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Sounding Board: New Stadium II

Daily Transcript Question: Do you support the city's involvement in the construction of a new football stadium at the Qualcomm Stadium site if that involvement includes the uncompensated use of city-owned lands by the developers of the project?

In 1996, the San Diego Chamber of Commerce and many others in the business/labor coalition that has driven this city to near bankruptcy held hands around the stadium to protect it from the 60,000 San Diegans who signed referendum petitions to stop the Chargers' "ticket guarantee." This time, citizens need to hold hands around city coffers and stop the proposed land giveaway dead in its tracks.

There is no reason why all San Diego taxpayers should subsidize Sunday afternoons for the 2 percent of San Diegans who attend games. The Chargers are a private business. Quite frankly, that business has minimal economic impact on the city.

As a member of the San Diego Parks and Recreation Board, who has watched neighborhood recreation centers reduce their hours from 68 to just over 40 a week and our swimming pools go from open year round to summertime only, I have closely observed how past financial miscalculations, including the last Chargers deal, have impacted San Diego families. We simply cannot afford any more economic hits. In 1996, when average folks were trying to stop the ticket guarantee, Alex Spanos reaffirmed his commitment to stay until 2020 without any additional inducements. He said, "A deal's a deal." So be it Mr. Spanos.

--Bob Ottilie

Self practicing attorney; lawyer to former mayor Dick Murphy

This is not an unbiased response. I have been involved in preparing the feasibility studies for the Qualcomm property on behalf of the Spanos family. The plan we prepared envisioned 6,000 to 8,000 moderate density multi-family units (both condominiums and apartments) as well as commercial space, all surrounding a major community park. Most of the Qualcomm parking would be in a parking structure.

The key to our analysis was a determination of the value of the land if sold to developers; the sales taxes that would accrue to the city from construction of the various developments and the retail sales taxes that would result from the residents' routine expenditures. In addition, the property taxes would increase annually with major increases every time a property was resold.

The resulting income from taxation, along with the original sales of the land to developers, would ultimately result in an enormous windfall to the city in the same mode as downtown development.

The analysis of the finances of the proposed stadium is not for the faint of heart. It is a highly complicated and sophisticated process that requires the Spanos family's input, along with that of the NFL and the best minds that the city can retain from outside sources.

--Alan Nevin

Director of economic research, MarketPointe Realty Advisors

I like the Chargers. They are part of the fabric of our city. I like the concept of intensive redevelopment of Qualcomm. However, the fact that they are going straight to the voters with their proposal, bypassing our elected officials, is a clear condemnation of our current political leadership.

This means that the proposal may not be properly vetted in the ordinary course of land use application. This is a highly complex deal and must be negotiated in advance of a public vote. Who the "players" are also matters: the development team makes all of the difference.

I will be looking for financial firepower, as well as competence from the selected development team.

Beyond this, my concern is that as many parties benefit as possible, particularly the city and its citizens.

--Gary H. London

President, The London Group Realty Advisors, Inc.

When someone tells you that you are getting something for nothing, be very suspicious. Such is the case with the new Chargers deal. The egregious $35 million Chargers ticket guarantee rip-off was chump-change compared to the proposed new taxpayer giveaway.

It turns out that the taxpayers do pay for the new stadium, giving away perhaps half a billion dollars in land and development rights, plus the infrastructure costs of reworking surrounding roads. Oddly enough, the Spanos family most likely will make so much money on the development of the area that whether or not the new stadium brings in more Chargers revenue is not very important.

Much is made of the revenue the city will get from the taxes collected on the developed property. But only 17 percent of the property tax goes to the city -- and it would be collected even if the city sold the land for its true value to a developer. The sales and transient occupancy tax revenue is largely taxes that otherwise would be collected from merchandise and hotel room sales generated by other San Diego businesses -- what economists call the "substitution effect." Little net additional tax revenue will be generated.

The city has proven itself incredibly incompetent when it comes to negotiating deals -- be it with labor unions, or pro sports teams. But this proposal is even worse: it is a deal dictated by the Chargers alone. It will be designed with the loopholes and hidden subsidies built-in with no negotiation whatsoever. Our city is underwater financially. It is ludicrous to discuss giving away incredibly valuable city land to benefit a billionaire family.

The Chargers are welcome to stay in their recently renovated stadium. But if the team leaves San Diego (an unlikely event, as there are few options), we should sell the stadium land in a competitive bidding process that would bring in a massive amount of revenue while eliminating the stadium maintenance costs.

--Richard Rider

Chair, San Diego Tax Fighters

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