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Citizens' initiative proposed for NFL stadium in downtown San Diego

SAN DIEGO – Led by local environmental attorney Cory Briggs, a group of San Diego-area residents crafted a citizens’ initiative, establishing a way to raise money for the building a joint-use NFL stadium and convention center expansion that would keep the San Diego Chargers in town.

Organizers plan to circulate the “Pay Their Own Way” initiative with the aim of qualifying it for the June 2016 ballot. The initiative would increase San Diego’s hotel tax to from 10.5 to 15.5 percent and require a simple majority, not a two-thirds vote.

Money collected would funnel into the city’s general fund and would not be earmarked specifically for a stadium/convention expansion, but could be used for the project.

The group is moving forward with an effort to raise $50,000 for a signature drive to place this initiative on the ballot in June.

Briggs challenged in court and defeated the city’s plans to finance an expansion of the convention center with a hike in the hotel tax that was approved by hoteliers.

The Chargers have maintained that they prefer a downtown stadium alternative over the Mission Valley site selected by San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, but hoteliers oppose an NFL stadium combined with the non-contiguous expansion of the convention center.

“What it does is provide a fallback position if the city’s current plan for Mission Valley falls through,” Briggs told The Mighty 1090 AM radio.

In partnership with the county, Faulconer proposed building a $1.1 billion new NFL stadium at the current site of Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley.

Faulconer contends the Mission Valley project is a much cleaner, quicker process and could be completed by 2019, while a downtown proposal is much more complex and could not be completed until 2024.

The Chargers disagree.

“It’s the best way to get a combined facility for the city that could host all kinds of events,” Mark Fabiani, point person on the stadium situation for the Chargers, told Xtra 1360 Fox Sports Radio about the downtown stadium project. “Not just football games, but Final Fours, major conventions and soccer matches -- the kind of things that Jerry Jones does now in his stadium in Texas. We could do that here.

“The problem is the city has just never been on board. And the reason is simple: The people who are in charge of the city are really no more than puppets for the hotel industry. And the hotel industry does not want the Chargers downtown.”

Also this week, California Gov. Jerry Brown approved an accelerated judicial review process for any lawsuits filed against the environmental impact report for a new stadium at Mission Valley.

The certification means any lawsuit challenging the EIR must be resolved within 270 days of the city’s certification of the document, allowing for the completion of the Mission Valley project by 2019.

However, Fabiani said Brown’s action is irrelevant at this point for several reasons, saying the environmental review remains fatally flawed and NFL owners could make a decision on relocating a team to Los Angeles in January.