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The Fate Of SoccerCity And Convention Center Expansion Could Be Decided Monday

Council will vote on the fiscal budget, could choose to cut funding for special election

A rendering of the proposed soccer stadium in Mission Valley, courtesy FS Inv...

Credit: FS Investors

Above: A rendering of the proposed soccer stadium in Mission Valley, courtesy FS Investors.

The Fate Of SoccerCity And Convention Center Expansion Could Be Decided Monday

GUEST:


Claire Trageser
, investigative reporter, KPBS

Transcript

The City Council could effectively kill a special election on funding for a convention center expansion and a soccer stadium in Mission Valley during their meeting Monday.

The City Council could effectively kill a special election on funding for a convention center expansion and a soccer stadium in Mission Valley during their meeting Monday.

The council is not scheduled to vote on whether to hold a November special election until later this month. But council members could decide to eliminate the funding for that election during their vote on the fiscal 2018 budget Monday afternoon.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer's current budget proposal includes $5 million for a special election this November. If five of the nine council members vote to remove that funding, the election would likely be postponed until November 2018.

RELATED: San Diego Mayor Endorses SoccerCity Project, Hopes SDSU Gets On Board

Four Democrats on the council — David Alvarez, Barbara Bry, Georgette Gomez and Chris Ward — have already stated publicly that they oppose a special election.

A spokeswoman for Council President Myrtle Cole, also a Democrat, said on Friday Cole "has not disclosed her position on this matter."

Two Republicans on the council — Mark Kersey and Chris Cate — said they have not yet decided.

Kersey posted on Twitter that he is "carefully weighing the various options."

Cate's spokeswoman said "as of right now, Councilmember Cate has not taken a position on funding a special election."

On Friday, a spokesman for Councilman Scott Sherman said Sherman "believes it is very important to fund the special election."

"Defunding would kill a citizens’ initiative that collected over 100,000 signatures within a record time of 12 days," said Jeff Powell. "The people should have a right to vote on this measure when it counts, in November."

A representative for the fourth Republican, Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, did not return a request for comment.

Nick Stone, the developer behind SoccerCity, said last month that delaying the vote until 2018 would kill the project because it removes the chance for the city to attract a soccer franchise. His company, La Jolla-based FS Investors, will not pursue its development plan if there is no Major League Soccer team.

In addition to the stadium, FS Investors wants to build homes, commercial space and a river park on the 166-acre Qualcomm Stadium site.

Potential Convention Center Expansion

Along with the soccer stadium proposal, council members are weighing a special election on the mayor's plan to raise San Diego's hotel room tax by up to 3 percent. The money would go towards funding an expansion of the convention center, as well as road repair projects and homeless programs.

The plan would need two-thirds of voters to approve it.

On Friday, Faulconer said delaying the vote to November 2018 would cost the city $76 million.

He pointed to an analysis from the city's chief financial officer that estimates delaying construction of the expansion will cost $43 million. On top of that, the mayor said the delay would cost the city $13 million in lost hotel tax revenue, plus $10 million each for homeless funding and road repair.

"San Diegans need the City Council to step up and take action," he said in a statement. "The numbers clearly show that we can’t afford to kick the can down the road. With each month that goes by we’re losing jobs and revenue we need to fix our roads and address the homeless crisis on our streets. The City Council’s choice is clear: they can take action to solve these problems or they can put their heads in the sand and let these problems get worse."

Faulconer had originally proposed putting a hotel tax increase on last year's ballot, but then backed off the idea.

"We want this measure to pass at the polls, and we believe a future ballot gives us a better path to success than June," the mayor's spokesman Matt Awbrey said at the time.

San Diego Police Department Spending

The council will also weigh other funding decisions on Monday, including whether to boost spending on police officer staffing and support for area arts programs.

Last week the city's Independent Budget Analyst's office suggested increasing the San Diego Police Department's overtime budget by $3 million to ensure that enough officers are on duty each day.

The police department has suffered a chronic shortage of officers in recent years, and police officials have warned that with recruit numbers falling short and projected retirements of current officers, they could have trouble meeting minimum patrol staffing levels in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The hike would bring the total overtime expenditures to $26.2 million, which would "fully fund" the police department's needs in that area, the budget report said.

Also recommended by the Independent Budget Analyst was an extra $350,000 for a study on police recruiting and retention, and a marketing plan to attract recruits, for a total of $500,000.

Arts Funding

Arts funding could be boosted by using $1 million from money expected to be left over from the current fiscal year, the budget analyst said.

In his original budget proposal, the mayor slashed financial support for arts programs by 31 percent, to $10.4 million. After running into opposition from the council and arts supporters, he added back $2.4 million.

The money goes to the city's Commission on Arts and Culture, which spreads the funds among numerous organizations — including the Old Globe, La Jolla Playhouse and Balboa Park museums.

City News Service contributed to this story.

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