Friday, June 6, 2008

Fabiani takes college activists to ‘summer school’

Chargers’ special counsel Q&A highlights active day for new group
By Brandon Stone
San Diego Stadium Watch

About 25 members of the student activist group Bringing Awareness To The Chargers Stadium Search discussed stadium negotiations with Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani Thursday at the Promenade in Mission Valley.

Fabiani talked to the group for an hour, breaking down what the team has attempted to do over the past six years, the positives and negatives with both potential sites in Chula Vista, and what the group could do to further their cause.

Fabiani said that grassroots groups such as BACSS are vital because “they are genuine [and] not something that someone has organized for political purposes.”

“[It’s good] to have that kind of support out there and to be able to tell elected officials that this is the kind of support we have,” Fabiani said. “We have guys that are coming together on their own; spending their own money … they’re renting rooms out of their own pocket. That’s impressive.”

The youth base of the group makes Fabiani even more interested. Unlike other talks he has done in San Diego County, BACSS is made up of younger people gathered through social networks such as Facebook, as well as message boards.

“We feel like this is a lot more different than other grassroots movements,” group leader Tom Channick said. “… I hope that [Fabiani] opens up his arms and embraces our movement.”

Fabiani feels that organizations who tie themselves with the Chargers would be open to more scrutiny for their real intentions. “We’ll be helpful if we can, but we also want these groups to remain independent,” Fabiani said.

The members of BACSS have far-reaching goals for their organization over the next few months. The group is planning mass mailings to Chula Vista residents, billboards, rallies, and various Internet-related projects such as advertising, e-mail lists and podcasts – all of which emphasize the newer trends of publicizing causes. In a world where presidential candidates succeed through web functionality, BACSS pushes the youth movement.

“You have the ability to influence by what you write about a story,” Fabiani said.

The group’s next move is to hold a rally with up to 200 near the South Bay Power Plant, tentatively scheduled for July 5th.

“We’re going to go out to sports places and trade shows, set up tents and publicize that rally,” Channick said.

Fabiani made it clear to the group that while cooperation with local government and quality locations have been a plus, the numbers of the operation loom over the project. Fabiani noted that the overall cost of the project has doubled in cost since the original proposal of a stadium in Mission Valley funded by 60 acres of condos. The original project would have been $450 to $600 million. Current projections land at $1.2 billion.

Questions were also raised about Ed Roski’s plans for a stadium in the City of Industry. Fabiani did not hide the relationship between the Spanos family and Roski, and said that the Chargers informed Roski they were still dedicated to the Chula Vista situation.

“I don’t know how [Roski] gets it done with any team this quickly,” Fabiani said. “There’s a lot to get done, no matter what team it is.”

BACSS began in February 2007 after Channick saw trends of apathy about what the Chargers were doing.

“Some of us were shocked by the lack of urgency around us,” Channick said. “[People] aren’t even aware of the controversies.”

It is that sense of urgency that drives BACSS to do the hard work sitting in front of them. As far as Channick is concerned, BACSS is ready for it.

“We’re not going to let this team go without a fight,” Channick said.

Slideshow of the BACSS Meeting with Mark Fabiani

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Links: Election Fallout, Port's Open House

Today was spent at the BACCS event, and a report on that can be expected tomorrow. In the meantime, how about those elections?

The important races with the stadium in mind were seats three and four on the Chula Vista City Council. In the next few days, expect to see how all four candidates feel about a stadium in Chula Vista. Another proposition was shot down that would have restricted the height of buildings in the city, similar to the rule San Diego has.

Mayor Sanders won re-election outright last night, and today said that he will not assist the Chargers in staying in Mission Valley during his new term in office.

As for the Port of San Diego, the Enviromental Impact Report concerning the bay front is up for public review from now until July 8th. An open house meeting is scheduled for June 16 at the South Bay Fish and Grill. You can find the EIR here.

Friday, May 30, 2008

New activists raise awareness both in group and online

Group to hold meeting with Fabiani on June 5th
By Brandon Stone
San Diego Stadium Watch

Thinking that his city is on the verge of losing its team, Tom Channick has had enough. Instead of waiting for his nightmares to become real, it was time for the concerned citizens to make a difference.

“The only people that are speaking up are negative,” the 21-year old San Diego State student said.

Through talking to others in person and through the Facebook network, concerns are turning into a new chance for Channick to keep the team of his youth in San Diego.

That spirit of change fuels Bringing Awareness of the Chargers Stadium Search, a new grassroots group focused on keeping the Chargers in San Diego County. The group is holding a public meeting at 2 p.m. on the June 5th at the Promenade in Mission Valley. Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani will be taking questions on how the process has gone so far and what the team is attempting to accomplish.

“If we get some good feedback from this event, we can have a rally at the same time as the [release of] the feasibility study,” Channick said.

Channick started BACSS in February 2008, after sensing apathy and disbelief from San Diego residents. The group is currently building a resource website that will have daily articles, e-mail lists and printable signs and stickers. The group also wants to start direct-mail advertising to Chula Vista residents, as well as advertising via billboards.

“People don’t think this is real,” 21-year-old site designer Peter Nudo said. “By doing this, we’re trying to keep people aware.”

BACSS hopes that they can give the Chargers local evidence that all types of San Diegans want the Chargers to remain in the county.

“The team feels like they can wait longer because there are people behind them,” Channick said.

Channick’s group is mainly for college students and middle-aged adults. It is primarily web-based - its Facebook group has more than 200 people.

“Fabiani’s been looking for something like this,” Channick said of the group’s youth movement. He cited how this group’s makeup shows a lifetime commitment to the stadium that other older grassroots groups cannot provide. Group members don’t just include Charger fans. People from other communities in California are taking part, even those who want to see football in locales such as Los Angeles – but not at San Diego’s expense.

The group also wants to convince city leaders that the Chargers’ plans are good for the community.

“You can’t change any city official’s mind without the movement of people,” Channick said.

The group has thrown its support behind Brian Manscheim and John McCann already, stating that they are looking out for the best interests of the Chargers.

“If [the politicians] know they’re the last remaining hope, they’ll bend to the pressure,” Channick said.

While Channick and his crew believe that Qualcomm Stadium has been good to San Diego and holds many memories, it is time for the team to move on to a new home. And with time running out, this group believes in the urgency of now.

“Now it is the 11th hour,” Channick said.

BACSS can be found on Facebook by searching for “Students 4 A New Stadium” or going to newstadium4sd.com.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Brick by brick, we're building it up

So things have changed around here a little bit...

I'm still getting some ... extra pages, we'll call them ... set up elsewhere. But this is the bulk of it. Some stuff may stop working randomly over the next 72, but getting around the site should be fine. There are things to look forward to in the near future if you're a member of Digg or Facebook.

In the meantime, here's the Union-Tribune article on the Chargers vs. Sanders, as well as Fabiani's letter.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Chargers getting caught up in mayoral race

The Chargers are letting the public know they favor no candidate in the San Diego mayoral race between incumbent Jerry Sanders and Steve Francis in the wake of a controversial phone banking comment.

According to the Chargers, Sanders' campaign has told voters through the telecommuncations group that Francis has attempted to Republican special interest groups. Chargers owner Alex Spanos is included in that list. Fabiani called these actions "dishonest and hypocritical."

Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani sent a letter to the Sanders campaign, asking them to desist with the calls that are "deliberately designed to leave voters with the false impression that ... the Chargers support your challenger, Steve Francis."

Francis' campaign is mainly self-funded.

According to Fabiani, Sanders approached the Chargers in late April asking for donations, to which the Chargers declined, claiming they were not supporting any candidates in the race.
Spanos has given millions to Republicans over the last few decades. Since 1980, he has given more than $6.7 million to Republican or special interest groups, including $20,000 to the California Republican party in 2007.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Site Redesign Coming This Week

All the new stuff is coming in this week. Things will start looking different as early as Wednesday. I have a couple new features coming that you all are really going to like.

We'll also hve some coverage of this Port Commission's decisions regarding the bay front Master Plan. You can read more about it here for now.

The enivonmental impact report is very interesting to go over, but the commission makes it clear they have accepted the demand for development in the region. There is a notable lack of stadium talk, and based on conversations with the commission this is because the group doesn't like to deal in what they consider to be hypotheticals. If there isn't a proposal going to vote or an application filled out, they don't want to deal with it.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Chula Vista cops ready for stadium task

Can law enforcement take on a new stadium?
By Brandon Stone
San Diego Stadium Watch

The gruff voice of public information officer Bernard Gonzales confidently says what over 212,000 Chula Vistans need to know. Can the Chula Vista police department patrol and control if there’s a new stadium in their town?

“I don’t think there any question that we can do that,” Gonzales said.

It is a question that hasn’t been addressed as much as others since Chula Vista began its talks with the San Diego Chargers. Lost in the shuffle of taxes, environment and feasibility is safety. Stadiums attract many things – tourism, events and commercial interests are just the tip of the iceberg – but the core of all of it is people. The problem is that it doesn’t designate which people it attracts. For every Charger fan that would come through a Chula Vista turnstile to cheer for their team, another could come in with a knife or a gun – or some thing even worse.

“We have discussed various options in very general terms with the City of Chula Vista,” Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani said, “but since we don't even have a final site at this point, those discussions have not moved beyond the very preliminary stages. These issues are very important for host cities, of course, and they deserve careful consideration.”

The department has been part of the city council’s talks with the Chargers, but hasn’t been primarily focused on.

“I don’t think we were the first people on the list to be informed,” Gonzales said, “but certainly during meeting with higher-ups at the city the police department was included in the loop. I’m sure early on in the process the question had to have been asked – what do you think about this stadium idea? Could the police department handle it? City leaders have certainly asked that before.”

Despite its recent financial woes, Chula Vista is still a city on the move. Population has rocketed and homes that now contribute to the city’s budget problems were once booming with new renters and owners. The police department had that in mind when building their current station in 2004. That same station will be depended on to strategize in case a stadium comes to the city.

“The new police station was built for expansion into the future,” Gonzales said. “It took a police department that was crammed into a small 50,000 square foot facility and placed that department into a 150,000 square foot facility. … Chula Vista is growing, and the building was meant to serve the community for the next 25 to 30 years, if not longer.”

Protection and safety in stadiums are nothing new. According to crime studies, over half of U.S. football stadiums are located in high-risk crime neighborhoods. More and more stories of violence in parking lots come out. Traffic accidents on highways and streets go up.

The people who run Qualcomm Stadium battle this every season. The stadium features a long list of rules for those that come into the area, and the stadium is policed by a mix of San Diego police on foot, car and horseback along with Elite Security and the Highway Patrol keep the area as safe as they can manage. San Diego Police’s Special Events Unit leads the stadium effort. Lt. Dan Chrisman of Special Events declined to be interviewed for this reporting, noting that the main role of his group is to maintain traffic flow.

Crime inside the Qualcomm Stadium parking lot isn’t a small thing. According to police records on Sundays from September 2007 to November 2007, there is a spike in crime between game days and other days. On September 9, for example, 90 incidents were recorded. They included violations for traffic, public drunkenness, and narcotics. Compare that with September 16, where only four incidents were reported. Of the 466 total incidents recorded, all but 19 were during Chargers games.

In Chula Vista, protection on this scale has not been done on a regular basis. Chula Vista police serve one of the 100 biggest cities in the nation as well as indirectly police visitors and aliens from the Mexican border, but the department has never covered a professional stadium the way one on the bay front or east side would ask them to do. Cities in comparable size to Chula Vista that host major venues are New Orleans, Lubbock and Orlando, and only Lubbock has favorable trends as of late. A bonus for the department is that Chula Vista police chief Rick Emerson hails from Pasadena, where he dealt with UCLA games and the Rose Bowl each year.

No matter what information is out there, the department is still dealing with the unknown.

“Until you see a plan,” Gonzales said, “until you see a stadium, until you get an agreement, it’s hard to react and respond to these things and it’s hard to have an opinion about it because all you have is an idea. You don’t have anything that says ‘Here’s where it’s going to go, here’s what its going to look like, here’s what we’re going to do with it, and here’s how your services are going to be needed.’ Until then, it’s all speculation.”

Even with speculation, organizations still need to be prepared. Officers still need to be trained on how to handle the situation, enforcement has to work on communication skills, and equipment has to be ordered. Everything must fit with the needs of a building that attracts as many as 100,000 people on a given Sunday.

Some of the forces that could be used for Charger games include a special task force sent out by the police department for traffic control while the others work the surface streets like normal.

“If you put a stadium next to a trolley station, it’s going to reduce the traffic … that would be entering the stadium,” Gonzales said. “If you put it out in the middle of a field somewhere and you’ve got to build roads to it that would have a different type of impact.”

The Chargers would still have to plan on hiring their own paid private security. According to Gonzales, it would be up to the Chargers to control the stadium internally.

“The stadium would be under the private ownership of whoever decides to build it,” Gonzales said. “It’s not owned by the police department, so we would not handle it.”

If the stadium ends up on the bay front, then agencies such as the Harbor Patrol, Coast Guard and even U.S. Customs could come into play. The Port of San Diego controls protection there, and currently has vessel patrol for wildlife, a vehicle team, a bike team and mobile command vehicles.

A media relations employee for the Port of San Diego withdrew comment, only saying that they would work within the Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan to protect the area.

“If the stadium is in our jurisdiction, we become the primary law enforcement agency,” Gonzales said. “Everybody in the county communicates over the same radio system, so communication is not a major issue. We have good relationships with every law enforcement agency in the county. Building those bridges in terms of communicating on a major event isn’t something that is difficult.”

Even if Chula Vista has the time, resources and power to keep a stadium in line, there is still the money issue. With jobs on the line all over Chula Vista, the police department may not be able to afford putting in the funds to upgrade or create service.

The Chargers promised Chula Vista a privately funded stadium. They did not promise funds for protecting it.

“Obviously, teams that have needs that require the local police department,” Gonzales said. “They pay for those needs to mitigate the impact of the city. So we would expect that the same type of things would happen here.”

Fabiani did not commit to funding law enforcement, but did endorse the importance of “evaluate carefully the public safety cost implications” when building a stadium.

“Generally speaking, in the NFL teams and cities split costs in some form or fashion,” Fabiani said. “In some places, for example, teams pay for all services inside the stadium premises and cities provide services outside the stadium.”

Gonzales thinks the police department is ready to take up that task.“The police department doesn’t create its needs,” Gonzales said, “it responds to what the city requires … we respond to what the city needs. …We respond and we adjust. And that’s what we would do with the stadium.”

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

WatchCast - Podcast #1

The first edition of WatchCast is finally here! However - due to some server hosting problems, it has to be downloaed rather than streamed.

You can get the show here.

In the show, there's a rundown of headlines, some delicious commentary on the state of news media, and some interviews I did with attendees of Chargers mini-camp over the weekend. Hope you enjoy it!

Be back later this week for a little chat about police and stadium protection. Keep safe out there.

Dean Spanos talks about the stadium

Chargers.com has an interview with team president Dean Spanos concerning the team's preparation for the fall and stadium progress.

Spanos says that management is "concentrating all of [its] efforts on the last possible San Diego County sites." He notes the financing study, which he says will come in the next two to three months. He noted the Gaylord site as most critical to the stadium's viability.

Here's part of his comment addressing his relationship with Ed Roski:

“Ed Roski is a friend of mine. Our fathers were in the development business together, and we’ve talked about various development projects over the years. Ed has told me about his plans for a Los Angeles stadium. And I’ve told Ed that the Chargers’ focus continues to be in San Diego. We’ve tried very hard to work something out here.”

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Couple Of Links & The May Rundown

Happy end of April to all the stadium watchers out there. Let's get to the quick links.

-A Nick Canepa column details the links between Ed Roski and Chargers ownership.

Last week, when Roski proposed building an $800 million NFL stadium on 600 acres of pre-zoned land he owns in the lovely City of Industry – about 20 miles east of L.A. – I wondered aloud: “What's in it for him?”
...And, of course, the Chargers immediately came to mind, because they're looking for new digs and can take off following the 2008 season. Do not rule that out.

-Another SDUT article shows a link between campaign finaning and bay front development. Alfred and James Baldwin, developers from Orange County, have spent over $11,000 on various campaigns. The stadium link comes with eastern Chula Vista, a place where the team would most likely build homes and commercial space to help fund a bay front stadium. Baldwin companies have special rights to that land, and would collect major funds if the Chargers built in the area.

Baldwin money has gone to three main people - Mayor Sanders and two candidates for City Council, April Boling and Carl DeMaio. The two have similar plans and backgrounds, and both are not critical of Sanders' policies. Do the Baldwins favor these two with Sanders because they may not want a new stadium in Mission Valley? There are other factors. Both the candidates largely favor remaking infrastructure, something that the Baldwin companies can work on. There is certainly more to this, and Stadium Watch will have it.

Now, let's talk about May. There are a lot of things going on this month - and SDSW has a lot of plans.

On May 4th, SDSW will be at Chargers Mini-Camp in Kearny Mesa taking opinions from Charger fans about the negotiations. This will lead to SDSW's first podcast, coming sometime during that week.

May 6th is the scheduled date for the Port Commission to meet with San Diego Community Solutions about the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal. While SDSW won't be at the meeting, there will certainly be coverage of what takes place.

For May 9th, there will be a feature on the Chula Vista Police Department. Is law enforcement ready and able to control a stadium on the bay front? What steps will they have to take? Does stepping up the force mean more taxes for Chula Vistans?

Finally, the last week of May will come with a new look for SDSW. New colors, fonts, bars, links - we're changing everything for the summer. Stay tuned.