When last we visited the mechanical aspects of a potentially new Chargers stadium in San Diego, it seemed that the powers-that-be had a pair of major hurdles: Securing public approval (via the ballot box) for taxpayer money and navigating the environmental approval process in a way that allows for any legal challenges to be resolved in a timely fashion. As explained by David Garrick of the San Diego Union-Tribune, that may not be the case.
As explained by Garrick, it all may come down to the vote, and only the vote.
San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith told Garrick that a device known as a “citizen’s initiative” could be used to avoid a more convoluted environmental review process, if the stadium project is engineered to include collateral development at stadium site.
“It would involve re-zoning, it would involve voter approval of not only a stadium but ancillary development, and it would include bypassing the California Environmental Quality Act if it’s done right,” Goldsmith told Garrick.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Chargers definitely intend to pursue the “citizen’s initiative” approach. If a ballot measure is qualified by citizen-based signature gathering, an Environmental Impact Report (which would invite potential legal challenges) is not required. This is the process that was used in 2015 to get clearance for new stadiums in Carson and Inglewood.
The Chargers embarked on the process in late January, with a goal of drafting the initiative by late March, with the gathering of signatures beginning after that. Then, if successful, the measure will be on the November ballot.
It could still be an uphill climb to get the votes necessary to secure the public funding necessary for the stadium, based on recent poll results. But the Chargers and San Diego ultimately may face only that hurdle in order to get the stadium built.