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San Diego Union-Tribune

NORBERTO SANTANA JR.

City urged to play tough with Chargers

February 9, 2003

Abstract:
Those were the sentiments expressed yesterday by the chairman of the Citizens' Task Force on Chargers Issues as the 15-member panel debated the guiding principles of its final report during an all- day workshop. The City Council set up the group this summer to consider the Chargers' demand for a new stadium amid threats that the team might move.

Mark Fabiani, special counsel to Chargers President Dean Spanos, said their comments provided a glimmer of hope.

[David Watson] proposed two ideas he thought could gain public support. The first involved leasing the entire Qualcomm site to the Chargers, with the Spanos family taking on the development risks and agreeing to build certain amenities, such as a public park. The second involved placing some type of sales tax increase on the ballot that would finance park space along with the public contribution to a new stadium.

Full Text:
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Feb 9, 2003

To keep the Chargers in San Diego, city leaders need to negotiate aggressively, even if it means losing the team.

Those were the sentiments expressed yesterday by the chairman of the Citizens' Task Force on Chargers Issues as the 15-member panel debated the guiding principles of its final report during an all- day workshop. The City Council set up the group this summer to consider the Chargers' demand for a new stadium amid threats that the team might move.

"It's hard to bargain from strength if you're too afraid," said David Watson, a land use lawyer and former city of San Diego planning commissioner.

While most agreed that the Chargers are an asset to San Diego, they said the team has not proved it's suffering financially.

Most panelists said the City Council should be willing to engage the Chargers in further talks aimed at forging a new relationship. Yet the group also concluded that city officials should not be afraid to use an array of legal options under the team's current contract.

Mark Fabiani, special counsel to Chargers President Dean Spanos, said their comments provided a glimmer of hope.

"We're pleased that the task force has recommended moving forward to examine a variety of new ideas and we're happy to work with the city on any or all of the ideas," Fabiani said. Paraphrasing a line from the Woody Allen film "Annie Hall," he said, "A relationship is like a shark; it has to keep moving forward or it dies."

Task force members will spend their remaining meetings this month drafting guiding principles for any potential negotiations. Their final report to the City Council is due Feb. 27. They expect to cover options that include seeking to enforce the current contract, renovating Qualcomm Stadium or building a new facility.

Regarding stadium proposals, all the task force members agreed with panelist Geoff Patnoe, who said that any "financing plan must also not touch, tap, hit, drain, squeeze, flirt (with) or tease the city of San Diego's general fund."

Others said any proposal also would have to protect the city against revenue shortfalls, retire the existing $68 million bond debt from the 1997 Qualcomm Stadium renovation and avoid turning over the title to public land.

"In the end, it's all about financing," said panelist Joe Martinez, an architect who also serves on the Qualcomm Stadium Advisory Board.

Several members agreed with panelist Tim Considine, who suggested that city leaders hire professional negotiators for any future deal.

Many task force members expressed doubts about the Chargers' proposal for financing a new $400 million stadium in Mission Valley through redevelopment. They questioned whether the project could pay for itself and whether such a development, which would involve housing, retail stores and offices, would be too intensive.

Watson proposed two ideas he thought could gain public support. The first involved leasing the entire Qualcomm site to the Chargers, with the Spanos family taking on the development risks and agreeing to build certain amenities, such as a public park. The second involved placing some type of sales tax increase on the ballot that would finance park space along with the public contribution to a new stadium.

Task force member Len Simon warned about "moving too fast" to support any one proposal. He argued that the city and the Chargers need to agree to a "cease-fire" while keeping discussions moving.

Norberto Santana: (619) 718-5069; norberto.santana@uniontrib.com



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