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Roundtable Talks Stadium Details, Zoo Funds, Minimum Wage

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Chargers unveil downtown stadium plans

The Chargers released the details this week of their financing plan for a new downtown stadium and convention center expansion. The project will be on the November ballot, if enough signatures are gathered.

The plan is basically the same as reported last week: raise hotel taxes to 16.5 percent to support $1.15 billion in bonds to pay for the city’s contribution toward the facility ($350 million); $600 million for a convention center annex; and $200 million to buy land.

Another $650 million toward the $1.8 billion project would come from the team ($300 million) and the NFL. The NFL’s contribution is $100 million and a $200 million loan.

The plan also includes $25 million a year for upkeep and upgrades, and $15 million for operations and maintenance. The Chargers would agree to lease the stadium for 30 years and stay put.

One of many obstacles to a downtown stadium has been the Metropolitan Transit System's bus yard, which occupies some eight acres the Chargers want to build on. MTS officials this week expressed a willingness to talk about relocating. Where they might be able to move is an interesting question.

Photo caption:

Photo credit: JMI Realty

A conceptual rendering of the proposed Chargers stadium and convention center in downtown San Diego. The renderings may be revised in the future.

The zoo's pot of gold

The institutions in Balboa Park may be forgiven if they think of the San Diego Zoo as the park’s resident Midas.

While the aging park stews in a backlog of around $300 million in deferred maintenance, the zoo currently gets some $10 million annually from a share of city property taxes. It has enjoyed that pot of money since the passage of a city charter tax measure in 1934, and it doesn’t want to share.

Even if it did, any change in the charter to divide up that fund would have to go to a public vote.

The zoo made $69 million in revenues over expenses in 2014. City Council members Mark Kersey and Marti Emerald want the zoo to voluntarily help the rest of the park, or perhaps have the public avoid paying the tax altogether.

The city’s independent budget analyst determined that using the funds to provide maintenance for the park as a whole is “not legally feasible.” Even the CEO of the Balboa Park Conservancy believes the zoo tax should stay where it is.

Photo caption:

Photo by San Diego Shooter / Flickr

Minimum wage hike

The San Diego City Council approved a hike in the city’s minimum wage in 2014, but business leaders collected enough signatures to force the measure to a public vote.

The City Council opted for the June ballot.

The measure, which will need a simple majority, will increase the city’s wage to $10.50 right away and to $11.50 on Jan. 1, 2017. Starting in 2019, annual increases would be based on the consumer price index. The measure includes five sick days a year, and there are no exemptions for any business.

Meanwhile, the state announced an agreement to raise the minimum wage, which sailed through both houses this week. That ordinance raises the state wage to $15 an hour over the next seven years: $10.50 on Jan. 1, 2017, and $1-a-year raises through 2022. Businesses with fewer than 25 employees can put off the increase for a year.

The inevitable questions: Will this hurt or help businesses and employees and the state itself?

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Associated Press

Teamster member Rocio Mejia, a supporter of a proposal to raise the state's minimum wage, joins others outside the Assembly Chambers calling for Assembly members to approve the measure in Sacramento, March 31, 2016.

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Roundtable is a lively discussion of the week's top stories. Local journalists join host Mark Sauer to provide insight into how these stories affect residents of the San Diego region.

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