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Chargers Have Tall Plans For Mission Valley Site

The San Diego Chargers’ revised plan for a new stadium along with about 6,000 housing units may turn part of Mission Valley into a neighborhood dominated by a group of high-rise condominiums.

In talks with several national home developers, Chargers’ brass said they might amend their original vision of low-rise buildings to one that entails the construction of several major high-rise buildings of 15 to 25 stories.

The Chargers are proposing to build a $450 million stadium in addition to new homes, a hotel, and some office and retail space on the 166-acre Qualcomm Stadium site. The football team said it would assume the costs for the stadium and is seeking a private development partner for the rest of the project, including assuming costs for an estimated $175 million in traffic and other infrastructure improvements at the site.

In return, the city would give the team 60 acres for the new residential and commercial development.

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Mark Fabiani, special counsel to the Chargers, said that since the end of last year, the football club has contacted about 30 major homebuilders and has had serious discussions with more than 10, including several that are still involved in discussions.

As a result of the talks, the original plan for condos of no more than seven stories could be changed to accommodate a smaller number of buildings that would rise between 15 to 25 stories high, Fabiani said.

“The idea would be to do something similar to what’s happening Downtown. We’d have fewer taller buildings, and that would create more open space,” he said.

Design changes to the Chargers’ project aside, the team said it has given up attempting to develop an agreement with the city through traditional political channels, and will take its plan directly to the voters.


Playing By The Rules

The reason is simple. Nobody knows what’s going on at City Hall these days, Fabiani said.

“When you get down to it, it all comes back to the same thing. We need to know what the rules are, and that these are not going to change. And we also need to know who all the players are,” Fabiani said. “Right now, everything is up in the air, and it’s not a good time for an investment in the city.”

The Chargers said after the City Council declined to appoint a negotiating team in February to work out some plan they could put before the voters, they decided to look at alternatives to get the project approved.

They determined seeking sufficient signatures to qualify the issue for a November 2006 vote through the referendum process was a better way to go. The process entails the team gathering about 68,000 signatures, or 10 percent of the registered voters.

Fabiani said the team is aiming at collecting sufficient signatures next spring to qualify for the November election, and then convince a majority of San Diego city voters that its revised project makes sense.

Among the key components to the team’s plan are:

– Paying for a stadium to replace 34-year-old Qualcomm Stadium.

– Paying for a 30-acre park along the San Diego River.

– Paying for traffic improvements estimated at $175 million.

– Paying off about $55 million in existing bonds used to expand the stadium.

– The city would retain ownership of the new stadium, while the Chargers would operate and maintain it.

The Chargers have been talking about a new stadium for at least four years, and prompted a city appointed task force on the issue that concluded the city should negotiate with the team to build a new stadium that would not involve any cost to the city’s general fund.

The city and the Chargers overcame a major hurdle to working out a deal last year when it settled litigation over a trigger clause in the team’s lease at Qualcomm Stadium.

As part of the settlement, the team also agreed to drop a ticket guarantee clause that required the city to pay a shortfall to a minimum of 60,000 general admission seats for every home game through the end of the 2007 season.

That guarantee cost the city more than $36.4 million.

The latest revision to the Chargers’ plan didn’t convince Bruce Henderson, a longtime opponent to city participation in building sports stadiums, that it was a good one.

“Obviously, from a taxpayer’s point of view, it’s getting better, but we’re still talking about a transfer of about $1 billion of wealth from the city to the Chargers,” said Henderson, a former city councilman and attorney.

He said a fair and appropriate way to determine whether the city was getting a fair deal was to obtain an independent appraisal on the land, taking into account the type of proposed development it would handle.

He said one estimate of what the site is worth is $1 billion.

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