As I wrote in my last post, I think the City is being disingenuous when it suggests the EIR process and public vote can be complete in time for a January 2016 decision by the NFL owners concerning whether to allow the Chargers to move to LA. In short, they are ignoring that even with expedited legal review, litigation will still be ongoing in January. With litigation in process, the Chargers can rightfully argue that they can't accept the risk that the EIR will be invalidated, scuttling the whole stadium project.
After today's meeting between Faulconer and the NFL, I am more sure than ever that this whole thing is a charade. The big news out of today's meeting was the attendance of Toni Atkins, Speaker of the State Assembly, who pledged to "help expedite any environmental lawsuits filed against the city."
It's not clear, however, what they "help" may be. The Union Tribune article says City Attorney Jan Goldsmith suggested that "Atkins won’t be helping the city accelerate completion of its ongoing environmental impact report, but that she promised to use state legislation to help expedite any litigation under the California Environmental Quality Act." Atkins clarified that "if the right agreement can be reached . . . I am committed to making sure San Diego can benefit from state legislation that is consistent with what other cities have received for their sports facilities."
The problem is this is entirely nonsensical at this point because Atkins is entirely powerless to help. The first thing Atkins could do is push for the passage of legislation specific to this project. This happened for the proposed Farmers' Field in LA, which got Public Resources Code section 21168.6.5. That Legislation, however, required the Draft EIR to specify that it was subject to expedited review.
Faulconer and Goldsmith suggested that the draft EIR will be ready by August 10th. That's 13 days away. Dave Rolland, who works for Speaker Atkins, confirmed that no new legislation has yet been proposed or introduced. It is absolutely impossible to get legislation passed in 13 days. So that's out the window.
The other way to get expedited review is under AB900, which created expedited legal review for EIRs for "environmental leadership development projects." This is what happened for the Sacramento Kings' Arena. Whether those projects get expedited review, however, requires certification first from the Governor, not the Legislature. And that takes time. The EIR has to be submitted to the Air Resources Board, the Governor has to wait 15 days to certify, and then the legislature has 30 days to concur. Is that timing considered in the City's rushed timeline?
Moreover, AB900 comes with some strings. The stadium has to be designed for LEED Silver certification, has to result in no net increase in greenhouse gas emissions, has to be contingent on accepting all mitigation measures, and has to pass a "transportation efficiency" standard. In essence, it requires that there be an actual design for the stadium. Which doesn't exist and can't exist in time for a January vote.
The funny thing? Atkins has no real control over the AB900 process. The only legislative involvement is with the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, which has to concur with the Governor's certification. Toni Atkins? Not a member of that committee.
So, in reality, Toni Atkins can do absolutely nothing for the City. She must know this. I would hope Jan Goldsmith knows this and told the mayor. Faulconer, however, described Atkins' completely meaningless "help" as a "big shot in the arm," Goldsmith, called it "big," and Ron Roberts said her involvement "further strengthens" the City's presentation. If completely meaningless support is big, then the plan before today was nothing.
This is all a charade with no one willing to say the Emperor has no clothes. Instead, Faulconer and Goldsmith insist on wasting millions in taxpayer dollars for political cover. Is this the leadership we need?