October 22, 2015

SAN DIEGO (AP) Mayor Kevin Faulconer said San Diego's push to build a new stadium for the Chargers took ''a huge step forward'' when Gov. Jerry Brown approved an accelerated judicial review process for any lawsuits filed against the project's environmental impact report.

Once enacted by the legislature's joint budget committee, the certification means any lawsuit challenging the EIR must be resolved within 270 days of the city's certifying the document. The city thinks it can open a new stadium by 2019 even if there is litigation.

''The governor stood up for San Diego and that's a very good thing,'' Faulconer said Thursday.

Chargers attorney Mark Fabiani disagreed, saying the 270-day certification ''is unfortunately irrelevant at this point'' and the ''quickie EIR is fatally flawed.''

The city has proposed building a new stadium at the site of aging Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley.

Fabiani walked away from negotiations in mid-June, in large part because of concerns with the EIR. The Chargers have focused on moving to the Los Angeles area, which will require approval by the league.

In criticizing the 270-day certification in a statement Thursday, Fabiani said NFL owners ''will possibly make the relocation decision in January 2016.''

Stiff-armed by the Chargers, Faulconer has gone straight to the NFL, including meetings with Commissioner Roger Goodell and owners on the Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities

''We have such strong community support here,'' Faulconer said. ''That's why we're taking our case directly to the NFL. ... There's no substitute for face-to-face communication. For them to hear directly from me as mayor, all of the steps that we have taken ... everyone in the NFL was very cognizant of the fact we were going to have a ruling from the governor on AB900. That was very important from a timing standpoint. Yesterday's ruling is just one more positive step for our momentum here in San Diego.''

The Chargers and their archrivals, the Oakland Raiders, have proposed a joint stadium in Carson, an industrial suburb of Los Angeles, if they can't get new stadiums in their home markets. The teams announced their plans after St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke announced his plans for a stadium in Inglewood.

''I can't control what's happening in L.A.,'' Faulconer said. ''But what I can do is continue for us to showcase that we are doing everything and continue to move the ball forward, literally, on a month-by-month basis.''

The city received 18 responses to the draft EIR, which it considers a small number for such a controversial project. Two were professionally prepared, one from the Los Angeles-area law firm of Chatten-Brown & Carstens, and one from San Diego stadium activist Dan McLellan, a former contract employee of the Chargers. McLellan's response included reports from traffic and air quality consultants that have been used in the past by the Los Angeles law firm of Latham & Watkins, which represents the Chargers. McClellan said the reports were leaked to him and has declined to say by whom.

''I think the NFL is aware of all of the comments that have been received,'' Faulconer said. ''I just thought it was odd that some of the most significant comments came from L.A. law firms. That's usually not the case on San Diego projects.''

Fabiani said neither he nor anyone at Latham & Watkins paid for the studies or leaked them to McLellan.

Also Thursday, San Diego attorney Cory Briggs announced specifics of an initiative drive for a ballot measure that would raise San Diego's hotel room tax to 15.5 percent and address several civic issues, including the possibility for the Chargers to build a downtown stadium instead of in Mission Valley.

Briggs said the ''Pay Their Own Way'' Initiative could allow the Chargers to build a stadium downtown next to a proposed non-contiguous expansion of the convention center, but without taxpayer money.

Briggs won a legal challenge of the city's plans to finance an expansion of the convention center with a hike in the hotel tax that was approved by hoteliers, not voters.

The Chargers' plan for a stadium attached to a non-contiguous expansion of the convention center has been opposed by hoteliers.

Briggs bemoaned San Diego's inability to make progress on various projects because of different groups' agendas. He said compromise is the only way to move forward.

Briggs said he explained the initiative to Fabiani a few weeks ago and ''he had no reaction to it.''

Fabiani had no comment on the plan Thursday because he hadn't seen the final text of the initiative.

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Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson

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Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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