A ballot measure in San Diego that would have raised hotel taxes to pay for a new Chargers stadium came up far short of the required two-thirds vote Tuesday, leaving the team with an uncertain future in the city.
Measure C, as the initiative was known, would have allowed city officials to raise hotel-room taxes from 12.5 percent to 16.5 percent and use that revenue to pay for a new downtown stadium and convention-center annex next to Petco Park, where the Padres play baseball. But the measure received support from only 41 percent of local voters, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune’s last count, well below the 66.7 percent needed for passage.
Critics of the measure — which the Chargers sponsored and spent millions promoting — contend that the move was nothing but a gift to the team’s wealthy owners, that it underestimated construction costs and that it would not provide a positive economic impact for the city.
The Spanos family, which owns the team, now has a short time to decide the team’s future in San Diego. The NFL has given the Chargers until Jan. 15 to decide whether to join the Rams in the stadium being built for them in the Los Angeles area. The team also could try to work out an alternate deal with San Diego, though owner Dean Spanos said in September that how well Measure C did at the polls would greatly impact his thinking on that.
“I think percentage tells me a lot,” Spanos said, per the Union-Tribune. “If we only get 30 or 35 percent that tells you one thing. If we get 60 percent that tells you something else. I’m anxious to see what’s going to happen on Nov. 8.”
In a letter posted on the team’s website once Tuesday’s outcome became clear, Spanos said no decision will be made immediately.
“In terms of what comes next for the Chargers, it’s just too early to give you an answer,” he wrote. “We are going to diligently explore and weigh our options, and do what is needed to maintain our options, but no decision will be announced until after the football season concludes and no decision will be made in haste.”
There is a clause in the Chargers’ agreement with the NFL, however, that would allow them to put off their decision until January 2018 if there is a public-financing deal on the table with city officials. But Measure C’s rejection at the polls gives the team and the city little time to work something out.
A separate ballot initiative involving a possible Chargers stadium — Measure D — also failed, gaining just 40 percent of the vote. Measure D would have raised hotel taxes to 15.5 percent but would not have allowed the team to use any of that money for a new stadium, instead only promising the Chargers land somewhere in the city.