San Diego council tries to block MLS stadium referendum by refusing to pay for it

While Cleveland sues itself in a mockery of jurisprudence to get out of public oversight of its NBA arena subsidy plan, the San Diego city council is trying to avoid a proposed public referendum on an MLS soccer stadium (as well as one for a convention center expansion) for different reasons — it wants the vote delayed a year to give more time to figure out what the heck is being voted on — and by different means — the council just up and refused to put money for staging the referendum in the city budget:

Councilwoman Barbara Bry, who chairs the council budget committee, introduced a budget resolution stripping out the $5 million election cost, saying the two measures should wait until the November 2018 general election.

“I want to see a well-crafted measure on the November 2018 ballot,” Bry said, referring to the convention center measure that would increase the hotel room tax that would also fund street improvement and homeless programs. She also prefers a delay on SoccerCity to give time for competing plans to be considered…

But Mayor Kevin Faulconer immediately vowed to veto the council’s action.The mayor has until June 13 to modify the budget as he sees fit, and the council would need six votes to override.

“A City Council majority is supporting the unprecedented step of blocking a public election by stripping funding from the budget,” Faulconer said in a statement. “This short-sighted move results in denying the public a vote and getting nothing accomplished for our city. I intend to use my veto authority to restore the special election funding, while still retaining the added funding for our police, so the City Council can take an up-or-down vote on these urgent ballot measures.”

All this is very exciting, and means exactly squat, so far as I can tell, since the council still needs to vote a week from Monday on whether to put the soccer stadium plan on the November ballot. They could change their minds by then, of course, but given that they just voted overwhelmingly against holding a vote this fall even after MLS deputy commissioner Mark Abbott warned them last week that if the vote is delayed to 2018 it could cost San Diego an expansion franchise (this round of expansion, anyway), that doesn’t seem too likely. Unless, of course, some councilmembers are just trying to induce Mayor Faulconer to haggle more. Gosh, representative democracy is fun!


4 comments on “San Diego council tries to block MLS stadium referendum by refusing to pay for it

  1. The big deal might be the appraisal that set the value of the stadium property at $110 million. That price tag will make the would-be MLS owners examine their financial projections to see if they can add that much money to their budget and still make money on the entire development. Remember, the soccer team alone would require about $200 million to build the stadium and another $150 million for the MLS expansion fee. Add the appraised land value and they’re looking at over $450 million in cost that would have to be covered by profit from developing the rest of the land.

    The high appraisal value also extinguishes SDSU’s dream that the city would just give SDSU the land for free, because giving away a $110 million asset is a political non-starter. Whomever gets to develop the land is going to have to pay that price to the city, or lease the land at a lease rate appropriate to the $110 million property value.

  2. Kinda weird how these guys are sports guys and property developers, but not really already successful at either. No way the MLS2SD team will survive Chapter 11/13. $450MM upfront would mean they’ll rob everyone else trying to “develop” their “re-investment.” Pretty sure even the idiots will not go there once they realize they’ve been drinking $15 Pepsi-colas.

    Soccerstadiumdigest (Populous blog) has their odds on MLS team expansion. It has been up and down and even with four expansion slots, there really isn’t a good market opportunity available. STLOU/AZ are long shots and those are the big boys. Cincy/Indy/Sac aren’t really good markets when you’re paying NBA prices for a team. I bet Bernie Madoff would be in good company with Don Garber and the MLS

    • MLS expansion fees — next round will be $150 million per team — are not even close to NBA team values. The Sacramento Kings last sold for $534 million. The Milwaukee Bucks last sold for $550 million. The NBA would charge more than either of those numbers for an expansion team in a market larger than Milwaukee.

      So, no, $150 million for an MLS franchise is not too much. If some wannabe owner can’t afford to pay, there are many others who will step in and buy a team for their preferred city.

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