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Councilman Wants To Use San Diego’s Hotel Room Taxes To Fund Permanent Homeless Housing

Councilman David Alvarez sits down in his home for an interview, October 2013.

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Above: Councilman David Alvarez sits down in his home for an interview, October 2013.

San Diego voters could decide next year whether to direct increases in the city's hotel room tax revenue toward permanent supportive housing for homeless families and individuals under a plan outlined Tuesday by Councilman David Alvarez.

In a memorandum to council President Myrtle Cole, Alvarez requested that a City Charter amendment be developed for the 2018 elections. The charter is San Diego's primary governing document.

"To date, every proposal brought forward, from industrial tents to campgrounds have been largely ineffective," Alvarez wrote in the memo. "It is abundantly clear that the most effective way to address homelessness is to have an ample supply of permanent supportive housing available for families and individuals that are close to or actually experiencing homelessness."

He asked that his proposal be placed on an upcoming Rules Committee agenda. The committee vets proposed ballot measures that don't go through the signature-collection process.

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Alvarez, whose plan would be in effect for 20 years, has been critical of the city's actions to address the growing homelessness problem and a related outbreak of hepatitis A.

"The city has an obligation to ensure certain levels of public safety and health by not only preventing the current crisis from growing, but also by taking meaningful steps to proactively curb the number of individuals and families living on the streets," the councilman wrote.

In the fiscal year ended June 30, San Diego received $116.9 million in hotel room taxes, 2.3 percent higher than expected. The amount was 8.6 percent higher than the previous fiscal year, according to a report provided to the City Council on Monday.

City voters have already approved the idea of directing future revenue growth into a particular program. Last year, a plan by Councilman Mark Kersey to dedicate sales tax growth and savings from reduced pension payments over the next 25 years toward neighborhood infrastructure improvements was passed by a wide margin.

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