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Mayor Faulconer Wants Hotel Room Tax Bill On November's Ballot

March 23, 2017 1:43 p.m.

Mayor Faulconer Wants Hotel Room Tax Bill On November's Ballot


Lori Weisberg, reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune

Related Story: Mayor Faulconer Wants Hotel Room Tax Bill On November's Ballot


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

In his state Avenue address, the mayor said he would ask voters to approve a hotel room tax increase to finance the expansion of the convention center. That vote would take place in 2018. Yesterday, we learned the mayor would like to speed up the vote to November of this year. The proposal remains unchanged. Joining me is Lori Weisberg with the San Diego Union Tribune who reposted -- ported on the timeline. Welcome to the show.
Thank you.
How did the move for a boat this year come to light?
It came to light, I was covering a board meeting. The Chief of Staff wanted to make a presentation updating operations on what is going on with plans are hopes for the expansion of the center. In his remarks, he broke news that we did not know, they are going to stick with the original plan that was approved by the coastal commission it was originally $550 million. Recently, they had cost updated by the architect. It is now between 630 and 685 million. Because the costs are going up quickly, they said construction cost is 3.6 main dollars per month. They cannot afford to wait until 2018. They are going to push for a special election in November.
The convention center aches, it won a court victory in January. Can you tell us what that was and if it has anything to do with the speed up timeline?
It has a lot to do with it. And even going forward, the attorney Corey Briggs filed suit challenging the California coastal commission approval in 2013 of the expansion. She said environment -- if violated rules for access and a judge said no. There was no basis for the claims. He tentatively ruled in the city, favoring the commission favor. The mayor was waiting. He showed up the hearing. They were waiting for the ruling to see whether they should proceed. Because it it one -- it went in the city a comment they decided to before.
How high would push the hotel room tax? Back the tax is 10.5%. You need to add 2% for any hotels with 70 rooms are more for tourism marketing. The larger hotels have an effective rate of 12.5%. It would go up to three percentage points higher and can be 15.5% if you have that marketing charge. The highest break is for downtown hotels closest to the convention center. It is a graduated scale.
Some of this money was supposed to go to street repair and homelessness also in the first proposal. Is that something that voters will see also in November when they vote?
Yes. That is still part of the proposal. They acknowledge that it is the lesser part of what would be raised. The Chief of Staff said something like 17 to $17-$20 million per year for streets and homelessness at ask hotel rooms, as it grows, that revenue will grow but they have not given a specific breakdown yet.
The mayor would have to get two thirds of the voters to approve it because this is a new tax. Most people would not have to pay the tax, right? Back right. If this does before, that would be part of the campaign messages that visitors will pay this. We know in the past that past efforts to get a two thirds majority for tax increase has not succeeded. I think they are thinking that if they couple it with popular issues like homelessness and road repairs, that may be the trick and it will sell. Table make the argument about Comic-Con and there is revenue on the city and that is the argument that they make. Two thirds vote in the San Diego area is a tough bar to pass.
There is also a nether elements that we have not talked about. Actually, it is not talked about much. There is a competing project for the waterfront in the same area that the convention expansion would be in. It is called the fifth Avenue land deal. Could we see a nether legal battle zooming?
I think so. I mean, the attorneys are representing that development group for project that would occupy the same sites and they have sent a letter to the mayor telling him to back off. You are interfering with the ability to process the plans and they are in the process and complete an impact report. He is try to this -- persuade them to downsize the project. They said no. They are willing to talk but the position remains the same and they want to see that project. I do not know if that is leverage for some kind of striking a deal later on but right now, they are committed to this project. They control the land and the city and the convention city.
With the port as San Diego TV entity to decide that particular dispute?
That would, they are saying the right things enable give the project is to. They will way everything when they decide that. They have the option to say the commission center expansion, they can say it is more important and we are not going to upper the project. That push to get it on the ballot, this a city Council have to prove that?
First step would be the rules committee meeting and they will be asked to ask the attorney to draft a measure than that proposed ballot measure will come back to the city Council. There is time to make it for the November ballot.
I am speaking with Lori Weisberg . Thank you very much.
Thank you.