When it comes to disposing of city-owned Qualcomm Stadium, it appears that San Diego taxpayers are the last to know.
As reported late Sunday (January 22) by KNSD’s Derek Togerson and others, an "investment group" run by ex–New York hedge-fund maven Mike Stone and former Qualcomm vice chairman Steve Altman are about to unveil a scheme to obtain the current Qualcomm stadium site from the city for what is only described as ”fair market value" to develop the acreage as a Major League Soccer stadium, to be shared with San Diego State University.
Adds the report, "the proposal would also set aside land for the possible construction of an NFL-caliber stadium in case the league decides to return to San Diego, as well as the opportunity to build out and expand the San Diego River Park with transit-oriented, mixed-use development to activate the River Park and stadium uses."
According to another widely circulated version of the deal, Stone and company may be set to bankroll a high-dollar signature-gathering effort to advance the project.
Similar campaigns backed by wealthy development interests have found little favor with voters in recent years, with the list of multimillion-dollar losses including a shopping mall proposed for Carlsbad Lagoon; North County's Lilac Hills Ranch subdivision; and the Chargers stadium.
What distinguishes Stone and Altman is their longtime association with cell-phone-chip giant Qualcomm and its cofounder Irwin Jacobs, along with his son Paul, Qualcomm's executive chairman, all of whom have been big-money backers of Nathan Fletcher, the onetime Republican assemblyman who became an independent and then a Democrat.
In the spring of 2012, Stone, proprietor of La Jolla–based Freestyle Capital and before that a managing partner at Wall Street's J.H. Whitney & Co., came up with $10,000 for a political action committee known as icPurple that flooded the airwaves with TV spots for Fletcher.
"He's not a Democrat, he's not a Republican, he's an American," said the commercials. In 2012, Altman forked over $7500 to a committee called San Diegans for Nathan Fletcher — Mayor 2012, and gave $5000 to Fletcher for Mayor 2013.
Fletcher, who recently wed Democratic assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, is currently said to be mulling a 2018 race for county supervisor to replace termed-out Republican Ron Roberts, a longtime player in Qualcomm Stadium controversies. The venue is in Roberts’s Fourth District.
In addition, one source said, Stone's group has been quietly pitching its proposal to the GOP's Kevin Faulconer, who bested Fletcher in the 2013 primary but has of late been getting hefty Jacobs family financial support.
Last year, Faulconer collected a total of $6150 in campaign contributions from Qualcomm executives in the days leading up to and after a March 17 meeting with Irwin Jacobs regarding a Jacobs-favored road and parking-garage plan for Balboa Park subsequently backed by the mayor.
Paul Jacobs personally contributed $1000 to that effort.
Another stealth target of the Stone lobbying campaign is said to have been San Diego State University.
"Emails obtained by The Associated Press through a California Public Records Act request show that SDSU has been in contact with Mike Stone and Altman at least since April 2015," the AP reported last June.
"In late November, Mike Stone emailed [then-SDSU athletic director Jim Sterk], copying in Altman, saying they should consider jointly sponsoring a proposed study, 'with SDSU and MLS objectives in mind.'"
Paul Jacobs, Altman, and Stone are listed as investors by CourseKey, a 2014 start-up associated with SDSU, says its website.
According to information posted online by SDSU’s Fowler College of Business Administration two years ago, “Currently, the team is planning to ramp up to 6,000 users at the SDSU campus by the fall semester of 2015 and 10,000 by spring semester of 2016. They are also making plans to move beyond the SDSU campus with their novel approach to academic management systems and have already laid the ground work for their first round of financing in summer 2016.”