Artist's rendition of proposed stadium
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Ex–car dealer and real estate magnate Steve Cushman is a powerful member of the local Republican establishment who has left his fingerprints on everything from the Mission Valley master plan to the costly 1996 taxpayer-backed GOP convention.

Mark Fabiani

Mark Fabiani

Now he can count another distinction: a political bull’s-eye on his back placed by Mark Fabiani, Bill Clinton’s one-time master of disaster and longtime lobbyist for the Chargers and a new stadium.

"Over the entire time we have been working with Mayor Faulconer and his staff, we have only ever asked for one thing – and we asked for it at the very first meeting we had with the Mayor’s staff: ‘Please do not assign Steve Cushman to work on this issue; instead let’s try to find some new voices and fresh perspectives to add to this 13-year-long process, '" says Fabiani in an interview posted on the team's website.

Steve Cushman

Steve Cushman

"So hopefully the community will understand our disappointment when the one and only specific stadium initiative the Mayor announced in his State of the City speech was the appointment of Steve Cushman to be in charge of devising a financing plan."

Argues Fabiani, "If you were going to line up the people in San Diego who have done the most to block a new stadium over the years, there is no doubt that Steve Cushman would be near the head of that line….

"When the Chargers were exploring a joint-use stadium/convention center facility downtown, Cushman again told the Chargers to stay away because of the contiguous convention center expansion plan. Again, under Cushman’s leadership, the courts decisively invalidated the financing plan for the convention center project.

"And when some in the community wanted to explore Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal as a stadium location, Cushman pushed through a ban on everyone at the Port of San Diego from even so much as discussing the issue," Fabiani says.

"The fact that Mayor Faulconer has now assigned Steve Cushman — the architect of so many of San Diego’s civic failures — to work on the stadium is discouraging."

In a forest of speculation about the motives of the Chargers-owning Republican Spanos clan — and whether they may have already decided to pull the plug on the team's location here — the roots of Fabiani's discontent are traced by insiders to September 2011 and the team's professed desire to locate a dual-use stadium and convention center in the East Village section of downtown.

"The idea is to make room for convention uses in the end zones and cover the grass as needed to provide exhibit space," reported U-T San Diego at the time. "The stadium also would include restaurants and meeting spaces."

Mike McDowell, an executive with Mission Valley’s Atlas Hotels, run by big GOP donor Terry Brown, rejected the proposal out of hand, saying it relegated the convention industry to second-class status. “Who wants to sit at the little kids’ table?” U-T quoted McDowell as saying.

The hotel moguls' resistance to the team's dual-use scheme ended up with the Chargers trying to convince the California Coastal Commission to kill off the city's expansion plan, a battle Fabiani lost in October 2013. Showing up to testify against the Chargers was Faulconer, then on the city council.

"The result is no surprise, given the influence of the powerful groups supporting the project," Fabiani told the Los Angeles Times after the commission's vote. "Still, it was disappointing to see the Coastal Commission ignore its own staff's recommendation."

Then in August of last year, a state appeals court held that a hotel room tax to fund the $520 million expansion enacted by the city council was unconstitutional because it had not been put to a public vote.

The mayor and the tourist lobby has been scratching its head about what to do next ever since.

Todd Gloria

Todd Gloria

In his online interview, Fabiani also has scathing words for Faulconer and Democratic councilman Todd Gloria, who counts among his major financial backers Evans Hotels, run by one of the city's top three hotel moguls, Bill Evans.

"There were many people and organizations around town that predicted right from the outset that the Cushman convention center financing plan would be struck down as illegal.

"But Cushman and the City — with the strong support of then-downtown area Councilman Kevin Faulconer and then–City Council President Todd Gloria – decided to forge ahead anyway.

"The result: Years and years of wasted time and effort, and millions and millions of dollars of wasted tax dollars — all expended on behalf of a financing plan that was doomed from the outset.

"In light of this track record, we are not encouraged that Steve Cushman will somehow come up with a workable solution to the stadium problem that has eluded everyone else for 13 years.

"If Steve Cushman does come up with some kind of plan, our strong view is that it will be a plan designed to provide political cover — not to actually result in the building of a stadium."

Still, Fabiani insists in the interview, the team is not leaving town — yet.

"The Chargers will remain open-minded about any idea presented to us," he says.

"And we know what it means to work with a City task force and City experts because we’ve worked with many of them over the years. Mayor Murphy appointed the Citizens’ Task Force on Chargers Issues, and subsequent mayors retained — at significant taxpayer expense — two separate outside consultants.

“Whether yet another task force — which will undoubtedly hire other experts — will come up with ideas that haven’t been thought of by everyone else over the last 13 years is, of course, a real question.”

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aardvark Jan. 16, 2015 @ 6:36 p.m.

I think many of the "many wasted millions of dollars" was, and is, on Fabiani.


Matt101 Jan. 18, 2015 @ 9:45 p.m.

Yes, a common thread in the many stadium proposals floated in various places in San Diego County "over the years" is that the local governments, and/or real estate shell game magic, or whatever, was supposed to finance such a large percentage of the stadium cost relative to the Chargers' own percentage.

Minnesota is building a new football stadium for the Vikings. While the "public contribution" is still extremely large, at least the Vikings' ownership is paying over $500 million toward the cost, which is over half of the total cost. I am not aware of any serious stadium proposal ever made in San Diego County that involved the Chargers' ownership paying more than half of the total cost.


photog921 Jan. 16, 2015 @ 6:48 p.m.

Many changing roles and confusing statements over the years by these spoke-people, if we didn't have this kind of chronological reminder. Great run through of just the recent history of all of this. Had to laugh at this line from the Chargers, on the late-not-great, stadium-convention-center combo idea: "The idea is to make room for convention uses in the end zones and cover the grass as needed to provide exhibit space," reported U-T San Diego at the time. Good try, Chargers, but a Fail.


Visduh Jan. 16, 2015 @ 9:08 p.m.

While many of the quotes attributed to Fabiani are "lawyerly", he does from time to time let the veil slip. When he does that, the dialog comes across about the way that Brando spoke in the "Godfather" movie. So, can we now refer to "Don Marco Fabiani?" He might actually like the nickname. And he's undoubtedly sufficiently rich to disappear whenever things fail to go his way.


Matt101 Jan. 18, 2015 @ 9:52 p.m.

It's not smart politics. When Don Corleone threatened people, he did so with a purpose. Fabiani is just attacking everyone. He goes after the incumbent Republican mayor AND the Democratic councilman who will likely run against the mayor in the next election. Fabiani has also attacked both old-line San Diego establishment types (e.g., Cushman) and outsider figures often opposed to the establishment (Aguirre).


laplayaheritage Jan. 16, 2015 @ 9:37 p.m.

Back on April 6, 2010, Port Commission Cushman allowed Fifth Avenue Landing LLC's (FAL) Unexecuted 2008 Lease Option costing $60,000/year ($20,000/4 months) for construction of a Spinnaker Hotel and Convention Center Expansion, to be magically worth $13.5 million with no improvements.

The gift of public funds due on May 6, 2015, is also documented on Pages 51, 125, and 176 of the City's FY-2014 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).

$12.5 million + 5.27% interest. With Long Term Liabilities totaling $13.847 million If Payment from City/Port/SDCCC to Fifth Avenue Landing LLC is not made in 4 months, the City will Default on the shady Memorandum of Understanding, and Lease Option payments.

See Page 45 of the draft FY-2014 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) linked above. Qualcomm Stadium is 166 Acres in size. 84 acres to the north is owned by the City of San Diego's General Fund. The remaining 82 acres towards the San Diego River is owned by the Water Utility Department. The City is trying to steal Qualcomm Stadium from taxpayers, and exchange Water Utility Department's 82 acres, for equivalent space anywhere. This would allow the City to bypass the required public vote to sell or change exceptionally large City properties greater than 80 acres in size.

Search for the word " Qualcomm " in the document where the City of San Diego somehow failed to renew the annual $15 dollar Master Lease to Qualcomm Stadium the Water Utilities Department Enterprise Fund for the last 10 years [2005 - 2015]. In 1965 a Regional County-wide Joint Powers Authority (JPA) was created between the San Diego Stadium Authority (SDSA), the City of San Diego, the County of San Diego, and the Water Utilities Department.

To solve the problem of not paying immaterial lease payments, the City of San Diego's General Fund (GF) can pay the Water Utilities Department $150 dollars immediately. Problem solved. Or the City could reduce the annual fee to $1 dollar, for a total of $15 dollar to the Water Department. The lease agreement is between the City itself. Half the Qualcomm Stadium building footprint is owned by the City's General Fund. The other southern half is owned by the Water Utilities Department.


laplayaheritage Jan. 16, 2015 @ 9:38 p.m.

Page 45 of the FY-2014 CAFR documents the latest SanDiego Long Con, where Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the City Council are going to try to steal our public lands greater than 80 acres without a public vote of the people as required under City Charter Section 221.

"Management is currently examining options to either enter into a new, market value lease of the Water Utilities parcel or to exchange the Water Utility Department parcel for a General Fund parcel of similar value."

"Section 221: Sale of Real Property.

Real property owned by The City of San Diego consisting of eighty (80) contiguous acres or more, whether or not in separate parcels, shall not be sold or exchanged unless such sale or exchange shall have first been authorized by ordinance of the Council and thereafter ratified by the electors of The City of San Diego. The foregoing shall not apply to the sale or exchange of real property to a governmental agency for bona fide governmental purposes which sale or exchange was duly authorized by ordinance of the Council, nor shall it apply to properties previously authorized for disposition by the electors of The City of San Diego."

The City's new City Charter Review Committee plans on erasing and deleted City Charter Section 221, so they can steal our public property for private gain, based upon a ruse.


Ken Harrison Jan. 17, 2015 @ 6:44 a.m.

I rather enjoyed Fabiani's frankness as described by the author.


kdog44 Jan. 17, 2015 @ 4:58 p.m.

Fabiani. Build the damn thing if a stadium is such a great investment. Or, admit it doesn't pencil out and figure out a way to convince 2/3 of voters to invest public money.

Don't scapegoat Steve Cushman and/Todd Gloria. Basically Spanos' need to Bolt up or shut up!!!


AlexClarke Jan. 18, 2015 @ 12:03 p.m.

Ah, the rich and powerful peddling influence and wielding power to build and shape San Diego to their wishes and to hell with anyone who is trying just to live her. They are a bunch of lackeys and political hacks. Democracy bought and paid for.


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