CON: Measure C is a bad deal for city

James Call

I curse Petco Park every time I try to go to the Central Library on a game day. And I go once or twice a week.

I curse a lot.

Library parking is normally free for two hours with library validation. On Padres game day, there is no validation and parking fees are $30 or more — if the garage is not full. Whatever street parking that is available is taken by sports fans for nearly a mile in any direction. All of this makes a trip by car to the library impossible. Damn you, Petco Park!

Enter Measure C, which would approve the downtown Chargers stadium. It would be located just catty-corner to the library on a site now in use as parking for Petco Park, which is just a block away. That parking would be gone as soon as construction began.

Have you ever tried to drive through East Village when a game is commencing or ending? Nightmare. Gridlock on Market, gridlock on 11th, and gridlock on G. The nuisance for nearby residents and library patrons currently caused by Petco Park would be doubled by a new stadium and some of the problems would begin almost immediately.

In an op-ed article that he wrote for Voice of San Diego, architect Ron Quigley says that a Chargers stadium downtown would be an “irreversible and unprecedented planning disaster.” He also says, “Urban planners and architects, whose job it is to envision the consequences of things like this, are unusually united in their opposition to Measure C.”

The Downtown Community Planning Council, an elected group of residents, property owners and business owners, recently roundly rejected the plan of Chargers owner, George Spanos, by a vote of 17-1.

Phoenix just recently rejected a plan to build a stadium next to its ballpark and so did San Francisco.

Called the “Convadium,” the facility would be built to house convention events and is itself a convention center expansion. Spanos makes projections for increases in convention business and hotel occupancy that San Diego hoteliers find wildly inflated.

Lisa Halverstadt, a writer for the Voice of San Diego, reports that a study ordered by the San Diego Tourism Marketing District, which represents the hotels, finds more modest increases in convention business and even a possible net decrease in hotel stays during NFL games.

A national hotel industry website, Hotel News Now, supports these findings.

“Convadium” advocates have tried to give the impression the Comic-Con supports Measure C. When signature-solicitors displayed signs reading, “Keep Comic-Con in San Diego,” David Glanzer, Comic-Con Director of Marketing, wrote an article in The Union-Tribune to correct that falsehood.

He acknowledged growing pains as each year the convention gets bigger, and spoke of the need for a larger facility. Noting that exhibitors balked at being placed upstairs, one floor about the main hall when that was tried, he pointed out that an off-site expansion would serve even less well.

“Comic-Con believes that a contiguous convention center expansion (one that is connected to the current facility) would be best for Comic-Con, and most beneficial for any large event San Diego might host in the future,” he said.

The price tag for the “Convadium,” as reported by KPBS recently, is $1.8 billion. The Chargers and the NFL combined would kick in $650 million, or just over a third of the total cost. The rest would be raised by taxes, most of that coming from a hike in hotel room taxes.

However, the figures in the Spanos plan being optimistically rosy, the Tourism Marketing District finds a significant shortfall in this tax plan. Taxpayers would once again be on the hook for a sports boondoggle.

It’s a mystery why this city wants to continue bending over backwards for Spanos, especially when he has demonstrated such bad faith with the people of San Diego. Ticket guarantees and sweetheart rent deals with the Chargers have cost San Diego taxpayers millions.

The Chargers’ embarrassing and failed attempt to defect to Los Angeles last year would have left San Diegans holding the bag on Qualcomm costs — ten years before they are due to be paid off. And the Convadium plan does the same thing.

The City News Service reports that Councilman Scott Sherman, who represents Mission Valley, opposes the measure, as do Councilmen Chris Cate and David Alvarez.

It is strenuously opposed by Chris Ward, who in December will begin representing The East Village, where the stadium would be built.

He says, “On top of being a bad deal for taxpayers, Measure C disregards public process and smart land use planning. I stand with downtown residents and councilmembers on both sides of the aisle to ask San Diegans to vote No on Measure C.”