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San Diego Housing Fee Opponents To Force Issue

Opponents of an affordable housing fee increase for big construction projects in San Diego collected enough voter signatures to qualify the issue for a ballot or to have the City Council reverse course, the City Clerk's Office announced today.

The referendum challenges the council's vote to restore the fee to its original level -- 1.5 percent of cost of construction. In 1996, it was halved to 0.75 percent as an economic incentive.

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Opponents, led by ex-Mayor Jerry Sanders, believe the fee hike will be a job killer, because it would increase costs for business owners who want to move or expand in San Diego.

Sanders, the chief executive of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, recently said the affordable housing fee at 1.5 percent of the project cost would have an "extremely negative impact on jobs and our local economy and should be repealed.''

His group, which calls itself the Jobs Coalition, turned in more than 53,000 signatures on Jan. 22. Nearly 34,000 voter signatures are needed to force action on the issue.

According to the City Clerk's Office, the issue will be addressed at a City Council meeting, where members will decide to rescind approval of the fee increase -- which passed on two 5-4, party-line votes -- or call for a public vote.

While the city's overall fee on the total construction cost is doubling, opponents say some types of businesses would be charged increases of more than 700 percent, while making only a minimal impact on San Diego's affordable housing shortage.

The city calls the fee a "Workforce Housing Offset.''

Supporters of the fee increase point to studies that show San Diego's housing market is among the least affordable, and more affordable housing would make the city more attractive to businesses.

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