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Citizens Initiative Announced To Expand San Diego Convention Center

Coalition of business, tourism, and homeless leaders gather to announce plan ...

Credit: Matt Hoffman/KPBS

Above: Coalition of business, tourism, and homeless leaders gather to announce plan for a citizens initiative to expand San Diego's downtown convention center, Jan. 8, 2017.

Citizens Initiative Announced To Expand San Diego Convention Center

GUEST:

Carol Kim, political director, San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council

Transcript

A citizens initiative announced in San Diego Monday would raise revenue to modernize and expand the downtown convention center to drive economic growth and jobs, as well as generate significant funding to alleviate homelessness and repair roads, according to local tourism and labor leaders.

Proponents say the Yes! For a Better San Diego measure, which would increase the tax paid by overnight visitors to San Diego, would pump more than $40 billion into the local economy and create nearly 7,000 permanent jobs.

Backers of the measure say it would generate $2 billion for homelessness programs and services, front-loading more than $140 million in the first five years to address the crisis, and would also dedicate more than $600 million for road and infrastructure repair.

RELATED: Report: Convention Center’s Economic Impact Over $1 Billion Last Fiscal Year

According to a news release, the measure will increase the tax paid by overnight visitors to San Diego. The visitor tax will rise by 1.25 percent for lodging facilities on the periphery of the city and up to 3.25 percent for those located in the downtown area.

"This tax would be paid exclusively by visitors, but would have a tremendous impact on the local economy and the lives of San Diegans, which is why the hotel and tourism industry is proud to support the measure," said Mike McDowell, president and CEO of the Lodging Industry Association.

“We are missing out on tens of millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs because we can’t accommodate conventions that grow" said San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Chief Operating Officer Jaymie Bradford. "We are losing access to our competitors in Orange County, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.”

In a statement to KPBS, a spokeswoman for the San Diego Convention Center said it "is losing business to competing cities both in California and across the nation due to a lack of space and availability." The spokeswoman said an expansion of the convention center would "... allow us to grow with our repeat customers as their events grow."

Photo credit: Yes! For A Better San Diego

Digital rending shows the proposed expansion of San Diego's downtown convention center, Jan. 8, 2017.

Failure to expand the convention center means San Diego would lose out on billions of new dollars and thousands of good paying jobs, said San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Vice President the COO Jaymie Bradford.

Homelessness advocates Father Joe Carroll of Father Joe's Villages and Bob McElroy of the Alpha Project also endorsed the measure, citing its commitment and ingenuity in addressing the homelessness crisis.

"This measure provides an unprecedented level of funding to address homelessness," Carroll said. "It will change the lives of thousands of men, women and children living on the streets and will help to prevent homelessness in the future."

The San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, representing more than 200,000 working families, also endorsed the measure.

Proponents plan to publish the initiatives language sometime this week and hope to begin collecting signatures by the end of January.

A citizens initiative announced in San Diego Monday would raise revenue to modernize and expand the downtown convention center to drive economic growth and jobs, as well as generate significant funding to alleviate homelessness and repair roads, according

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