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Chargers, Escondido eye possible land acquisitions

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The San Diego Chargers need 50 to 60 acres of land to build a new stadium and the organization could do it in Escondido by buying five privately owned properties located in a redevelopment zone.

The Chargers have a virtual lock on buying about 20 acres of land owned by the city of Escondido and another 11 acres currently used by the Escondido Swap Meet east of Interstate 15 and south of Highway 78.

Mark Fabiani, special counsel to the Chargers regarding stadium issues, said the actual "bowl" of a stadium needs 17 to 25 acres alone.

Additionally, the Chargers want to purchase about 30 acres of land for ancillary development to help pay for the stadium.

While there is no official word about where exactly a stadium would be placed, Dave Ferguson, an Escondido lawyer spearheading the Chargers' possible move to the area, had this to say about the location hunt:

"I think looking at things like where is publicly owned land, where are the large parcels, where is the swap meet -- which already has an amendment to the general plan imposed -- I think that gives you a good idea of possible sites. But we haven't picked one and said 'This is absolutely it,' because we won't be able to do that until we get out there and start talking to people (current landowners)."

Ferguson represents the family that owns the swap meet land.

The other five properties comprise an EDCO Waste Management facility, Vulcan Materials' ready-mix concrete site, Tri-City Fence, Rose Auto Body and a mainly vacant strip mall owned by Parkway Center LLC.

All but the strip mall are located on the same block as the city-owned property.

The four properties, excluding the strip mall, account for about 10 acres and would create a block of 30 acres when combined with the city property.

Just northeast of that block is the site of the Escondido Swap Meet. Although the rest of the block is dotted with about two dozen landowners, if the Chargers only bought the strip mall, they would add 10 acres, putting them past their minimum mark of 50 acres.

Ferguson and the Chargers would not say if they were looking at these particular parcels of land, but confirmed the extremely high likelihood of being able to acquire the city-owned and swap meet parcels.

Even though the two blocks mentioned are in a redevelopment zone, neither the Chargers nor the city can use eminent domain to acquire the properties.

Instead, the Chargers would have to pay fair market value for each property.

According to county assessments conducted earlier this year, the value of the strip mall is $16.6 million. The other four properties were assessed at a combined value of $3.2 million.

The stadium and its ancillary developments have been projected to cost about $1.1 billion.

But money may not be the only thing that keeps the Chargers from buying the properties.

Of the different sites, the one with the biggest concern is Vulcan Materials' ready-mixed concrete site.

Aggregate materials like concrete and asphalt are hard to come by in San Diego county and losing a facility like Vulcan's could drive up taxpayer costs for roads and sidewalks, said San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) Principal of Transportation Engineering Richard Chavez.

"Once you have to truck rock over 25, 30 miles, your costs start doubling," he said. "The fewer sites we have, the more expensive it is because of the transportation for the raw materials for the projects, and that translates into higher prices for the taxpayers."

The site could be moved, said Vulcan spokeswoman Atisthan Roach, but it could be difficult to get new permitting for a site elsewhere.

Additionally, Chavez said most people do not like the idea of a large concrete manufacturer setting up shop in their neighborhoods and could make it difficult to install a new facility.

Aside from the issues surrounding moving a concrete plant, there is always the possibility current property owners would not be interested in selling.

Property owners from EDCO, Tri-City Fence, Rose Auto Body and the strip mall could not be contacted by press time.

However, a manager at Rose Auto Body who identified himself as Herman, said the owners of the shop would not want to go public with their speculation about the Chargers buying the site.

"The consensus is it wouldn't happen anyway," he said. "They've (the Escondido redevelopment agency) been trying to utilize this area for years. Eventually something will happen here, but I don't think it's going to be the stadium."

He said in the past, owner's groups have stopped projects like the North County Fair from building in the area.

Fabiani said the Chargers and Escondido are currently looking at ideas for financing. Once they determine if financing is possible, they will look more closely at land acquisition.

Send your comments to Jennifer.Lebron@sddt.com

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3 UserComments
Dan Kilgore 1:04pm September 21, 2009

Not sure why you decided to close your article with a comment from Herman. Quoting him as saying " it wouldn't happen anyway," was a disappointing and misleading close to the article. Being a resident from Escondido for over 20 years. I am excited about this possibility. I think it would be great for the city and the surrounding communities. I applaud the City of Escondido and the San Diego Chargers for exploring this alternative. I hope we can make it work.

Steve Martinez 8:31pm September 19, 2009

Look what happened to that "dump" called Glendale in Arizona. It's a beutiful, vibrant part of the region. A city that's already held a Super Bowl. Escondido should exhaust every possibility to get the stadium to Econdido. The financial impact it would make to the city couldn't be measured.

David Baza 12:51am September 19, 2009

The Chargers would bring something to this city that none of these other business have brought, and that's class. Having a new and active stadium to the city would bring new jobs and income to the city and not only that, it would bring up the value of everything surrounding it. When people outside of Escondido even hear the word Escondido they think of it as a dump, and that's because of the businesses like these that don't contribute to the city.