Sanders’ Last Stand in California Lands at Epicenter of Local NFL Controversy

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has scheduled a rally in San Diego, California for Sunday.

Its location, the Mission Valley Qualcomm Stadium, home of the San Diego Chargers, will be of no particular interest to Sanders’ get out the vote team. But, local politicos can’t help but see the irony of the political gathering, which will take place in the largest asphalt parking lot in the Western U.S.

Environmentalists and San Diego State University boosters would like to see the asphalt replaced with a giant regional park. The ambitious plan to restore the San Diego River, create active park space, and limit development to San Diego State, which is just two trolley stops up the road, is wildly popular and has gained momentum since the Chargers announced their desire to move downtown.

The local political establishment, however, including the Republican mayor and city council members, as well as Democratic politicians close to the politically active hotel industry, have tried to steer the NFL into a massive redevelopment of the river valley site that is preferred by developers. The Chargers rejected the massive development proposal, questioning both the economics and the environmental challenges.

Read More: Is NFL Gearing Up for Ugly Fight with Hotel Industry in San Diego?

Nevertheless, speculation has continued to center on the question of whether the Chargers might ultimately change their mind. Chargers owner Dean Spanos tried to put an end to that speculation this week by releasing a letter making it clear that the NFL is either going downtown or it will leave town.

Spanos’ letter comes just a week before the team is expected to submit 100,000 signatures on an initiative to raise taxes on hotel visitors to pay for a combined downtown convention center/stadium.

The Chargers Initiative will be on the same ballot with the enviro/university plan (known as The Citizens’ Plan) which also allows for a downtown convention center/stadium but requires the Chargers to foot the bill for all stadium costs.

So for locals, the Sanders rally could be the last big asphalt parking lot event in Mission Valley.

Still unanswered is whether a 2020 campaign could rally in the city’s brand new regional park or go knocking on the doors of thousands of new high rise condo residents in what has been dubbed “Mission Valley Manhattan West.”

Photo Credit: Flyt Path