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Chargers could bail on downtown site

Discussion in 'American Football' started by RaiderRay, Nov 28, 2009.

  1. RaiderRay

    RaiderRay RIP SD Chargers..Go Any SD Team, Go Raiders Staff Member Administrator Podcaster

    Jun 20, 2005

    The downtown San Diego bus yard being studied as a site for a new football stadium has been the subject of a county environmental investigation since 1986.

    Leaking underground storage tanks and pipes have periodically discharged diesel fuel, gasoline and oil into the soil and groundwater 10 to 15 feet below the site’s surface, nine football fields northeast of San Diego Bay.

    The environmental damage at the site, a few blocks east of Petco Park, could require an expensive cleanup that might mean delays for any development. It’s unclear who would pay for a remedy that could run into the millions of dollars.

    Excessive cleanup costs could lead the Chargers to look elsewhere for a new stadium, said special counsel Mark Fabiani, who has guided the team’s search since 2002.

    “You can certainly envision scenarios where the cleanup is a deal-breaker,” Fabiani said. “Once you undertake the financial obligation of a cleanup, there’s no telling where it stops and no telling how long it takes.”

    At times, the level of petroleum contaminants and carcinogens such as benzene found during testing has exceeded safety limits, and monitoring continues, according to files at the county Department of Environmental Health.

    Eight thick file folders outline 23 years of oversight at the northwest corner of 16th Street and Imperial Avenue, which is owned by the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System and houses its bus fleet and offices.

    Records show that the 5-acre lot has operated as a bus fueling yard and maintenance facility for nearly a century. Calls to the Metropolitan Transit System were not returned yesterday.

    The Chargers have retained Turner Construction Co. to review several issues at the site, including the contamination. A report could be ready next month.

    Fabiani has said site cleanup would probably be part of the stadium project, but the extent of the damage wasn’t widely known until The San Diego Union-Tribune reviewed county records this week.

    Who might pay for the cleanup and whether contaminated soil would be removed or covered by some sort of buffer are “open to discussion,” Fabiani said yesterday.

    The San Diego environmental law firm Caufield & James LLP notes on its Web site, “As a general rule, the party responsible for an unauthorized release of contaminants or a substantial permit violation will also be responsible for remediation — including notice to affected parties, cleanup, restoration and assurance of adequate preventive measures.”

    A new stadium could cost $800 million to $1 billion and has been on the Chargers’ wish list for seven years. It’s premature to say to what extent, if any, a stadium plan could involve public financing.

    A downtown stadium, far from a sure thing, would require the assembly of several parcels of land, perhaps through eminent domain, and financing in a rough economy.

    After long saying the city wouldn’t help the team financially, Mayor Jerry Sanders met with team President Dean Spanos in October, and last week the city’s downtown redevelopment arm, the Centre City Development Corp., paid $160,000 to study how to pay for a new downtown stadium.

    That review could be done within three or four months.

    The site being eyed by the city and team consists of the bus yard, some adjacent private parcels and a portion of city-owned Tailgate Park east of an earthquake fault.

    The county opened its investigation of the bus-yard site in May 1986 after four 10,000- to 20,000-gallon underground storage tanks that held diesel fuel failed integrity tests, indicating probable breaches.

    The leak was later determined to be in pipes on the site, but nothing was done for years, records show.

    Then in 1993, eight new underground storage tanks were installed to replace a range of older ones. From 1994 to 1997, 16 other tanks were removed. Some were leaking or had holes, and others were pulled from soil heavily discolored by petroleum products or near contaminated groundwater. In 2006, two additional tanks were drained and left in place.

    A note in the file from a 1997 meeting between county officials and the property owners reads, “Health risk is minimal long-term since there is open yard/no buildings.”

    Yet 2,030 cubic yards of contaminated soil were trucked off site in 1993 and at least 1,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil were hauled away in 1997, records show. (A full-size pickup can carry about 4 cubic yards.)

    Another county file shows that the nearby Wonder Bread building, which would be in the stadium footprint, had contaminated soil and groundwater in September 1998.

    A consultant hired by the Wonder Bread building’s then-owner speculated that the gasoline probably came from the bus yard, but the county didn’t confirm it.

    A handwritten note in that file raises such a possibility, however. It asks “is something coming” from the bus yard and notes that benzene was found in two soil samples at the Wonder Bread site.

    The Chargers have played at Qualcomm Stadium on 166 acres of city-owned land in Mission Valley since 1967. That area is the subject of a legal dispute between the city and owners of a massive nearby tank farm over the cleanup of a mile-long, underground plume of petroleum products. If the team ultimately quits the site, it also would need to be cleaned before redevelopment could occur there.
  2. PB Bolt

    PB Bolt Well-Known Member

    Nov 3, 2009
    ... and the Chargers might have monkeys fly out of their butts....

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