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Judge Denies Injunction On Hotel Tax Vote

— A Superior Court judge denied a request for an injunction that would have blocked a vote on a special tax to fund the San Diego Convention Center expansion.

The request to stop the vote came from the county’s hospitality and tourism workers union, Unite Here Local 30. The group filed a lawsuit alleging the funding mechanism being proposed for the Convention Center expansion is illegal. The plan calls for hotel owners to vote to increase hotel room taxes, with the revenue going toward the expansion. The union maintains the entire city should vote on the tax.

Judge Gonzalo Curiel said the request to stop the vote duplicates the city’s plan to file a validation proceeding if the tax is approved.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith told KPBS last week the suit is unnecessary. If the hotel owners approve the tax this spring, his office is already planning to file a suit to test the validity of the funding plan.

“Just cool your heels,” he said. “We will file a validation lawsuit, that means we won’t collect any taxes until everybody has a chance to come in and say that it’s illegal in their opinion. We will set out the case as to why it’s legal. A judge will look at it, make a determination and we’ll all be happy.”

Graham Forbes, a spokesman for UNITE HERE Local 30, said although the injunction was not granted, a judge will still hear the case on April 6.

"We believe (the judge) understood the importance of our issues being heard," Forbes said. "The sooner a judge hears this case on its merits, the sooner the people of San Diego will be given a voice in whether to proceed with this massive tax increase."

Goldsmith said the validation process could take at least a year. At issue is whether the entire city needs to vote on the room tax increase rather than just hotel owners.

The Convention Center expansion is projected to cost $520 million. The hotel room taxes would make up the majority of the funding, contributing about $35 million a year. The city and the Port of San Diego would also contribute to the project.

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