Aug. 19 2015 12:44 PM

Implosions, fiery tank farms, blasé Chargers, oh my!

Photo illustration by John R. Lamb

There is no gambling like politics.

—Benjamin Disraeli

The dark-suited Boys of Summer had gathered again, this time at a vacant lot perched above Mission Valley next to a pair of thick binders that appeared to be sprouting from the weedy soil. Words like "momentum" and "on track" peppered the boys' pitches, with a dash of zing! thrown in for good measure.

"The release of this draft environmental impact report proves that at least one San Diego team can deliver on its promises," boasted San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts, a stinging reference to the city's reluctant dance partner, the Los Angeles-obsessed San Diego Chargers football team.

Roberts and the rest of the Three Unrequited Amigos— Mayor Kevin Faulconer and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith—continued their quest last week for any sign from the long-time local NFL team that their efforts were anything but in vain, but team spokesperson Mark Fabiani wasn't biting.

"We have been through the document in great detail, and we haven't seen anything to change our position that the quickie EIR, if certified by the City Council, will be tied up in the courts for a great length of time," Fabiani told Spin Cycle in an email Tuesday.

Asked for specific concerns, Fabiani said he was too busy that day but would respond later.

Spin Cycle decided to take a deep dive into the massive document, touted by the Amigos on numerous occasions as 6,000 pages long but actually clocking in at 5,928 pages, 5,082 of which are dedicated to 16 appendices. Those appendices run from a few pages (a paleontological records search runs eight pages) to many (the traffic impact analysis tips the scales at 1,460 pages).

Spin focused on the 846-page main body of the draft environmental report, which was enough to send brain cells into frequent bouts of distraction. A mayor's spokesman figured that more than two years' worth of work had been compressed into just three weeks because of the 100 or so experts thrown at the assignment, and Spin can't knock the effort.

Whether that means this EIR, like so many similar mega-reports, won't be challenged in court seems unlikely. San Diego simply doesn't roll that way. But Cory Briggs, the local activist attorney usually at the head of the EIR-challenge line, has been uncharacteristically low-key on the subject to date.

The San Diego Union-Tribune quoted Briggs, who said he spoke off the record, as saying, "I'd be shocked if there aren't multiple lawsuits over this EIR," noting that he might not be the one suing. He questioned the study's approach to handling runoff into the San Diego River on the stadium site's southern border and whether alternatives to the proposed new stadium were vetted adequately.

What jumped out to Spin, though, was the study's rather calm assessment of the plans for the old stadium and the proximity of the new stadium to the infamous Kinder Morgan petroleum tank farm adjacent to the site to the north.

"Once the new stadium is constructed and ready for use, demolition would then begin on the existing Qualcomm Stadium," the report explained, adding that the process would take roughly a year. "Demolition of Qualcomm Stadium would be initiated by implosion using explosives in one coordinated event."

Yes, you read correctly. The plan is to blow up Qualcomm after this bright, shiny new stadium is built just a stone's throw away to the northeast. (No mention whether they plan to shrink-wrap the new facility to protect it from lord-knows-what would come billowing forth from the ol' concrete-and-steel girl.)

The report does note that a "blasting execution plan shall be developed and approved prior to any implosion event. This blasting execution plan shall evaluate the feasibility of staged implosion to minimize dust generation and exposure." The report also notes that any asbestos, lead-based paints and other hazardous materials would be removed from the old stadium prior to demolition.

But the report appears to paint a rather rosy scenario for the dust particles, which it anticipates "would dissipate and return to ambient background levels in a period of 1 to 2 hours."

The neighboring petroleum tank farm is yet another matter. As proposed, the new stadium would be built to the northeast of Qualcomm, some 900 feet closer to the 24 tanks operating as the Kinder Morgan Energy Partners Mission Valley Terminal.

While the report suggests that the chance of any cataclysmic event involving the fuel tanks would be low, pushing the stadium closer to the tank farm "represents a greater degree of vulnerability to the stadium structure and users."

As with many other issues— from the old stadium's historical significance to the anticipated increase in air pollution, noise and traffic to possible bird-strike deaths with the gleaming new stadium—the tank-farm matter is labeled by the report as "significant and unavoidable."

The report also notes that the city will seek an environmentally friendly LEED Gold rating for the proposed stadium, which is an important necessity if the city plans to seek exemption from California Environmental Quality Act requirements, as the report suggests.

Among the other interesting tidbits from the report: 

"Operation of the project would not add any new odor sources, and any odors generated would be similar to existing odors associated with land uses in the area." 

Biologists spent one day in the field studying resources in the area, sometimes relegated to road overpasses when "vegetation was too thick to survey a given habitat." 

The stadium proposal would add five acres of solar panels in the northwest parking lot or on the stadium roof. 

The new stadium, designed by Kansas City-based Populous, would be larger than Qualcomm (possibly twice as tall, up to 250 feet) but seat fewer people. It would also use more natural gas (up 26 percent) and electricity (up 10 percent).

As of last week, the public had 45 days to comment on the draft EIR. Expect some dust clouds and kabooms.

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