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— San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders has quietly approved a $50,000 contract to appraise the 80 acres under Qualcomm Stadium owned by the city's Water Department, which holds it in trust for the benefit of its water customers. The remaining 80 acres under the stadium are owned outright by the city. The purpose of the appraisal, according to a memo attached to the mid-May agreement with the firm of Desmond, Marcello & Amster, "is to establish fair market rent for the Stadium's use of Water Department land as required by the City Charter." But insiders question the timing of the move, coming as it does on the heels of an effort led by county supervisor Ron Roberts to keep the Chargers at the Mission Valley venue. Sanders's chief development honcho Jim Waring signed off on the appraisal contract on May 16, the same day that the city gave the Chargers the right to look elsewhere in the county for a venue. Also that day, the board authorized Roberts and colleague Dianne Jacob to talk to Chargers owner Alex Spanos about a range of possibilities, including keeping the team at Qualcomm with some kind of county financing.

One prominent scenario, according to a city hall insider, would be for the county or another government entity to purchase the 80 acres of Qualcomm land owned by the Water Department and the 80 acres owned by the city and turn the land over to the Chargers. The purpose of the appraisal, according to skeptics, is to generate a "lowball" figure for the value of the land. According to a "scope of services" included in the contract, the appraiser will "conduct economic, industry and market research to ascertain the Stadium's profit potential as currently configured as well as comparable agreements of similar type venues." Notes the agreement: "This valuation is not intended to be representative of or to be used in any negotiations for a new stadium in this or any other location." An official in the city's Real Estate Assets Department says that means what it says, nothing more: the appraisal will determine how much the Water Department should be paid as its share of the stadium rental.

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