NFL expected to begin more serious negotiations for temporary L.A. homes

With all signs pointing to the NFL returning to Los Angeles by the 2016 season – with a new stadium to be built by 2018 – the team or teams relocating here will obviously need a temporary home to play.

In case you didn’t notice, 2016 is right around the corner, so it’s probably in everybody’s best interest to get something locked down.

Looks like that’s exactly what the NFL is preparing to do.

NFL vice president Eric Grubman, who is spearheading the Los Angeles efforts, confirmed to me the league is likely to begin more serious discussions with various venues within the next few weeks.

The league has set no particular timeline or deadline, but is expected to go forward with negotiations for one or more
leases at the league level that would be assignable to any club or clubs that gets approved for relocation.

Among the possible sites are the Coliseum, Rose Bowl, Dodgers Stadium and Anaheim Stadium.

But the league expects to be creative and have an open mind, which means smaller venues could be in play and venues in
alternative cities could be in play.

NFL: What to expect at today’s Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities meeting

The Rams and Chargers and Raiders will give updates to the NFL’s Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities about their local stadium situations and their stadium projects in Inglewood and Carson this afternoon in New York.

While part of the updates will involve what’s going on in St. Louis and San Diego and Oakland, make no mistake, this is about selling Inglewood or Carson as the site the NFL should chose for its triumphant return to Los Angeles.

And with the league closing in on a decision about who will relocate to Los Angeles by the end of 2015 – and at what site – the Rams and Chargers and Raiders will undoubtedly be selling their L.A. dreams today.

For the Rams, that means pushing owner Stan Kroenke’s Inglewood stadium site.

For the Raiders and Chargers, it’s extolling the virtues of the joint stadium they are proposing in Carson should new homes not emerge in Oakland and Dan Diego.

And what does that mean, exactly?

The Rams strategy appears to be selling their site and their long history in Los Angeles as insuring a successful return to Los Angeles, while also being willing participants in helping the Chargers and Raiders secure financially beneficial new stadiums and futures.

With a ready made fan base in L.A., the financial mite of a multi-billionaire owner, and an extravagant stadium  on a site Los Angeles fans are familiar with, the Rams will push their plan as the best bet for the NFL’s re-entry into the second-biggest market in the country after a 20-year absence.

The thinking is clear: The NFL has one shot to get it right in L.A. and that’s the Rams in Inglewood. And with room to add another team, either the Chargers or Raiders can be brought on. Once that mission is completed, attention will turn to insuring the third team’s objectives are met.

As for the Chargers and Raiders sales pitch, longtime NFL executive Carmen Policy will lead the presentation. He gave me a preview of his update – which you can read here – and the basis is that Carson offers a solution to two California teams stadium situations. And they will do it as partners in a two-teamed owned stadium

As Policy told me:

“The NFL has been saying since I’ve been involved with NFL committees involved in L.A., whenever the NFL returns to L.A. it will do so with plans to bring two teams. There position is, eventually there will be two teams in L.A. Everything we have studied, everything we have looked at, says if you are going to bring two teams to L.A. the wise, most prudent, most strategic thinking to do is to bring them to L.A. at the same time. Part of that is marketing, but more importantly, we have found that the concept of owner-team, tenant-team doesn’t work. All it does is breed complexity, conflict and sometimes even contempt. One team will always be viewed as the home team. The other team is viewed as the team paying rent. So from the outset, you do it correctly so you aren’t building a stadium that the owner designs and oh, by the way, I’ll make accommodations for the second team and their idea of accommodations is putting in extra locker rooms.

“Look at the 49ers, that’s their stadium. They designed it. Everything about that stadium speaks to the 49ers and their ownership. They did design it in a way that you could say it accommodates a second team. But that second team wouldn’t just be a secondary tenant, they’d feel it all the way through and you couldn’t help but operate it in a fashion that reflects that.

“Here we are with a chance to take two California teams, in the two worst stadium situations in the NFL – they’re in trouble – and you can cure that with one move and build a spectacular building that each of those teams own. And it’s in the perfect available spot in L.A.

“If you just follow the logic, it pushes you to a logical conclusion. And we believe that is Carson.”

Making that case continues today in New York. Down the road, all 32 owners will gather for a special meeting in Chicago August 11 to hear the latest updates to that point.

And at some point after that, the NFL will get down to the business of deciding what team or teams will relocate to Los Angeles, and where they will play.

Could San Diego petition NFL for more time on stadium plan?

On Monday, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer detailed a new timeline he thinks could satisfy the NFL’s deadline for an approved Chargers stadium plan by the end of 2015.

After meeting with Chargers owner Dean Spanos for the second time in less than a week, Falconer said that, should San Diego and the Chargers come to an agreement on the financing and site for a new stadium, the city council could call a special election for mid December, 2015, to ratify the plan.

Keep in mind, the NFL hopes to finalize plans on Los Angeles relocation by the end of the year. That means deciding between the Chargers and Oakland Raiders Carson stadium plan or St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s Inglewood stadium or perhaps the three teams working together to come up with a resolution in which everyone comes away satisfied.

Which brings us back to San Diego and the hope of getting a new stadium approved by the end of 2015.

The mayor’s thinking seems to be the typical – and lengthy – California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process associated with a project of this magnitude can be circumvented by declaring that the stadium is “categorically exempt” from CEQA. Essentially, this means the City will argue that CEQA does not apply to the new stadium because it is simply replacing the old stadium.

It sounds interesting, but there are legitimate concerns that taking this route might leave the project vulnerable to lengthy court battles. If so, the NFL’s 2015 deadline will come and go and the Chargers may end up with no stadium plan in San Diego and no fallback plan in Los Angeles.

In other words, risky business.

Without boring you with too many of the details, the primary concern is that “categorical exemptions” disappear whenever you can show that a project will have “unusual environmental impacts.”

And what sort of unusual environmental impacts might be associated with building an NFL stadium?

Truck traffic in the surrounding neighborhoods during construction. Parking and congestion impacts in the surrounding neighborhoods when, for the three years of construction, more than a third of the existing parking lot will be unavailable. Dewatering impacts, which means that during construction water will be used to compact soil and for other purposes, which means that the water will sink into the existing toxic plume under the site, disturbing the plume.

And with the new stadium being on a different part of the site than the existing stadium, it will be closer to homes and a fuel tank farm. That means noise, light, traffic and potential safety concerns.

Long story short, it’s not hard to imagine someone stepping forward with any or all of these concerns and challenging the projects “categorical exemptions” status with a lawsuit.

And keep in mind, all of this is still contingent on San Diego and the Chargers brokering a satisfactory financing plan.

As you can see, between the financing concerns and the strong potential for lawsuits, it would be a tremendous leap of faith on the Chargers and NFL part to sign off on such a plan.

So my question is, rather than foolishly cutting corners and leaving the plan dangerously vulnerable – just to meet a deadline – why doesn’t San Diego petition the NFL to give the city an extra year to work on this?

That would mean doing a proper EIR  and complying fully with CEQA.

And having a November 2016 election – even if it means one that will ask San Diego city and county residents to approve a tourist tax such as a hotel tax, or car rental tax, to try to generate new revenues to pay for the project?

The bottom line, buy more time to get this right.

After doing some poking around this morning, this is what San Diego needs to show to possibly slow this train down a bit:

1. Show real progress and actions that proves the effort is serious.

2. Create a project that interests the team.

But there are provisions.

1. There needs to be a clear recognition that a failure would probably result in the team moving. In other words, no third chances.

2. A Los Angeles site with one team is put in place, with a clear path for a second team to join in one year.

It might not be the perfect solution for everyone involved – and for sure the Chargers will have to think long and hard about losing leverage in Los Angeles and negotiating power to deal with Stan Kroenke.

But if you are San Diego isn’t it worth a shot?

Chargers not happy with recent tactics in San Diego

With emotions already running high as San Diego leaders try to come up with a stadium plan to keep the Chargers in San Diego, it looks like a local Republican business club with ties to Mayor Kevin Faulconer is taking steps to muddy the waters between the city and the club.

The San Diego-based Lincoln Club, which paid close to $50,000 in negative advertising during  Faulconer’s mayoral campaign as well as publicly endorsed him, recently sponsored a negative Facebook post criticizing the Chargers.

NFL to Los Angeles

Sponsoring Facebook posts in an effective and inexpensive way to hit a targeted audience.

It wasn’t the only negative Facebook post the Lincoln Club directed at the Chargers, as you can see here.

The mayor isn’t the only stadium-related link to the Lincoln Club. Turns out the spokesman for Mayor Faulconer’s stadium task force – Tony Manolatos – represented the Lincoln Club in 2014 when the club was accused of going too far in paying for a negative ad against City Councilman and then-mayoral candidate David Alvarez.

Manolatos told me this morning he no longer works for the Lincoln Club.

Needless to say, the message and timing of the recent Facebook posts aren’t just curious, it’s potentially damaging.

The Chargers will meet with city officials for the second time in less than a week on Monday – and will bring the team’s financing, land use and election law experts.

Needless to say, the club is not happy at all with the recent tactics.

That sentiment was expressed Sunday in a statement by Chargers’ counsel Mark Fabiani:

“This new negative advertising campaign against the Chargers – launched just as the team began negotiations with the city – speaks volumes about what the Mayor and his political operatives have really been up to on this issue from the start: They have always seemed more concerned with political cover than with actually building a stadium.” Fabiani said.

I put a call into Mayor Faulconer’s Chief of Staff – Stephen Puetz – at 5 pm Sunday but at had not heard back from him by the time this post was published. I will update as needed.

Late Sunday night, Lincoln Club Executive Director Ryan Clumpner emailed me the following statement:

“We are a private organization and post on Facebook as we see fit. We sponsor all our posts. No elected officials have any say in what we post, nor will we be bullied by Mr. Fabiani

“The question we asked on Facebook was whether the Chargers want a new stadium or would rather move to L.A. If Mr. Fabiani was so threatened by that question that he is complaining about it to the NFL, then I think we all know the answer.”

In any event, with time of such an essence as the Chargers try to secure a new home in San Diego – or look to Los Angeles for a new home – this probably isn’t the best time to be throwing mud.

Should make for an interesting meeting Monday, that’s for sure.


Timing seems to be motivation for who Chargers are bringing to Monday’s meeting

As I reported Friday, the Chargers are bringing some key players to their meeting with San Diego officials on Monday about the Mission Valley stadium plan.

In case you missed it, the Chargers are expected to bring a Goldman Sachs banker and attorneys from the law firm of Latham & Watkins to Monday’s meeting with City of San Diego representatives, the second stadium meeting within the last week.

The Chargers experts from Goldman and Latham are part of the same
group that helped structure the team’s proposal for an LA stadium in

Latham’s lead lawyer, George Mihlsten, is a prominent expert on
California land use and ballot initiative law.

The question is, why the need for this type of expertise at this point in negotiations?

Keep in mind, this is all about timing.

If I’m the Chargers and San Diego leaders, it’s incumbent I get this wrapped up before the end of 2015. The NFL is on a fast track back to Los Angeles, and with momentum growing for the Chargers-Raiders stadium in Carson and Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke pushing his Inglewood stadium plan, time is running out on San Diego getting a viable stadium plan done before the NFL will decide between Carson or Inglewood, or the Chargers, Raiders and Rams work out an amicable solution in which all their needs and wants are satisfied.

That means the Chargers need assurances San Diego’s plan can be delivered in time.

Which beings us back to Mihlsten, who is an expert on California land use and ballot initiative law.

It doesn’t take a law degree to figure out the Chargers are likely trying to figure out whether any kind of deal can be placed before the voters in 2015 – rather than 2016, as expected – given the requirements of California’s Environmental Quality Act and the state Elections Code.

In other words, there is no point negotiating a comprehensive
financial package – if one could even be negotiated – if there is no
way to get it on the ballot in time for the NFL to make a decision
about LA.

That is why Monday’s meeting might be so critical to the process.

It shouldn’t take long to figure out if this can get to a vote by the end of 2015. If so, it’s full steam ahead hammering out a deal. If not, what’s the point?