time for change. No, McCoy didn't throw four picks today, but ultimately it falls into his lap.#unemploymccoy

Matt Tavarez - Oceanside

Rivers must have been under the weather

Was Rivers feeling ill yesterday?

Because many of his passes were ill-timed, ill-fated, ill-advised, illogical.

Jonas Esteban - Mira Mesa

Chargers can’t afford more of ‘Bad Philip’

I always say, when'Good Philip' plays, the Chargers usually come out on top, but when 'Bad Philip' shows up, especially when the Bolts are shorthanded, then San Diego has no chance. They cannot continue to lose to inferior teams when they are playing in arguably the toughest division in the NFL. At this point, nothing short of running the table and getting to 10 wins will get them in the playoffs. If'Bad Philip' appears any more this season, then the Chargers will once again be waiting for next year.

Ray Elliott - Allied Gardens

At least now our Januarys are free

The Chargers fired Marty Schottenheimer because he couldn't win in the playoffs. It is so much better now that the Chargers never make the playoffs. I mean, fans would just get their hearts broken, anyway.

This way we can get so much more done. We can take our dogs to Dog Beach. We can go to the mall with our wives. We can paint the house.

Just love the foresight of the Spanos family!

Lee Ramage - Encinitas


OTHER MEDIA OUTLETS SAY ....

A very big ‘if’ hangs over Chargers stadium election
By San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial board, June 9, 2015

What if they held an election, but there was nothing to vote on?

The second session of “negotiations” between City Hall, the county and the Chargers ended Monday with no public sign of progress toward a deal that will keep the team playing in San Diego in a new stadium in Mission Valley. Rather, the session was followed by an announcement by Mayor Kevin Faulconer and his colleagues outlining how it would be possible to conduct an election on a new stadium deal before the end of the year, just ahead of the January window the NFL has tentatively set for teams to formally apply to move to Los Angeles.

If that seems like progress, understand that for an election to be held there first has to be a deal. And that still seems a very big if. A deal would have to be reached by early September in order to be approved by the City Council by Sept. 18, giving county officials just enough time to set up a city-only special election by mail ballot by Dec. 15.

As everyone involved acknowledged, there’s a lot of negotiating – real negotiating – to be done to meet that timeline.

The election-is-possible announcement was, of course, another tactic in the ongoing battle of tactics with the Chargers. It was meant to show the NFL that San Diego is doing everything possible to reach a deal, if only the Chargers will seriously engage. In that, the tactic was a success. If.


MORE NICK .... 

Chargers leaving suddenly a possibility

Is Chargers' stadium point man Mark Fabiani greasing the tracks heading north to L.A.?

May 6, 2014

It wasn’t until recently I thought the unthinkable thinkable - that the Chargers would consider a move to Los Angeles without the absolute certainty of a new stadium in the nation’s second-largest market. But now it’s imperative for us, and City Hall, to think L.A.’s very much a possibility.

For me, it all began a week ago, when Chargers’ stadium point man Mark Fabiani went on the radio and said the team would abandon the idea of a soft-roofed, multi-purpose downtown stadium unless it could be used in conjunction with the Convention Center. The City and the California Coastal Commission already had approved a contiguous addition to the center, a ridiculous idea that still may hold as much water as a newborn’s diaper.

Fabiani’s statement was a cloaked warning. I can’t believe an open, billion-dollar, football-only stadium will fly here. It can’t pay for itself, where a roofed facility not only can serve the Chargers and maybe the Aztecs, but conventions, and major events such as the Final Four and college football championship, among others.

Fabiani, hardly a babe in Toyland, knows this, saying: “If the Convention Center expansion fails, there still will be a demand unmet. But a roof would mean millions in additional cost. It’s certainly easier to get the public to promote a multi-use stadium.”

Is Fabiani greasing the tracks heading north to L.A.? There are two major words involved here: Stan Kroenke.

Kroenke owns the St. Louis Rams (among other things), so he’s very rich, even richer when you consider he’s long been married to Ann Walton Kroenke, of the Walmart Waltons, who’s worth at least $6 billion.

He says he isn’t moving the Rams out of St. Louis, but there are severe lease problems between the Rams and the city, and Kroenke recently purchased 60 acres of land near extinct Hollywood Park in Inglewood. Clear thinkers believe he’s going to pull the Rams out of Missouri. The Chargers are well aware of it.

The Chargers are monitoring the L.A. situation very, very closely, and I can’t say I blame them. They are business people, their team plays in a dump, and Spanos has dished out millions over 12 years trying to get a new stadium built while our City stupidly loses $15 million a year on the Qualcomm venue.

Depending on whom you talk to, the Chargers draw 20-to-40-percent of their business from the Los Angeles/Orange County markets. If Kroenke gets there first, that money will evaporate.

Theoretically, Kroenke would need 24 of the 31 NFL owners to agree to the move. Al Davis, Bob Irsay and Georgia Frontiere didn’t care. Given his style, it’s doubtful Chargers’ boss Dean Spanos would buck the system (unless forced to). Kroenke is of a different personality.

The Chargers do not want another team in L.A., and my strong belief is they’d be willing to play in the Rose Bowl or Memorial Coliseum, if necessary, to beat the Rams to the smog. For San Diego, already embarrassed by so many things, it would be a total disaster, one that could have been avoided a decade ago with vision and backbone.

Fabiani’s talking about putting a new San Diego stadium initiative on the November, 2016, ballot, which would be a big one, including the presidential election. But it’s also the year when new mayor Kevin Faulconer comes up for re-election, and it’s doubtful he wants the stadium issue on the same ballot.

“If it goes to a special election, say in 2015, it’s a low-turnout election, and our chances would be significantly reduced,” Fabiani says, “which is why November, 2016 makes more sense for us.”

There are all kinds of notions out there. One is to remodel current Qualcomm, as they did in Kansas City with Arrowhead Stadium. They did a wonderful job there, and renovation would be cheaper. But unlike here, they took great care of Arrowhead. Qualcomm would have to be nearly dismantled, and the Chargers wouldn’t have anywhere to play but in the L.A. venues while it was being fixed.

The big thing continues to be the Convention Center expansion. I’ve been told it won’t be long before the supporting hoteliers realize it’s doomed. A soft-roofed, multi-purpose stadium, which theoretically could be used year-round and keep the Chargers here, is the sane idea.

But for now, it would be wise for the mayor and City Hall to keep their eyes trained north.



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NICK CANEPA'S EDITORIAL

Last game at the Q? Chargers played for San Diego
San Diego Union-Tribune, Dec 20, 2015

The Chargers played a game for San Diego. And nobody else. It was as though they were singing an intimate love song for the city they’ve called home for 55 years.

Not for Los Angeles or Carson or Inglewood or Hollywoodland, but for San Diego, in a Qualcomm Stadium nearly full — and not, this time, with Miami fans, who don’t even go to games in South Florida — for their faithful, hundreds of whom remained an hour after Sunday’s game, chanting “Save Our Bolts!” to no one in particular, outside of themselves.

They were there because they care. It was at once sad and exhilarating, proud fans desperately trying to swat away the last, still-imaginary straw.

How ironic that, immediately following their dominating, 30-14 hooking of the Dolphins, the loudspeakers blared out a covered version of Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs’ “Stay (Just a Little Bit Longer),” a ditty released in 1960, when the Bolts were born in L.A., a year before Barron Hilton moved them here and changed our sporting diapers into dress pants.

It’s hard to imagine club ownership, suffering from wanderlu$t, was either advised or approved the carol being played at such an appropriate time when everything it does seems so inappropriate.

But, damn, it was moving. It was there for the touch.

“It was a phenomenal moment,” splendid tight end Antonio Gates, who had himself a nice day, would say. “Hopefully we’ll be back … It was hard for me to keep it together.”

Maybe it was their final game here. But I still honestly believe we’re all jumping the gun on shots thus far fired only across our bow.

The team, now 4-10, has but a few more outings left in this dismal 2015. Maybe stardust saw to it that they had a rare laugher. This one never was in doubt.

With the game in hand, coach Mike McCoy removed Gates, quarterback Philip Rivers and receiver Malcom Floyd, later pulling safety Eric Weddle, to be honored by the fans. The very veterans. Rivers, Weddle, Gates and Floyd went back out and signed autographs.

It was a local snapshot none of us have had the sad opportunity to capture. We can’t say the Spanos family felt it, but you had to be dry-iced and anesthetized not to, although this was like going to a wake when the coroner had yet to confirm a death.

Rivers, who may be more emotional than any athlete in America under normal circumstances, had tears in his eyes as he addressed the media following his three- touchdown (all to tailback Danny Woodhead, who also would run for a score), 311-yard day. If this was his final game in Mission Valley — and like everyone else he has no way of knowing for certain — he will leave in no worse than a tie with Dan Fouts as the greatest quarterback this city has known.

“The whole day was special,” Rivers said. “I know it was one of those … we still don’t know … maybe we’ll get to trot back out there and play again. But it was the only way to treat it, as if it was the last time. I was back and forth the whole day, as far as my emotions getting the best of me. I let my mind wander to, really, people, memories and games and just things you’d look around … the National Anthem.”

Rivers, as he is wont to do, went on and on about it, but when he got to his teammates he choked up.

“If it is the last one … that was kind of what I told the guys before the game,” he said. “They’ve been playing football in this town before any of us were born. There are going to be people at the game today that were coming to games before we were born.”

Rivers said at one point, with Miami backed up, the crowd loud, Gates came over to him and said: “This is how it used to be.” It really had that feel to it. Saying “how it used to be” is not being negative. That’s when we really were good, too, and winning a bunch of games.”

Philip Rivers gets it. He’s always gotten it. I’m not so sure McCoy does or has.

When asked about the emotions of the day, the coach coldly said. “I was going for the win.”

But not even NFL chill could freeze the warmth of this day.


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Midseason Report Card
By Nick Canepa, Contact Reporter, San Diego Union-Tribune,  Nov. 1, 2016

STRUGGLING TO MAKE THE GRADE
Midseason Report Card shows why Chargers ought to be better than 3-5

The Chargers, those lovable lugs, without luck and too often poorly played and poorly coached (the worst trifecta imaginable), have staggered like a gang of drunks to the end of their first semester.

There have been less painful broken legs.

Despite it all— the injury line, especially— they should be better, maybe much better, than the 3-5 that they are, but they aren’t for a variety of reasons, which we will explore in our Midseason Report Card. As you would expect, no scholarships are being awarded. The NFL offers no hall passes.  

QUARTERBACKS - B

Quarterbacks is plural, but there’s only one. Philip Rivers remains one of the best generals in The League, incredibly durable, smart, a true leader and accurate when he has time to throw(which hardly is always, as we saw Sunday in Denver, where he was a tether ball). He gets hit far too much. With starters Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson out for good, he’s still waiting for introductions to some of his receivers. Without him, Bolts are 0-8.

RUNNING BACKS – B-

To make sophomore tailback Melvin Gordon more comfortable, GM Tom Telesco used a draft choice on a fullback, Derek Watt. Why? He’s an ornament. Rivers was supposed to play more under center, there was to be more I-formation looks, but it rarely occurs. Nevertheless, Gordon, usually running in a broom closet, is having a good year (572 yards rushing, seventh in the NFL, and his 10 touchdowns lead The League). Not bad, considering his offensive line run blocks as though it’s trying to push through the Great Wall.

RECEIVERS - C

Really hard to grade, but if anything, with Allen (a star) and Johnson (a hard cover in the slot) out, this anonymous group has overachieved. Dontrelle Inman and Tyrell Williams are the go-to guys? Rookie tight end Hunter Henry has been worth every penny of a second-round choice. Antonio Gates is on his final lap, but he still makes plays. Travis Benjamin definitely has had his moments, when he hasn’t allowed punts to hit the ground. This is Rivers once again making chicken salad out of, well, you know.

OFFENSIVE LINE – D-

The best that can be said about this group is that, unlike last year, they at least have spent some time together. The acquisition of tough-guy center Matt Slauson has been a huge help. Rivers has been sacked 21 times in eight games, which isn’t good, but it’s the run blocking that just won’t do. Far too inconsistent.

DEFENSIVE LINE - B

Telesco found a mountain of a nose tackle when he brought in Brandon Mebane from Seattle. End Corey Liuget has moments, but should be better than he is with a professional nose tackle next to him. Joey Bosa, missing the first four games thanks to personal and organizational stupidity, is an absolute stud who’s going to be a Pro Bowler. And there is a bit of depth here.

LINEBACKERS - B

The front seven is coming around. This is one area where the team has depth, because there have been injuries and play has remained solid. Rookie fifth-rounder Jatavis Brown maybe the steal of the draft, a tackling machine, a kid who makes plays (although he’s hurting now). Abetter player than Manti Te’o. Melvin Ingram can be disturbing. Denzel Perryman (also hurt Sunday) can tackle. Jeremiah Attaochu, once a rusher of promise, played better when he was “Jerry.” He has no sacks and spends too much time in the infirmary.

SECONDARY - B

 A little something for the effort. There have been weeks when three starters— Jason Verrett, Brandon Flowers and Jahleel Addae — have been out (Verrett, one of the best, is gone for the year). Corner Casey Hayward really is a good player (as expected) and safety Dwight Lowery has made plays. Eric Weddle hasn’t been missed much.

SPECIAL TEAMS - F

The one part of this team that could be counted on to stink every week. And it’s mattered. The Chargers would be better than 3-5 with solid “teams.” Just last Sunday in Denver there was a blocked PAT, missed field goal and botched two-point conversion. Benjamin, brought in to return punts, might have been good at it if he ever caught one. He’s been benched in favor of Dexter McCluster, who at least tries. “Teams” have been poor for years. Absolute failure. At least coverage has improved.

COACHING - F

There is one thing that can be said for Mike McCoy: His kids play for him. Problem is, they often play poorly. The blown fourth-quarter leads must be placed directly under McCoy’s visor. He’s far too conservative, and when he tries to get cute— as he did at Denver’s 2-yard line, throwing four times— he fails. Hard to say how much of this is offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt’s fault, but McCoy is a former offensive coordinator with veto power. John Pagano has overcome injuries to key people and probably has done his best work coordinating the defense.

OUTLOOK - D


The Chargers’ next five opponents— Tennessee, Miami, Houston, Tampa Bay and Carolina— present some winnable opportunities. Of course, they’ve already screwed up several winnable opportunities. No reason to believe they won’t blow some more and McCoy’s contract will be extended before Christmas.


This Week's Report Card
By Nick Canepa, Contact Reporter, San Diego Union-Tribune,  Nov 14, 2016

vs. Miami Dolphins

Quarterbacks - HP
Hall Pass. Principal must give Philip Rivers the benefit of the doubt here, because a) he deserves it, and b) despite his four interceptions, his receivers obviously had no idea what they were doing or where they were headed from one play to the next. At least two picks weren’t his fault.

Running backs - B
Sonny Corleone had many more holes in him than Melvin Gordon found. But when he discovered one, he was good (24 carries, 70 yards), and he was superb out of the backfield (5 catches for 62).

Receivers - F
Dog eating their homework is no excuse. These youngsters had no idea what they were doing (including Tyrell Williams, who had nice stats). Antonio Gates had at least two drops, but it didn’t deter Rivers from throwing to his favorite, who had the 1,000th TD catch of his career. Griff Whalen? I think he was my fraternity brother.

Offensive line - F
Rivers was sacked three times and pressured many more. Run blocking basically stunk. Joe Barksdale jumped again (his NFL-high fifth false start).

Defensive line - C
Corey Liuget had a huge tackle for loss, then another one. Joey Bosa was held, which turned out to be an enormous play, negating a long pass, and that’s about all he did (one measly assist). Has he already hit the rookie wall?

Linebackers - D-
Basically no pass rush. Melvin Ingram had a sack and strip, and that’s about it. Korey Toomer (8 solo tackles) continues to make Oakland look silly for cutting him. Tourek Williams made his presence felt. Kyle Emanuel was beaten deep badly for a score.

Secondary - F
Casey Hayward dropped a sure pick-six. Dwight Lowery got turned around and smoked for a TD. Brandon Flowers got concussed (again). Adrian Philips allowed a long, costly catch. They made Ryan Tannehill look good, which Michelangelo would have trouble doing.

Special teams - B
Better. Isaiah Burse (of course) allowed a punt to land on the 10 that ended up on the 3 (nice coaching, nice listening), but he did have two 21-yard returns, including one with 5 minutes to play that set up a touchdown. Terrific coverage (kudos to vet Darrell Stuckey, who recovered a silly Dolphin punt flub. At the 5!).

Coaching - F
Mike McCoy lost at home to a bad team. He punted from Miami’s 36. Apparently one of his smartest players, asked to count the number of defenders on the field on a short dead-ball Miami field goal near the end, counted himself twice, forcing a timeout. He was wrong. Playing dumb lies on the coach.

Next opportunity (Bye) - A
Although some baggage-handling may be necessary, with any luck— which the Chargers don’t have much of— probably no one will get seriously injured.


RUMOR CENTRAL
Rumors from the Web

 What’s wrong with that Powder Blue we’ve all grown to know and love?

Now that the NFL has made an agreement with Nike to become the new jersey provider to the 32 NFL teams in place of Reebok, it looks like they have decided to take them all in a new direction. Here’s what ProFootballTalk had to say on the subject.

"On the day that the NFL announced Nike will replace Reebok as the league’s uniform supplier in 2012, a Nike official said changes are coming to NFL jerseys.

Nike Brand President Charlie Denson told Darren Rovell of CNBC that the change would be similar to changes that Nike has made to college football jerseys.

“We plan on changing the NFL jersey dramatically just like we’ve done with the college programs, using new thinking and the greatest technology available,” Denson said. “The NFL program hasn’t had the same type of advancement in recent years.

After years of Reebok leading the way on NFL jerseys, it will be interesting to see what dramatic changes Nike comes up with. I just hope no NFL team follows the hideous example of Oregon in college football."

If these really are what Nike has in store for the Chargers, I’m a little disappointed. Email me your thoughts: chargertom@aol.com


STADIUM
Latest on Stadium ....

City must call another stadium audible
By Kevin Acee, San Diego Union-Tribune, June 10, 2015

We are hurtling toward the finish.

And that light we see at the end of the tunnel, it could be a train.

Barring a change in course, it seems increasingly likely we will know by the time the NFL season starts whether the Chargers intend to apply for relocation.

But wait. There is hope in that the principals involved knows this to be the case. They know the parameters, know the issues and know how to at least give this a chance of survival.

Monday’s city/county proposal for a December special election did not catch the Chargers by surprise. Nor did it in any way change the team’s belief that a ballot measure in 2015 will ultimately lead to failure.

The team’s main concern is the legality of the vote proposal. There is a concern that even if voters approved the stadium plan, the project would be challenged in court on environmental grounds. This is what the team’s lawyers have been saying for a while. It is what they are in the process of triple- and quadruple-vetting.

Not even those on the city’s side deny California’s litigious nature when it comes to opposing large projects and the near certainty the project will be challenged in court.

According to multiple sources, the Chargers voiced concerns in Monday’s powwow. They are expected to present a more forceful argument in the sides’ next meeting on Tuesday.

When that happens, the city/county coalition will respectfully disagree and maintain a successful outcome is possible via a Dec. 15 election.

Then, we’ll see. The sides won’t go back and forth for long. They both know there isn’t time.

At some point, the process could well devolve into a blame-spreading war with bombs dropped by both sides.

Or – and don’t stop me if you’ve heard this one before – the city will call an audible and play for overtime.

Yes, I’m back to that. Never left, really.

Whether it was a realistic concept or not, Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s move Monday was necessary to budge this process. He said the city and county have a solution, forcing the Chargers to say “yea” or “nay.” To that, we should say, “Yay!”

Now, the sides will either continue to work for a solution or they commence the war that ends the war.

The city cannot force the Chargers to stay. Fact is, the Chargers don’t want to risk that they’ll be sitting in court while the St. Louis Rams are sitting in Los Angeles. And the NFL will not compel the Chargers to do so.

That is an understanding which San Diego’s government officials must have. And they do. It’s why they threw the special election Hail Mary. It’s why they would gladly take the extra time to put together a 2016 ballot measure.

The city keeps crossing a moving finish line. If they want to win, they need to keep running until they break the real tape.

And, yes, what the NFL might be compelled to do is put off relocation to Los Angeles for another year.

Multiple NFL sources, including those who believe Spanos has the support of enough fellow owners to vote against the Rams relocating, have said in the past week that it is possible there are no teams in L.A. in 2016. Most also say a delay seems unlikely at this point.

Unlikely is better than what we have now. Aside from nearly certain legal hang-ups, a ballot measure has zero chance without the Chargers’ endorsement and full cooperation.

So, it will once again be time, when the Chargers say the current plan isn't workable, for the Mayor and his group to make an offensive move. They must graciously accept the Chargers’ declination of the election proposal and ask the team for more time to work together toward an equitable solution, a citizens’ initiative and a 2016 ballot measure that has a greater chance of success (and far less of a chance to be challenged).

If the Chargers and the NFL really want to remain in San Diego, they can work to make that happen.

These are the rules by which we must play if we want the Chargers to stay.

Otherwise, we should tell them straightaway to book the moving vans.

The Chargers announced last month they have sold more season tickets than at this time last year, and a team source confirmed this week that pace remains intact. Also, the source said, the team has a virtually full complement of corporate sponsorship commitments.

Being perceived as a lame duck is not what the team wants, of course. But that perception (or reality) is something it can weather financially.

After 13-plus years, with L.A. looming, this has long been about timing.

Depending on the next steps, time may have run out

 

Stadium vote could be Dec. 15

San Diego officials say accelerated timeline possible; Chargers decline to comment

By David Garrick, Union-Tribune San Diego, June 8, 2015

— San Diego officials announced Monday that a citywide vote on a possible new Chargers stadium could happen as early as Dec. 15, a few weeks before the January 2016 window the NFL has tentatively set for teams to apply for relocation to the Los Angeles area.

Officials said an election could be held that quickly if ongoing negotiations with the Chargers about a stadium financing plan are accelerated.

A deal would have to be reached and the City Council would have to approve the ballot measure by Sept. 18, because state law requires at least 88 days to elapse between a city placing something on the ballot and a public vote taking place.

“San Diegans deserve a vote on a new stadium and today we discussed a framework that allows for a vote this year,” said Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who was flanked by county officials and a team of stadium experts recently hired by the city.

The announcement, which came at a news conference just outside City Hall, was made shortly after the second negotiating session between the city and the Chargers ended after about 90 minutes on Monday afternoon.

The parties agreed Monday to have a third meeting that hasn’t been scheduled but will take place in “the next couple days,” Faulconer said.

Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani said in an email shortly after the news conference that the team won’t be commenting on the proposed special election date or the status of negotiations.

The Chargers have been simultaneously pursuing a joint stadium with the Oakland Raiders in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson. The team has also been mentioned as a possible second tenant for a stadium proposed by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood.

The June 2016 primary and the November 2016 general election have previously been mentioned as likely times for a public stadium vote.

San Diego would quicken the process by opting not to have the ballot measure be an initiative, which would have required the time and expense of gathering signatures from thousands of registered voters.

In Carson and Inglewood, signatures were gathered for initiatives to expedite eventual environmental approvals of those stadiums. So it’s possible that opting against an initiative could create environmental delays to stadium construction in San Diego down the road.

The election would be by mail ballot, which is less expensive than a traditional election where many voters travel to polling places. The city would cover all of the election costs, with $2 million a rough estimate mentioned on Monday.

While the county would participate in stadium financing, only city voters would participate in the mail-ballot election because county regulations don’t allow mail-only elections, Supervisor Ron Roberts said.

The county Board of Supervisors, however, would approve the language of the ballot measure, including any financial contribution from the county.

It’s not clear how detailed the ballot measure would be regarding the stadium financing. It will likely be based, at least in part, on a $1.4 billion financing plan released last month by Faulconer’s stadium task force.

Among the public contributions in that plan are $121 million each from county and city taxpayers and $225 million from selling city land at the Qualcomm stadium site where the new stadium would be built.

The proposal also includes a $300 million contribution from the Chargers and $200 million from the NFL.

Faulconer said the city’s proposed timeline was presented Monday to Fabiani, Chargers owner Dean Spanos and stadium experts hired by the team.

Faulconer said the reaction from Spanos was “there’s a lot of work to get this done by the end of the year.”

The mayor agreed and said the city was ready.

“We need to meet at least once a week for the next several weeks, and we’re committed to doing that if not more,” Faulconer said.

Accelerating the process is partly based on pressure from the NFL. In April, NFL Executive Vice President Eric Grubman, who’s overseeing possible franchise relocations to Los Angeles, told city officials that “time is slipping away” for San Diego and that he’d like to see a public vote long before the June 2016 primary.

Chris Melvin, an attorney for Nixon-Peabody and the city’s lead negotiator, said he was optimistic the Chargers would help accelerate the process.

“We have committed to them and I think they have committed to us to try to get this done,” he said.

A Dec. 15 vote fits well with concerns raised by county Registrar of Voters Michael Vu, who recently told the city any special election must take place by late January because that’s when his staff must start preparing for the June primary.

Vu also said he’d need four to five months notice for a special election so he can hire poll workers and make other arrangements.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said Vu has been involved in the city’s timeline discussions.

“We put together a timeline, with help from the county counsel and with input from the Registrar of Voters, that would enable this to go to voter approval before the end of the year,” Goldsmith said.

Faulconer reiterated Monday that an election must be held to prevent a referendum from slowing the process down and because voters deserve to weigh in on such a major proposal.

“A public vote provides more certainty and saves time by removing the possibility of a costly and lengthy referendum challenge,” said Faulconer, noting how common referendums have become in San Diego recently. “It’s also the right thing to do. A project of this size and scope should be ratified by majority vote of the people.”

It’s not clear what effect a mail ballot would have on turnout, but in some cases the convenience of voting without going to the polls has increased participation.

Melvin, the city’s lead negotiator, said the negotiations so far have been productive.

“We’ve had two very well-thought-out and structured business discussions with the Chargers and their legal representatives,” he said. “We have gone through a myriad of issues.”

Supervisor Roberts said much more of the same will be necessary.

“We are at the start of a very complex negotiation,” he said. “It’s not going to be over in a few days as you can imagine.”


San Diego makes move in stadium game
By Kevin Acee, Union-Tribune San Diego, June 8, 2015

Put all the talk aside. Forget, for now, what could have previously been done. Don’t concentrate on the mountain(s) still to be scaled.

Rejoice.

There was progress made Monday.

Hallelujah.

The Mayor of San Diego and his team took an action step, telling the Chargers how a stadium initiative can get to ballot this year.

Whether it will ultimately result in accomplishing anything remains to be seen. The proposed timeline to get to a Dec. 15 special election is fraught with challenges – some of which the Chargers have already pointed out and all of which we’ll be discussing in the coming weeks.

Don’t forget, either, that the commitment by the city to an election will now bring out the anti-stadium factions that have until now been relatively quiet. Those folks have a right to be heard, and we know all about them having their own lawyers who can create delays.

But what Kevin Faulconer & Co. did Monday is all that could be asked at this point. It is a start.

And it is, in essence, a gauntlet that needed to be thrown.

The Chargers have been highly skeptical about a public vote getting done before the end of 2015, which is the approximate timeframe in which the NFL has indicated it will make a decision on whether a team (or teams) will be allowed to move to Los Angeles.

In fact, the Chargers saw no need to fully delve into negotiations until the city demonstrated how and when it could get a stadium plan approved.

Well, the city and county told them how they’ll do it.

Basically, the intent is to say (very publicly) to the Chargers: "We can do this if you work with us."

In fact, at a press conference after the sides met Monday, Faulconer repeated something very much like that, each time emphasizing the word “if.”

At the very least, the Chargers are now obligated to show why the city/county proposal won’t work. And they had better do an excellent job at that if it’s the road they choose, because they would be battling the perception they simply don’t want to stay.

That certainly wouldn’t be impossible for Mark Fabiani & Co. It’s quite possible the Chargers saw this city/county gambit coming. And it’s certain that none of the specifics proposed by the city/county were a surprise to the Chargers’ team.

The Chargers have extremely strong corner men, with Goldman Sachs as their investment banker and Latham & Watkins as their lawyers.

The team on Monday was represented by those two heavyweight helpers – the same ones that helped them get a stadium approved in Carson. Latham & Watkins are the same experts on California land use and election law who have been privately advising the Chargers it isn’t not possible to finalize a stadium proposal and get a ballot measure approved in San Diego in ‘15.

But the city says it can do it. The city is the one that says it will do it.

Its plan does not require the Chargers to fund an initiative, as the team did in Carson. What it does require is the Chargers’ active participation in negotiations.

Now – and this is a big now – if they move forward, the sides still need to do a lot of work and come to an agreement on financing in the next six to eight weeks or so.

Really.

After some 13 years of nothing getting done, hardly anything significant really even being proposed, we need two sides who don’t trust each other to finalize a solution in less than two months. Absolutely final language for a ballot initiative must be approved by the City Council by Sept. 18, 88 days prior to the proposed election (as required by law).

That’s 102 days from now.

No doubt, the Chargers are also dubious that can happen.

However, for whatever problems/hostility there has been between the sides to this point, the principles on the Chargers’ side have a great deal of respect for the experts (Nixon Peabody and Citigroup) brought in by the city. It’s who they’ve wanted at the table for some time.

Here’s hoping the Chargers surprise many people and move forward in good faith.

Because, even so, there are many issues for the sides to slog through.

The Chargers will almost certainly have to up their financial commitment to around $300 million ($500 million, including a $200 million loan from the NFL), which is what the Citizens Stadium Advisory Group suggested in its May financing proposal. The city and county will have to show concretely how they can actually support some of the public funding they propose, as well as how they’ll get timely environmental approval for the project.

That’s just a start.

But at least we’re to the point where that sort of negotiating can happen.

If the Chargers want it to.


Goldsmith’s stadium gambit
Political notebook: City attorney's plan causes dust up, but what's the fallout?
By Michael Smolens, Union-Tribune San Diego, June 7, 2015

The moves by City Attorney Jan Goldsmith regarding Chargers stadium negotiations sure are interesting.

It was revealed this past week that in late April Goldsmith privately proposed that the city and county’s new hired guns immediately start talks with the Chargers and not wait for recommendations from the mayor’s stadium task force due three weeks later.

When the recommendations come out, Goldsmith said, they shouldn’t be discussed publicly by the principals involved.

Short of dismantling the task force altogether, this figures to be pretty much what the Chargers wanted.

Under this proposal, negotiations in theory could start from scratch, perhaps allowing the Chargers to revive their downtown stadium dream, or at least try. The task force recommendations could be added to the mix weeks after negotiations started, rather than setting the framework from the start.

The Chargers never wanted what the task force would come up with. They knew — we all knew — that the panel would recommend Qualcomm Stadium as the preferred site and that the Chargers and NFL must have some serious skin in the game (half a billion dollars). Those are two things Mayor Kevin Faulconer no doubt wanted and two things the Chargers really didn’t.

Goldsmith didn’t want to release the emails where all this was discussed. The city ultimately put them out after cajoling and legal threats by the Voice of San Diego.

Whatever the legal reasons for wanting to keep the memos private, there are at least two possible political reasons. Goldsmith could come off as siding with the Chargers’ interests rather than the city’s, while undercutting the mayor in the process.

Weeks ago, Voice of San Diego’s Scott Lewis wrote that the city attorney had private meetings with the Chargers, but declined an invitation to appear privately before the mayor’s task force, voicing concern that what he said could be misinterpreted.

Another popular view is Faulconer Chief of Staff Stephen Puetz’s initial testy response criticizing the proposal might give the impression the mayor passed on starting negotiations earlier — as the visions of Chargers’ moving vans headed to Carson dance in the public mind.

It also could be that Goldsmith just saw a need to mediate away from a train wreck many see coming. However, keeping the media and the public in the dark seems a funny way to try and save the day.

In the grand scheme of things, I’m not sure these revelations will have much effect on where this is all going.

In the end, the mayor and Chargers both may have gotten some benefit from this dust up going public.

The mayor can’t publicly say how he really feels about the Chargers behavior, but probably isn’t unhappy with us hearing it through Puetz’s email that was supposed to be private. Puetz depicts the Chargers as untrustworthy and petty, contending the team canceled a meeting between owner Dean Spanos and Faulconer because a task force member said something on the radio that team Special Counsel Mark Fabiani didn’t like.

The Chargers can use this as further evidence for the NFL that the team has been stymied again in its age-old effort to get a stadium deal done here: If the mayor and city attorney, in essence, can’t agree on the shape of the negotiating table, what hope is there for us in this town?

Tweet of the week

Goes to communications maven Rachel Laing @RachelLaing

“The Chargers drama is exhausting.”
 

One Maas chance at stadium solution?
By Kevin Acee, Union-Tribune San Diego, June 5, 2015

When looking forward seems too daunting, it sometimes helps to look back.

Such an exercise might produce nothing more than wistful and/or wishful thinking, but it’s better than what we’ve got now.

No one knows what would have occurred had this or that had been different. Trying to change the past, or live in it, is wasted energy. But we've reached a point so desperate that it is not folly to wonder "what if," especially if there is even just the smallest chance to, in essence, go back to the future.

To that end, people from all spectra – those aligned with the city, with the team and other interested parties around town -- think this stadium saga would have played out a whole lot different had Fred Maas been brought in as a sort of broker between the sides.

Mass is the developer, businessman and civic leader that Mayor Kevin Faulconer spoke to at length late last year about joining the stadium effort.

“I consider (Faulconer) a good friend and believe he’s very passionate about keeping the team here,” Maas said Thursday.

Maas was also preapproved by the Chargers as a person the team would respect and happily work with, giving him quite a rare distinction of being one of the few power brokers in town who can consider himself aligned with both Faulconer and Dean Spanos. (That’s huge. Spanos sometimes doesn’t mix well with others. And whatever you make of that, Spanos happens to be the most important person in all this.)

Alas, Maas withdrew from consideration in December. He said it would be a correct characterization to describe his reason for doing so as his not believing the course the city was taking, with the Citizens Stadium Advisory Group, would yield a successful result.

“I recognized a new mayor has got to go through his own process and get a grasp of complex issues and do it in a time frame that works for him and his team,” Maas said. “I decided it was not worth that commitment.”

He has “great respect” for the task force members, counts some on the group as friends. But he was former Mayor Jerry Sanders’ point man on stadium issues and has been involved in local business and politics for a long time. Maas says he didn’t see much workable in the CSAG plan that hadn’t already been vetted by the Chargers, the city or the league over the years.

It is significant to understand Maas is a proponent of a downtown stadium. But he has also articulated support for the Qualcomm site, as he agrees with many downtown detractors about the challenges an East Village project would face.

This brings us to the problem at hand.

Of the CSAG proposal made public on May 18, Maas said, “A lot is being asked of the team and a lot is being asked of the community. And much has slipped between the cup and lip how all those commitments would be honored.”

As in, there are many gaps in the financing plan. And even what might be workable starting points won’t have the opportunity to fully bloom.

With all that to be worked out, Maas is among the growing legion that doesn’t see how a stadium deal can be worked out here by the end of the year, which is when the NFL has indicated it will make a decision on whether any team(s) will be allowed to move to Los Angeles.

No later than October, the NFL is expected to decide when to open the window for teams to apply for relocation. There is something of a deadline coming sooner than that. Team owners are scheduled to meet Aug. 11 to discuss the situations in the home markets of the Chargers, St. Louis Rams and Oakland Raiders.

“To think we’ve been at this 12 years and then to think they’ll negotiate and have a solution in 60 days is more than optimistic,” Maas said.

Take that from a guy who is familiar with what the city can do, what the Chargers are willing to do and with what is involved in getting projects done in San Diego.

Too, though, take this:

“If the league, in its infinite wisdom, decided to give everyone time to sort this out,” Maas said, “I think we would have time to come up with a reasonable solution.”

That is a sentiment voiced by several people – that more time is San Diego’s only chance. Now, I don’t want to give false hope. Three different NFL sources this week volunteered the possibility the league could put off relocation another year – and then quickly shot that option full of holes. All three emphatically opined that Spanos has gathered the nine necessary votes from owners to block the Rams from moving.

For one, the Chargers’ lose control of the Carson land in April. If there is a possibility of keeping that site from being transferred to the city of Carson, it would come with many zeroes being subtracted from Spanos’ bank account. Also – and this is the concern most vehemently proffered – St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is almost certainly not going to be inclined to put off his project and could somehow force the league’s hand.

Virtually unanimous, though, is the opinion that if relocation happens for the 2016 season the Chargers will be one of the teams applying to go. No team desires to be the second to arrive in the L.A. market.

So San Diego is up against it, faced with few options.

What needs to happen when the sides meet Monday is the city and county must show how they can get a vote done this year. If they cannot, they must demonstrate they will listen to what the Chargers propose.

For that, the Chargers have to actually make a proposal. The team has to provide at least an outline of what it would take for it to start earnestly negotiating. It has to make the city/county group understand what it would take to put off the NFL decision for a year.

Then, maybe San Diego gets a do-over.

And it wouldn’t be a bad idea to give it one Maas try.
 

Allegations Chargers quit stadium effort
By Kevin Acee, Union-Tribune San Diego, June 4, 2015

As the Chargers and San Diego’s city/county alliance navigate the infancy of a stadium negotiation process that needs a quick resolution, we can try the impossible and frustrating task of understanding how it devolved to this point.

It depends on who is offering the perspective, but there is certainly a deepening and widening narrative among those in and around the city that the Chargers have slow-played – even sabotaged – efforts to get a stadium built in San Diego.

It is easy to focus on (and condemn) how uninterested the Chargers have seemed of late – if one is inclined to ignore how plodding the city has been over the years.

Hamstrung by various factors at various times and largely beholden to a political process, San Diego’s government has only recently gotten on the fast track. No one disputes the city is now the one pushing the train.

The Chargers, meanwhile, can rightly talk about having worked to get a new stadium in San Diego for more than a decade and the frustration of navigating the various political, financial, economic and environmental morasses its home market has presented in that time.

But it does seem the team reached a point where it gave up. In a vulnerably honest moment, it might even acknowledge that.

Now, with this process at its most crucial juncture, we have to wonder what evidence there is the Chargers will suddenly become an earnest negotiating partner.

Many in the city certainly wonder.

Multiple sources have laid out a pattern of behavior by the Chargers that has led them to believe the team initially tried to dupe Mayor Kevin Faulconer into thinking time was not of the essence. Essentially, those sources believe, Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani was trying to lull Faulconer to sleep while the Chargers worked on slipping out of town.

It’s tempting to share that view.

Primary among their assertions is that the Mayor’s office was told by Fabiani last summer that there was no sense of urgency – even to the point that Fabiani said November 2016 might be too soon for a public vote on the stadium.

That interaction is just one instance of what sources say were several times where the Chargers seemed wary of any suggestions by the Mayor’s staff of furthering a partnership.

This behind-the-scenes maneuvering is conjoined in the minds of those on the city’s side with a contention about Fabiani’s consistently negative spin on the state of affairs in San Diego and the team’s continued efforts in Los Angeles.

However, discussions over the past several months with Chargers and NFL sources, as well as others with knowledge of the situation, leave a largely disparate impression.

Regardless of what Fabiani said or didn’t say last summer, it is undisputed that the team was on record with Faulconer in late 2014 that time was of the essence. The Mayor publicly stated in December that he understood the specter of Los Angeles to be real and that he would be taking action in early 2015.

That action ultimately was the creation of the Citizens Stadium Advisory Group. The Mayor’s office alerted Fabiani of the plan to assemble CSAG. Whether he voiced the Chargers’ opposition to the Mayor prior to the public announcement in late January is a point of contention. The Chargers certainly made clear after the announcement that they felt the task force was a waste of precious time.

What is not in dispute is that the Chargers always favored the city bringing in outside experts.

Late in 2014, Faulconer began to meet with Fred Maas, a widely respected and well-connected local businessman and civic leader who served as former Mayor Jerry Sanders’ stadium point man. The intention was to possibly bring on Maas as a sort of stadium czar for the city. Maas, who is part of a small group of people than can count both Faulconer and Chargers chairman Dean Spanos as fans, ultimately declined, deciding the course the Mayor wanted to take would not yield the desired result of a stadium solution.

According to several sources, Spanos began to believe around that time there would be an effort by the city to protect itself publicly and set up the team for blame if it departed. By many accounts, it was in late ’14 and early ’15 that Spanos came to the conclusion nothing would get done in San Diego.

Subsequently, St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s plan to build a stadium in Inglewood became public in early January. The Chargers say that to that point they were essentially biding time in their efforts to buy land in Carson – efforts alleged in a lawsuit in Carson to have begun in 2013. They were, they contend, forced by Kroenke’s actions to complete the purchase and move forward with stadium quest in L.A. – even as they watched and waited on San Diego to present a stadium plan.

The Chargers have not denied that watching and waiting is pretty much all they have done in San Diego recently. Their contention is that’s all they’ve been able to do.

In late April, the city hired the law firm of Nixon Peabody and investment banker Citigroup to help in negotiations with the Chargers. While those experts researched and prepared for negotiations, they did not engage with the Chargers until Tuesday’s sitdown at the city attorney’s office.

That lack of contact was in spite of the April 28 recommendation by city attorney Jan Goldsmith that the newly hired experts meet with the Chargers immediately. Goldsmith also suggested a media blackout.

Whatever the interpretation of the e-mail string’s finer points – such as whether Goldsmith was upstaging the Mayor by essentially working around the CSAG timeline – they speak to the heart of the problem between the two sides.

There is a frightful lack of trust.

Fabiani agreed to Goldsmith’s terms via e-mail. Stephen Puetz, the Mayor’s chief of staff, responded by questioning that commitment by Fabiani and detailed instances in which the team “rebuffed” the Mayor’s efforts to meet.

After a face-to-face meeting between Fabiani and Puetz, they agreed on another meeting between the Mayor and Spanos. But not the experts that would ultimately determine how to get a stadium built.

In fact, Citigroup was not present at the Tuesday meeting, as the sides discussed logistics and had no need for financial input.

Fabiani, who has led the team’s stadium efforts here since 2002, declined comment this week.

A Mayoral spokesman also declined comment. In fact, the Mayor and his staff for months have opted to not speak publicly about their relationship with the Chargers.

Moving forward, it is incumbent on Faulconer to set a tone, to require clear parameters of how negotiations will progress. If what those around him suggest about the Chargers is true, fine. At least he knows who he is dealing with.

The NFL has set a nebulous timeline that suggests it will make a decision on Los Angeles no later than early February. Team owners will hold a special meeting Aug. 11 to discuss the situation in San Diego, as well as those in St. Louis and Oakland, the other two cities with disgruntled teams that may try to move.

San Diego officials have said a public vote is necessary and that it is possible by year’s end. The Chargers are highly dubious about the feasibility of a vote that soon.

It is up to the city/county to demonstrate how a vote is possible. If they do so and the Chargers balk, it is up to the city/county to call them out publicly.

It looks like the Chargers are leaving, but it can be made possible for them to stay. The Chargers must elucidate how.

Ultimately, we all need to know the truth.
 

Stadium talks open, Carson still looms
Property details emerge as San Diego, Chargers begin negotiations
By David Garrick and Roger Showley, Union-Tribune San Diego, June 2, 2015

San Diego officials and the Chargers wrapped up their first negotiating session on a proposal for a new stadium on Tuesday afternoon, meeting for more than an hour in a downtown office building and releasing no details.

Meanwhile, new information emerged about a land acquisition in Carson related to an alternative stadium plan the Chargers are pursuing with the Oakland Raiders.

Prior to the downtown San Diego meeting, the Chargers said the team would not be making any public comment about the talks.

After the meeting, Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office released a brief statement from the mayor, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and county Supervisor Ron Roberts:

“Today we and our negotiating team met with Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos and his adviser Mark Fabiani for more than an hour. It was a productive discussion on a variety of issues, and both parties agreed to meet again within the next several days.”

Spanos noted afterward that it was "just the first meeting," according to NBC7/39.

The starting point for the talks was expected to be a stadium financing plan proposed May 18 by Faulconer’s stadium task force. That plan features a $1.4 billion menu of financing options to pay for a Mission Valley stadium estimated to cost $1.1 billion.

The potential funding in the plan includes $300 million from the Chargers, $200 million from the NFL, roughly $200 million in bonds backed by stadium rent, $121 million each from county and city taxpayers, $225 million from selling city land and millions more from seat licenses and surcharges for parking and tickets.

The Chargers have declined to comment on the proposal. Tuesday’s meeting took place in the Civic Center Plaza building on B Street, three blocks north of Horton Plaza.

The land acquired in Carson is potentially a key part of plans for a stadium there.

The Los Angeles County recorder’s office said the Chargers and Raiders, acting as Carson Holdings LLC, completed the purchase of 11 acres north of Del Amo Boulevard on May 20, but the recorder staff did not have the details until Tuesday.

The parcel is across the street from the 157-acre site where the teams have proposed building a $1.7 billion stadium complex.

Recorder spokesman Mike Sanchez said the transfer tax on the transaction was $24,172.50, which was figured at $1.10 per $100 of assessed valuation of the land. That tax rate means the official purchase price was $21.97 million.

Figuring the actual assessment for property tax purposes will be the responsibility of the county assessor’s office. The seller was Carson Marketplace LLC, a legal entity of Starwood Capital.

Carson officials previously said Starwood sold the much larger 157-acre former landfill site, south of the Del Amo property, at the same time. That property was transferred to the teams and then to the city's reclamation agency at a nominal price of $1,000, City Attorney Sunny Soltani said at the time.

Sanchez said documents related to that larger property transfer have not been processed by recording staff to verify the details.

Carson explained the landfill transfer as a means to limit liability the teams might face from the cleanup of the site, which is continuing.

The teams are planning a 68,000-seat stadium in Carson, a suburb of Los Angeles, if they cannot arrange new stadiums in their home markets.

Fabiani declined to comment on the purchase price Tuesday. He said previously that the 11 acres were pegged for parking for the new stadium. A ballot initiative mounted by the teams and approved by the Carson City Council also indicated the land could be used for a 350-room hotel and 350,000 square feet of other commercial uses.

If no stadium is built, team officials haven't said what they would do with the 11-acre site. However, the initiative provides for the reinstatement of a master plan for the landfill site into a master-planned residential and commercial development.

In a separate development, Carson has been sued by Rand Resources, a real estate development company, over alleged breach of contract related to building on the landfill. Richard Rand, head of Rand Resources and Carson El Camino, said in the complaint that he had an exclusive negotiating agreement with Carson to bring one or more NFL teams to the city.

Among Rand’s allegations was that in the summer of 2013, city officials “spoke with representatives of NFL teams, including the San Diego Chargers, about relocating to Carson.” The lawsuit was filed Feb. 20 but only came to light in the last few days.

If this is true, such discussions occurred a year before the Chargers have indicated they began considering a Carson deal.

Whatever the nature of those discussions, the Chargers did not go public with their alternate plans until January, in response to another stadium plan unveiled for the former Hollywood Park racetrack in nearby Inglewood by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke.

Demolition has begun on the racetrack grandstand in preparation for a $1.8 billion stadium, although no team has signed up to use that facility if it is built.


Chargers have leg up in stadium talks
San Diego’s efforts to forge a stadium deal will be similar to walking a tightrope
By David Garrick, Union-Tribune San Diego, May 30, 2015

— San Diego’s efforts to forge a stadium deal with the Chargers will be similar to walking a tightrope, some of the nation’s leading negotiation experts said last week.

They said San Diego faces a steep challenge when negotiations begin Tuesday because the city lacks leverage, faces many unknowns and will be constrained by the need for a public vote on any deal.

The Chargers have more leverage because they could potentially move to Los Angeles, but the city’s bargaining team can’t make the deal too sweet or it will be rejected at the polls.

 “It’s an extremely precarious position that we would call a ‘two-level’ game,” said Robert Bordone, director of Harvard University’s Negotiation and Mediation Clinic. “The city will be dealing with two big negotiations, one across the table with the team and another with the constituency they represent, and that’s much more challenging.”

Robert Tobias, who teaches conflict resolution at American University, said that challenge is compounded by the many unknowns faced by the city. Those include how open the Chargers are to staying in San Diego, how willing the NFL is to let them leave, and how much public money voters would approve.

“I wouldn’t want to be representing the city in this — it’s going to be very hard,” Tobias said. “You have to figure out what deal the Chargers can get in L.A. and decide if you want to beat that, while keeping in mind the voters need to approve it.”

Seth Freeman, a professor of negotiation and conflict management at New York University and Columbia University, said the city is facing a difficulty factor of about 7 on a scale of 1 to 10.

“A 1 would be negotiating a salary increase, which is pretty cut and dried and doesn’t need approval from voters,” he said. “And let’s call the Northern Ireland peace accords a 10, because you had eight different parties involved after 30 years of bitterness and violence. So this is either a 6 or probably a 7.”

Freeman said leverage would likely be the primary hurdle.

“The Chargers have a number of possible alternatives to making an agreement,” said Freeman, referring to proposed stadiums already approved by city leaders in the Los Angeles suburbs of Carson and Inglewood. “When you have a stronger best alternative — and the city has essentially no alternative — you have more leverage.”

Bordone said that dynamic could poison bargaining.

“When there are big power differentials, the parties are less likely to find mutually beneficial outcomes even though those outcomes are out there,” he said. “One side isn’t particularly incentivized to look for them and the other side is in panic mode.”

Bordone, however, said the Chargers might not use that leverage if they truly want to stay in San Diego.

“The really skillful negotiators are aware of leverage but don’t focus their energy there,” he said. “The real challenge here is getting them to put aside who needs who more, and focus instead on the long history of the team being in San Diego and the value that creates for the city, team and league.”

And there’s some uncertainty about how much leverage L.A. represents for the Chargers, because neither of the two stadium deals there have been finalized and NFL owners haven’t approved a relocation.

Other potential pitfalls for the city are time pressure and something called “deal euphoria,” Freeman said.

The NFL has told San Diego to accelerate its stadium efforts or face losing the Chargers, and that can be dangerous, Freeman said.

“Time pressure can be a double-edged sword,” he said. “It concentrates the mind wonderfully, but the parties can fall off the edge and make mistakes if they’re not careful.”

The strong desire for a deal could also be a problem, Freeman said.

“There’s a tendency for negotiations to get into something I call ‘deal euphoria,’ which is the belief that a deal, no matter what the terms, is good,” he said. “It can make you lose sight of some of the traps and dangers that can sometimes be ruinous.”

William Ury, co-author of the influential negotiating book “Getting to Yes,” agreed that the city is in a tough spot.

“If you are the city you ought to really think this through strategically because the less power you have the more strategic you need to be,” he said.

But Ury also said he doesn’t see the negotiations as that unusual despite the team’s greater leverage and the public vote placing the team in tightrope mode.

“It’s not that unusual to negotiate a deal that requires a subsequent approval,” said Ury, noting that labor deals must be submitted to members of a union for ratification after they’re negotiated. “In any kind of deal like that, you have to think about another constituency with clear decision-making power.”

He said the negotiations could still be characterized as between two parties, not three.

“The city and its negotiators could be seen as agents and the voters and the Chargers would be the two principals in the deal,” Ury said. “The ultimate decision makers are the people.”

The Chargers leverage is also not that unusual, at least when it comes to stadium deals, said Christopher Melvin, a member of the city’s negotiating team focused on the legal aspects of the deal.

Every stadium negotiation includes at least the implied threat of a relocation if a viable deal can’t be reached, said Melvin, managing director of public finance at New York City’s Nixon-Peabody law firm.

“This has come up numerous times,” he said. “Not as specific as this, but it has come up numerous times.”

Melvin and other members of the negotiating team, which is being jointly funded by the city and the county, expressed optimism last week that they’re in good position to succeed despite the somewhat unusual circumstances.

Melvin and the city’s point man on finance, Citigroup’s Bill Corrado, said a key positive is the financing plan released May 18 by Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s stadium task force, which means the they won’t have to start from scratch.

That plan will set the parameters for the talks, they said, noting that it includes $1.4 billion in funding suggestions — nearly $300 million more than the $1.1 billion estimated cost of the stadium.

A May 22 U-T/10News poll conducted by SurveyUSA shows 39 percent of respondents opposed the financing plan while 36 percent supported it.

Melvin and Corrado have crafted multiple stadium deals across the country working on both sides of the table — for government agencies and NFL teams.

That considerable experience is in stark contrast to several of the city’s recent negotiations with the Chargers, including the infamous “ticket guarantee” deal that cost taxpayers millions, said City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.

“I want to emphasize we put together on our team real experience with NFL stadiums,” Goldsmith said last week.

“The city hasn’t had this type of expertise involved, and as a result I think over the years there have been mistakes.”

Such comprehensive experience also makes the city’s negotiating team ready for the nuts and bolts of the process, members said.

The Chargers have declined to discuss what experts they’ll have at the negotiations, or the talks in general. So far only owner Dean Spanos and special counsel Mark Fabiani have been confirmed as attending Tuesday’s session.

Melvin said he wasn’t sure how the Chargers will want to proceed, but that he strongly prefers face-to-face talks instead of conference calls, Skype or sending emails.

Melvin said he’s also not sure how intense the bargaining will be, but that he’s ready for anything. “I’ve been in negotiations that have gone through the night in a few instances,” he said.

Melvin said he was unsure exactly what kind of direction Faulconer and county officials would give the negotiating team, including when and how they would tell city negotiators the absolute most amount of public contributions they’d be comfortable with.

“I can’t really tell you because I’m not sure how things will evolve,” he said.

Freeman, the NYU professor, said a positive for the city is that it’s clear they have hired some of the very best negotiators available.

“It looks like they are in good hands with experienced and capable people, so everything I’m saying is with a sense of humility,” Freeman said.


Stadium quest not over, just starting
NFL says Chargers have obligation to negotiate in good faith
By Kevin Acee, Union-Tribune San Diego, May 29, 2015

There is hardly a speck of evidence that points toward the Chargers ultimately staying in San Diego.

In neither their public nor private utterings has anyone from the NFL offered any real hope. At worst, their words have been dire warnings of imminent departure. At best, the Chargers and league are noncommittal.

They certainly – and understandably – are playing two angles.

Heck, after notifying the city and county on Tuesday they would sit down with them next week to engage in talks on the process of getting a new stadium built in San Diego, Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani walked into a meeting with Carmen Policy, the man the team has hired to get it a stadium in Los Angeles.

Still, the Chargers have an obligation here.

Amid the vague explanations and veiled threats, the NFL has said time and again that the best thing for all is that a team does not move. And no team, the league’s relocation and retention maven said recently, has satisfied the threshold to qualify them to move.

“Satisfaction of the relocation guidelines can only be determined when somebody has applied,” Eric Grubman said. “We have not lined up all the different areas where a club and market would be measured and been able to come to any conclusion. And we wouldn’t do that in some artificial setting, because a major part of that is: what is the home market proposal?”

We’re about to find out.

On the surface at least, Grubman is saying we have a chance.

According to the NFL, it’s not over until it’s over.

That’s good. Because it’s really just beginning in San Diego.

After more than a dozen years of mostly inertia with the occasional fit and start and then a few months of hyperactivity, after more than a little cursing and biting, real live talks between people with the knowledge and power to accomplish something are set to commence.

And the Chargers have to try to the end in order to say they are at their end in San Diego.

In theory, anyway.

All the NFL bylaws say is that a team must have “diligently engaged in good faith efforts” to “obtain and to maintain suitable stadium facilities in their home territories” in order to qualify for relocation. Numerous league owners – the ones who will determine who/when/if any franchise moves to Los Angeles – have made it clear they feel the Chargers have tried really hard for too long to find a stadium solution in San Diego.

The Chargers could walk in to Tuesday’s meeting with the city and county folks and say, “OK, we want to work with you, but ...” and go on to enumerate any number of things. They could insist there has been too much time wasted to leave any reasonable chance of a stadium solution here prior to an expected January deadline to file for relocation. Dean Spanos could deem unreasonable everything the city and county has to offer.

And all of us could scream and kick and be of the opinion that we’d been played. It wouldn’t matter. The NFL can justify whatever it wants and make happen whatever it wants.

Now, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t scream and kick if anything like that happens. In fact, be assured city and county officials will scream and kick very publicly if they believe the Chargers do not negotiate in good faith in the coming weeks and months.

After the initial exchange of mud, this has all been very civil, because that is best for getting business done. Things will get ugly if it looks like there is no longer any business to do.

It better get ugly at that point.

Just because the NFL’s interpretation of what is “diligent” and “in good faith” is all that matters doesn’t mean we should give up or make it easy on them to do so.

STADIUM VIDEO
 

Chargers Get Bolt of Inspiration
The design is inspired by the Chargers' iconic lightning-bolt branding
By Gene Cubbison, Sports Analyst, NBC News, San Diego, March 8, 2011


Nobody's "shown them the money" yet. But the Chargers have just been shown a radical new way of planning their proposed downtown stadium.

This novel approach came to the Chargers unsolicited, no money asked.

It's a labor of civic love on the part of a three-member, local design team that wants to keep the Bolts local and put a bold, classy stamp on an unfinished side of East Village.

"There's about 12 acres of 'public experience' around the site, and that actually connects to the existing buildings," says Gaslamp Quarter architect Paul De Bartolo. "It's a stadium that's embracing its city around it."

And it's an approach its creators hope will be embraced in some form by the Chargers, the city and the constituents of both.

Australian-born De Bartolo and his fellow Aussie business partner Ivan Rimanic began collaborating on it late last year with San Diego landscape architect David McCullough.

They finally presented it to the Bolts' brass last week, and posted the schematic renderings on their website.

Their civic message, in part: "The Gaslamp has really transformed with Petco Park, but it's missing something vital, in our opinion," said McCullough. "And if something doesn't happen, like what we're proposing, then it's probably going to remain parking lots and train tracks into eternity."

The stadium itself would be shaped like a volcanic dome -- design inspired by the Chargers' iconic lightning-bolt branding.

"By taking the Chargers logo and mirroring it, you do create a circular coliseum setup for a stadium, and by extruding the form, you start to generate the sides of the stadium, and how it can work in these different wings," explained De Bartolo.

Meantime, the overall site concept -- featuring a vast stretch of green open space with an iconic structure, and elevated trolley tracks -- is erupting in a lot of imaginations as it goes viral online.

"It was extremely important for us to really explore the linkages into the city for this site," De Bartolo said.

While this team of dreamers has no illusions about the difficulties of turning the concept into a reality, they want to jump-start the brainstorming process in hopes that the project makes it farther down the road.

"We feel that we're so close in San Diego to having a city that's comparable to some of the greatest cities in the world. And it's one area that I think we could have this," De Bartolo said.

Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani has forwarded the design package to the team's architects; so far, no feedback.

The principal partner and namesake of London Group Realty Advisers said the new proposal helps focus discussion on enhancing the proposed stadium's visual appeal and connection to its surroundings.

"This throws down the gauntlet," says Gary London, who's worked with the Chargers.  "Unless that aspect of the project is really addressed, (the stadium) probably doesn't get very far."

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