California Supreme Court asked to rule on voting for Chargers' stadium plan

SAN DIEGO -- According to San Diego city attorney Jan Goldsmith, the determination of whether the San Diego Chargers need two-thirds or a simple majority of votes for approval of the team’s stadium plan in November could be delayed until December or later.

In order to speed up that process, Goldsmith wrote a letter to the California State Supreme court this week, asking them to expedite a decision on the city of Upland’s appeal that classified citizens’ initiatives as simple majorities.

According to California state law, measures requesting an increase of a special tax for a single purpose in local government require a two-thirds vote.

Goldsmith said his office will put the Chargers’ initiative on the ballot at two-thirds, a painstakingly high bar for the team to reach in order to build a new stadium downtown.

“Let’s say 55 percent of the public says ‘Yeah, let’s go have a downtown stadium,’” Goldsmith said. “And you say, ‘Well, it requires two-thirds. And then you hear later from the Supreme Court that it only requires a majority vote. You don’t want to lose your team like that. And that’s what I’m trying to avoid. That’s not right.”

Goldsmith said his office has to make a determination for the November ballot by Aug. 12 in order to get it into voters’ pamphlets in time. As it stands now, Goldsmith said his office will key the measure in at two-thirds, with the caveat that according to the Supreme Court, it could be less.

Goldsmith said the city would need a decision from the Supreme Court by early December to certify whether the measure passed or failed. Should a ruling not be made by this date, Goldsmith asked the Supreme Court to take jurisdiction over the Chargers' initiative and The Citizens Plan if both get better than a simple majority but do not reach the two-thirds threshold.

“I’m trying to bring some certainty to the process,” Goldsmith said. “By virtue of the Supreme Court hearing the case, it creates a little bit of uncertainty. I want to create some certainty and be fair to the voters. I don’t want to kill the thing because I require two-thirds, and then later on the Supreme Court says it only required a majority. So I’m trying to avoid that scenario.”

The Chargers propose building a $1.8 billion stadium and convention center expansion in downtown San Diego that raises its transient occupancy tax, which is funded by visitors staying at hotels, from 12.5 percent to 16.5 percent.

The revenue collected by the city would go to pay the debt service on $1.15 billion in bonds issued to help pay for land acquisition and construction of an expanded convention center, projected to cost $800 million, along with a third of the cost for a new, $1 billion stadium, of which the city's share is $350 million.

The Chargers and the NFL would contribute $650 million. The NFL would be responsible for $300 million -- $200 million from the G4 stadium loan program and a $100 million gift negotiated as part of the Rams moving back to Los Angeles. The Chargers would contribute $350 million.

The initiative also creates a marketing fund for the city to help promote tourism and conventions in San Diego.

Upon agreement on the proposal, the Chargers would agree to not relocate for 30 years and play all of their home games at the new stadium. The team would be responsible for any cost overruns, along with annual maintenance involving the stadium portion of the project.

The San Diego City Council voted unanimously to put the Chargers citizens’ initiative on the November ballot this week, along with the Citizens Plan, which provides direction on what will be done with land vacated by the Chargers at Mission Valley if a new stadium is built downtown.

However, council members Chris Cate, Scott Sherman, David Alvarez and Lorie Zapf indicated their opposition to locating a stadium downtown.

Cate was assigned to write the opposition opinion to the Chargers' initiative for the November voters’ pamphlet.

Cate also is a member of No Downtown Stadium, an opposition group raising money to defeat the Chargers’ downtown stadium proposal. The group is hosting a petition drive this week at Comic-Con in downtown San Diego to stop the downtown stadium and convention center expansion project.

Councilman Todd Gloria, whose district includes the downtown location where the stadium would be housed, is interested in a financial analysis on the broader implications the project will have on the city.

“This is less about a campaign of any kind,” Gloria said. “This is more about understanding what this may do for the city’s finances going forward.”

San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer still has not offered an opinion on the project.

The Chargers have always proceeded with the understanding that the team’s initiative would require a two-thirds vote. Fred Maas, stadium adviser for the team, continues to emphasize that the project is about more than 10 dates a year for the Chargers.

“What we need is to expand and broaden the base of what is possible here,” Maas told Xtra 1360 Fox Sports Radio. “Not just convention opportunities and having a world-class venue that can hold Super Bowls, but something that can greatly expand the type of activities that we can attract here.

“There’s going to be a lot of naysayers out there, a lot of folks who are going to be saying a lot of things about us sacrificing roads or sacrificing the general fund. It is patently and absolutely untrue. The initiative is clear on its face. We’re willing to make whatever commitment to protect the general fund that we need to. And we just need to beat back some of the folks that are trying to fill the air with misinformation.”

Added Maas: “We are totally committed to trying to find a solution here. We believe it’s important to create something much more in football. And if you live and are a voter in the city of San Diego and you don’t stay in a hotel room, you won’t pay one dime for this facility.”