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San Diego 'Jobs Tax' Referendum Supporters Submit 53,000 Signatures To Registrar

Opponents of the San Diego City Council's increase of fees on commercial construction in San Diego said they turned in more than 53,000 signatures Wednesday to the county Registrar of Voters in a bid to get the action overturned.

San Diego companies and business organizations prepare to fight — at the ballot box — City Council's decision to increase development taxes.

The 53,107 signatures were collected over 26 days in a campaign led by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. Wednesday was the deadline to turn them in.

Nearly 34,000 signatures need to be valid, after which the City Council would have to decide whether to repeal the hike or put the issue before voters.


The action passed late last year on a pair of party-line 5-4 votes.

The fee, which provides funding for affordable housing projects, had been halved in 1996. The council voted to double the levy to where it had been, 1.5 percent of construction costs.

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," while opponents label the increases a "jobs tax."

Jerry Sanders, the former San Diego mayor and now the chamber's CEO, said he believes his side collected more than enough valid signatures to force the City Council's hand.


"This massive outpouring of support from San Diegans shows that, despite the council's efforts to impede the referendum by forcing us to start over the holidays, the voters agree with our message — this tax has an extremely negative impact on jobs and our local economy and should be repealed," Sanders said.

According to the referendum campaign, neighboring cities that don't have such a fee have been courting local businesses, including Qualcomm. Last week, Oceanside Councilmen Gary Felien and Jerry Kern sent an "Open Letter to San Diego Business Owners" and welcomed them to move their establishments north.

Next week, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors will consider a proposal to extend for two years a program in which construction impact fees are deferred.

The registrar has 30 days to count the signatures.