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An interview with CCDC President Fred Maas on the possible Chargers stadium Downtown

January 29, 2010 - 4:05 pm

On Thursday, I chatted with Fred Maas, president of the board of the Centre City Development Corporation—which administers redevelopment Downtown on behalf of the city of San Diego—about the proposal to build a football stadium in East Village. Here’s how it went:

CityBeat: Given the fact that CCDC has paid $160,000 for sports-stadium expert Mitchell Ziets to help CCDC deal with the Chargers, that would lead someone to assume that CCDC finds its own value in negotiating with the team, right?

Fred Maas: We certainly see the value in being prepared to negotiate with the Chargers.

But the Chargers are a private business, so it must be a very special private business to compel CCDC to spend public money to be prepared for a proposal.

No, I think if you take a look at lots and lots of things that we’ve done of a large scale, we’ve engaged people to look at things beyond just a private individual, whether it’s the civic center [project], whether it was engaging people on our park plans, whether it was engaging a group to talk about sustainability issues. We’ve done this in a number of different instances. Clearly, this, if it happens, is a very significant transaction and opportunity for Downtown that warrants preparation. But we’ve made significant expenditures over the years on other projects that would never even rise to your attention. We spent $26 million on the Balboa Theatre and engaged lots of different historical folks to counsel us on what the most prudent course of business was. So, we’ve done this routinely—not in something that is potentially as visible as a football stadium.

I think the civic center is as good an example as any, given that the studies we embarked on that were significantly more than what we spent for Evolution Media [consultants on the stadium proposal]. I’m not sure anyone questioned [them] as being an imprudent expenditure to define the boundaries of what made sense for the civic center.

But that’s a public building.

Involving a private developer…

But the private developer was responding to a request for proposals.

Well, sure… but when we first embarked on the civic center, there was a huge private component being contemplated. So, while we’re talking flavors of apples, I don’t think we’re talking apples to oranges. We spent an enormous amount of money on the Navy Broadway Complex and brought in outside consultants, had a design-review panel that we spent money on—a number of things to try to improve the design of Navy Broadway… which no one seemed to question.

But that one had its own set of circumstances. It was a development agreement from the 1990s, and the city and CCDC were pretty much backed into a corner and you’re just trying to make the best of it.

And we’re trying to make the best of this, too. … In each one of these circumstances, there are nuances and twists that justify the expenditure of our funds that were unique in their own nature.

It has been our belief that this is going to be a long and complicated discussion, and we want to, as fiduciaries of the city, be fairly armed in our conversations with a very sophisticated developer-tenant-owner, and I’m always one to believe that we should have the finest talent we can possibly recruit to be there to engage in those conversations.

You’ve said that something has to happen at this site. Can you elaborate on that?

If you explore the activities that are currently on the [Metropolitan Transit System] site [which has been identified for a possible football stadium, just east of Petco Park], and you look at our community plan, in which some redevelopment or reuse of that site is contemplated… my guess is that it’s somewhere between $50 [million] and $100 million to remediate the site, acquire an appropriate alternative site for MTS and then relocate their existing activities. … It is going to take some significant development to warrant that kind of expenditure of funds. Put aside whether it’s a stadium that makes that possible. But it’s certainly going to have to be something that’s momentous. Merely putting an office building there or a residential complex or something else will not justify the expenditure to prepare a site of that magnitude. … Even if we’re going to put a surface parking lot there or a park, we’re still looking at a very significant expenditure of funds.

Can you think of other types of development that would reach that threshold?

I haven’t be able to think of anything yet.

After this week’s CCDC meeting, you said a nuclear power plant.

I was toying with you, but that certainly would justify the expenditure. Frankly, nothing comes to mind, but I’m certainly open to any opportunity that may make sense, but in order to justify $100 million for a 10-acre site Downtown, [it has to be] pretty significant in this day and age.

Have any projects currently in the pipeline in the immediate vicinity of the proposed stadium site been put on hold pending the Chargers’ proposal?

No… things have been on hold, frankly, for a couple reasons: 1) the general economic state, but 2) there have always been real reservations about that site and what would happen there. The sites that I thought were most ripe were the two parcels that JMI [former Padres owner John Moores’ company] owned—clearly because of the Ballpark Village opportunity—but even that’s been put on hold. So, my sense is—and I’m just speaking as an individual—that something will have to happen at that site to fully realize the redevelopment opportunities on all the properties that are adjacent to the current MTS site.

Was there anything during Mitchell Ziets’ presentation this week that gave you new insights about the financing of the stadium?

One was that in virtually every case [of teams that have recently built new stadiums], the team had taken all construction risk exposure, as well as operating-deficit exposure. That was enlightening to me, that they would be willing to do that. [There are] potential opportunities that had never been discussed in the context of a negotiation like this that may be sources of revenue. I think it leaves open certain conversations of pioneering new ground with the NFL and with the team about opportunities for shared revenues to recover private investments. I think this was very helpful. You always like to see what has happened before to define the boundaries of what’s been acceptable when you’re dealing with an institution like we’re dealing with here. I was, frankly, astounded by the amount of facilities around the country that have all had public financing—and to the extent that they’ve had public financing.

What about the feasibility of redevelopment financing of this project?

There are threshold questions that I don’t want to be prejudicial on—clearly, how we raise this cap [on how much cumulative redevelopment CCDC can do] is a threshold determination of how we make this work. I don’t want to prejudge that process. We hope that we get the permission of the Redevelopment Agency [the City Council] to go forward, but to the extent that the cap is lifted, that eliminates a significant impediment to even considering this proposal or many other proposals. Assuming that the cap gets lifted, then the next threshold question is, is there sufficient tax increment [increased property taxes generated by redevelopment] in the near term to provide the amount of capital to infuse into a project like this or any other projects that we might be considering. We’ve got a long way to go before we’re at a point at which we have any level of certainly as to how this will work.

But I can say this: I think the possibilities and opportunities of a stadium in this location, if done the proper way, assuming a negotiation that makes sense for the city and the public, can be very, very exciting. To create an environment akin to L.A. Live [the area around Staples Center in Los Angeles] in that edge of the East Village, with a moderate stadium completely surrounded with various pedestrian experiences, retail and restaurants and other things, that may or may not include some type of arena that completes that area from Petco east, is terribly exciting and I think would be a signature for our Downtown that this community will enjoy for decades.

I also think, at some point, we’ll have visionaries here, our successors, that will be representatives of the city or representatives of the port, that will begin to create a dialogue about… opening up the 10th Avenue Terminal straight to the water and create an amazing public amenity of parks and open space that connect the water to the sports venues. Those kinds of things will have a catalytic effect on other development opportunities in the area surrounding this sports and entertainment district.

What about the neighborhoods near this area. Can the impacts of what you’re describing be mitigated?

Clearly, with a baseball stadium with 41,000 people 81 days a year virtually next door, we’ve got a pretty good indication of what the impacts may be. I think a lot depends on the urban planning design of what we contemplate there. Clearly, the transit nodes that are available today and the expansion of transit from northern and eastern areas of the city and county make it a site amenable to more intense development. So, while we are constantly sensitive to Sherman Heights and Barrio Logan and our neighbors to the east, we’re going to have to pay particular attention to them, and we’re going to have to work out plans so that it’s not over-parked during football games or during events there—all things that can be managed as you work through the construction and event phasing of development like this.

I think things that attract people to Downtown and create a magnet for new activity and jobs to create a real vibrant experience Downtown is something that was always envisioned. If you look at the community plan, there was significant intensity of development that was always contemplated in East Village to accommodate 90,000 people there. So, I absolutely think it’s something that’s consistent with the community plan and something that is vital to fully realize what its potential is.

Downtown was not supposed to be a sleepy residential community; it was supposed to be a magnet to attract people that would otherwise urbanize other areas around the city. That was the wisdom of our predecessors at CCDC and, more significantly, our predecessors on the [City] Council that believe we could accommodate 90,000 people and double the number of jobs that we have there today—and we would be creating hotels and incubate other retail venues that would be creating sales tax for the city. There were a number of engines that were attempted to be fueled by development Downtown.

So, I think that was always expected, and I think that we’ve designed the infrastructure to accommodate it—and I think the ballpark being the best example. That is not to say that we have to be insensitive to our neighbors and we’re not going to have to take time to think through these things and create something that is more than just a football venue for 10 Sundays a year.

Would this kind of thing create more challenges for diversity in housing affordability in that area?

I don’t think so. … We’ve been as sensitive as anybody in this town to developing low- and moderate-income housing… Downtown. We’ve got 1,000 low-mod units in the pipeline today in Downtown. So, I think the suggestion that somehow we’re going to be denying a full range of economic opportunities Downtown is an unfair criticism. Clearly, there will be market-rate things that happen. There will be a fill compliment of housing Downtown, and I think we’ve been the leader in that vein. And that’s not to [mention] the activities that we’ve been engaged in on the homeless front, from the winter shelter to providing $10 million for a permanent facility…. So, that’s a common, uninformed criticism of us—that we just cater to the affluent and the developers Downtown—but, in fact, the facts belie that allegation.

Is the Chargers’ proposal an excuse, in a way, to raise the redevelopment cap in order to finish the job Downtown?

The notion of raising this cap to complete the mission of the community plan is important for Downtown irrespective of the stadium. I the stadium is a catalyst to make that happen, to provide dollars over and above what the stadium cost may be, or investment may be, then so be it. Because we’ve got significant things that will go unresolved or incomplete.

Can you elaborate on that?

Sure. For example, we’ve got obligations on C Street, we’ve got neighborhood improvements, we’ve got our park plan that needs to be accomplished, we’ve got the North Embarcadero, we’ve got an SDG&E substation in Little Italy that we’ve been talking for years about how to resolve. We’ve got nothing in our community plan for improvements along Broadway, which is one of my pet peeves. I’d love to see a circumstance one day in which B Street was open to the civic center, we took some of the buses off of Broadway and moved them to B, and we expanded the sidewalks on Broadway to create the grand thoroughfare that it was intended to be. There are number of things in the aesthetic pipeline that don’t have the dollars to support them.

What about the suggestion that putting redevelopment money into a stadium will take money away from other, infrastructure-type projects?

If taking a piece of pie from an empty pie pan—that’s what we’re really talking about. No one has ever talked about diverting dollars from the existing discretionary budget that currently is before us. We’re all fairly clear about that—at CCDC, the city and, I think, the Chargers. It’s going to require the infusion of new dollars. … So, [if the cap isn’t raised and] the dollars never happen, are we sacrificing anything for something that didn’t exist?

The payoff for the entities that currently give up property tax revenues from the redevelopment area—the county, the San Diego School District, the Community College District and the county Board of Education—is that you do more development in the near term so that once the revenue kicks back to them, after the redevelopment area is disbanded, there’s more money in the pot later. Right?

Do we grow the pie big enough to make it in everyone’s interest to pursue raising the cap. That’s the fundamental question that all the tax-sharing entities are going to have to believe in.

Any final thoughts?

There’s always a lot of suspicion by people who don’t understand how we are organized as a corporation, that we serve the Redevelopment Agency and what the nature of our financing is and, really, what our mission is. It’s unfortunate that the introduction of a stadium here has elevated some of those misunderstandings, because people need to understand the deliberative nature of how we’re going about this and that nothing’s been finalized yet—in fact, nothing’s been proposed.

Ultimately, this is going to have to be a good deal for the city of San Diego, and it’s going to have to be a good deal for the county, and it’s going to have to be a good deal for our tax-sharing entities, and it’s going to have to be a good deal for the Chargers. But… the real hard work is yet to get started.

As the president of the board of CCDC, do you care if the Chargers leave or stay in San Diego?

I think the Chargers are an important part of the fabric of San Diego, and I hope they stay. But by the same token, I’m a fiduciary of the city, and my obligation, first and foremost, is to do what’s in the best interest of Downtown and the best interest of our city—and I don’t think those two are inconsistent.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. January 29, 2010 - 4:12 pm 4:12 pm

    For the record, we have no relation.

  2. January 29, 2010 - 10:20 pm 10:20 pm

    Freddie Maaaaaas, Chairman of the Board of the Centre City Development Corporation, (CCDC) announced today that a Los Angeles consultant has determined that the City of San Diego’s contribution to the proposed Spectacular Dan’s Stripper Stadium (SDSS) is estimated to be 80% of the total construction costs.

    Flanked by Dirty Dan spokesperson, Fab Fanny, Maaaaaas told the assembled reporters that this kind of financial arrangement is typical for the construction of such valuable civic assets.

    “It’s time to move forward and make San Diego a world class city,” Maaaaaas said. “By investing in this popular and lucrative industry, San Diego can finally compete with Las Vegas for the tourist dollars we need to finance other projects, like the new monument to Susan Golding we’ve long planned for downtown.”

    Los Angelese entertainment consultant, Hugh G. Rection, of the law firm Bicker Back and Forth, said that in cities like San Diego, political leaders typically bend over backward to do whatever they must to keep the strippers in town.

    Fab Fanny, who has long advocated for increased city investment in a downtown stadium, explained that this is a win-win situation.

    “Oh, you can’t imagine how happy this makes me,” she giggled as Maaaaaas slipped a hundred dollar bill into her silver panties.

    Some naysayers, such as Barnacle Porter, economist at the Florida-based University of South Tampa, claim that the city could invest this money in infrastructure, including long neglected roads and sewers. But the consortium of Fans, Stippers, and Politicians for a New Stadium, disagree.

    Dan Shucks, owner of the Chuckwagon Bar and Grill, a downtown favorite of strippers and the Mayor, explained that without the world’s larges strip pole, San Diego just can’t compete with other cities.

    “Ya know, when I see my girls up there swinging around with their legs spread wide, it makes me proud to be a father, and proud to be a San Diegan.”

    The Mayor, a long time friend of Dirty Dan, has indicated he’ll ask the Centre City Development Corporation to fund at least $500 million of the costs of construction, largely in twenties.

    “This is my vision for the city of the future,” he said.

  3. Richard Lawrence permalink
    January 30, 2010 - 7:55 am 7:55 am

    Downtown does not need CCDC any longer.
    Chargers Stadium offers us an opportunity to use a catalyst of that size to spur redevelopment where it is most badly needed, and I nominate Southeastern S. D.
    While I serve as Secretary of the Board at SEDC, these comments are mine and mine alone.

  4. Daryl Sandlin permalink
    January 30, 2010 - 9:43 pm 9:43 pm

    I support a new stadium in downtown San Diego!! This project needs to get done & our hope is that the development co & the city realize this is a win-win situation. Sure, they are going to be naysayers, but they just don’t fully understand. A new stadium increases revenue, keeps the Chargers home, in San Diego where they belong, creates jobs, & gives the city the opportunity to get back the 166 acres of land the aging & rotting Qualcomm sits on so the city can sell of or lease to gain back more revenue!! A New stadium in San Diego also brings back the Super Bowl to our city, which means close to over $200-300 million in just a two week span!!
    Get this stadium built San Diego…losing the Chargers would be one of the biggest mistakes this city could ever make. They’re the San Diego Chargers…..NOT the L.A. Chargers!!

  5. Shane Finneran permalink
    January 31, 2010 - 11:12 pm 11:12 pm

    Fred Maas says that adding a downtown football stadium could create an area like LA Live around the Staples Center. His claim is preposterous.

    The Staples Center is home to three pro basketball teams (2 NBA and 1 WNBA) as well as a pro hockey team, meaning the Staples Center hosts at least 140 pro games a year – nearly one game every two days. A new Chargers stadium would host 8 pro games a year – an average of less than one game a month. So get out of here with the LA Live comparisons.

    Mr. Maas also implies that the Padres’ 81 games at Petco each draw 41,000 fans. Is the dude misinformed on that one, or is he just trying to pull a fast one? In any case, like the LA Live comparison, his Padres canard doesn’t inspire confidence in the rest of his arguments.

  6. Murtaza permalink
    February 1, 2010 - 8:28 am 8:28 am

    Fred Maas appetite for culinary delights is constipating:
    (1) “taking a piece of pie from an empty pie pan” This statement is false. If the base for tax increment is 1992, any property tax increase, with or without redevelopment, is going to be diverted to downtown under the Maas proposal. The pie pan is far from empty.
    (2) “Do we grow the pie big enough to make it in everyone’s interest to pursue raising the cap?” Unfortunately Fred Maas cannot “grow the pie” regardless of how much dough he puts into the pan. This is because property taxes are capped under Proposition 13. All that he is doing is cutting the pieces up, so that the biggest boys get the lion’s share of the pie, and the rest get a morsel.
    (3) “we’re talking flavors of apples” in comparing the civic center to the charger stadium. Does this mean that the stronger the flavor, higher the ticket price for public entry? This statement comparing apples to oranges is misleading, giving the impression that the civic center (public project) is contingent on private development – the Irvine proposal was purely public.

  7. PistolPete permalink
    February 1, 2010 - 1:08 pm 1:08 pm

    Fuck the Chargeless!!!!! One of the most talented yet immature professional sports organizations. This city does not deserve a sports franchise. It has shown time & time again that it truly has a sports curse. The Park View Little Leaguers are a hell of a lot more professional than any of the Madres, Chargeless, Clippers or Rockets will ever be. The Chargeless are the only professional sports team in Sandy Eggo history to have a winning season. They are 375-371-11 as of the ass kickin’ put on ’em by the Jets.

    It’s also been proven that Super Bowls don’t bring in nearly the money that people like Daryl Sandlin think they do.

    1963 was the ONLY year the Chargeless actually won something. Unfortunetely, it’ll always be tainted with steroids…

    • Jordan Thompson permalink
      February 1, 2010 - 2:03 pm 2:03 pm

      wow that was uncalled for

      keep chargers in SD

      • February 1, 2010 - 2:14 pm 2:14 pm

        Pistol Pete is rarely called for, but he’s always to be counted on for something inflammatory.

  8. PistolPete permalink
    February 1, 2010 - 3:36 pm 3:36 pm

    You guys can think I’m inflammatory or out of line or whatever but I speak the truth. With the exception of the ’63 Dianabol Bowl, the Chargeless are the only team besides the PV All-Stars and some queers kickin’ around a soccer ball to have any impact on sports in Sandy Eggo. I wasn’t around for the infamous Petco Park debacle but had I been, I would’ve been saying the exact same thing and the outcome would’ve been the same.

    Sandy Eggo is like a spoiled rich kid. Right now those idiots in the Chargeless front office are throwing a temper tantrum because the baseball players got a new toy. The fact is, this town has been broke for a long time because the people that vote the thieves in are too stupid to pay attention to what’s going on. They’re too worried about half of Hillcrest wanting to get married or half of Vista toking it up to cure the side affects of radiation caused from chemo.

    Sandy Eggo? You deserve EVERYTHING you’ll get coming to you in future years. The wildfires of ’07? Oh that’s nothin’. While you’re busy getting a mediocre at best sports team a new home, your own home will be in jeopardy. By 2014 there WILL be another wildfire in this county. I can’t say where or exactly when it’s going to happen, but believe me, one thing I’ve noticed from Native Sandy Eggans while living out here, THEY DON’T FUCKING LEARN FROM THE PAST!!!! EVER!!!

    • February 1, 2010 - 3:48 pm 3:48 pm

      Oh, I meant it as a compliment, Pete. Well, sorta. You know I mean.

      I could care less about football. If the players lost all the padding, I might feel a bit different.

      • PistolPete permalink
        February 1, 2010 - 10:38 pm 10:38 pm

        I know YOU were paying a compliment. Other people on here? Fuck ’em. I say what I say because it needs to be said. Personally, I don’t give a fuck if the Chargeless get a new stadium or not. They’re never going to win a Super Bowl anyway so either way, it’s a waste of money. Meanwhile, the infrastructure continues to fail at an alarming rate. Water mains are poppin’ in this city like a fat girl with bad acne. Wildfires? Pfffffft! You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. The more you build without proper ways of fighting fires, the more this city will continue to burn. 60 minutes did an awesome piece about wildfires that explained why they’ve become so much more fierce over the years in places like California. Be glad that Sandy Eggo isn’t an earthquake prone place. Many stupid voters would die grisly deaths because…well, their stupidity.

  9. David Rolland permalink*
    February 1, 2010 - 4:01 pm 4:01 pm

    I might start taking Pete seriously if he stops saying “Sandy Eggo.” Oh, wait a minute—almost forgot he’s a racist. Never mind.

    • PistolPete permalink
      February 1, 2010 - 10:42 pm 10:42 pm

      Yeah. I can’t be taken serious because I’m not an elitist, politically correct, Democratic nigger lover….As for the term Sandy Eggo, I use that because it’s the truth. You fuckin’ asshole Natives are so full of yourselves it ain’t funny. It’s like eating a sandy eggo. It looks good but it sure tastes like shit. The ONLY thing special about this city is the natural beauty.

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