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Citizens Plan For San Diego Brings ‘Significant Risk,’ City Attorney Says

Photo caption:

Photo by Milan Kovacevic

San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith at council meeting February 25, 2014.

Citizens Plan For San Diego Brings 'Significant Risk,' City Attorney Says


Jan Goldsmith, San Diego city attorney

KPBS invited attorney Cory Briggs to participate in this interview and he declined.


An initiative that would raise hotel room taxes in San Diego, prohibit a waterfront expansion of the convention center and clear the way for San Diego State University to expand onto Qualcomm Stadium property is flawed and brings "significant risk" to the city, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said Monday.

Among other things, Goldsmith pointed to what he called a "poison pill" provision in the Citizens Plan for San Diego that says if a section is ruled invalid in court and appeals are exhausted, the rest of the initiative will be invalid. He said a poison pill was unusual and could bring financial risk to the city in the event of litigation.

Goldsmith identified six areas of the Citizens Plan that could be legally questionable.

The initiative was put forth by former City Councilwoman Donna Frye and lawyer Cory Briggs, who have been collecting signatures for several months, but haven't submitted petitions to get it on the ballot. They need at least 66,447 valid names to force the City Council to adopt their proposal or place it before voters.

In his 25-page opinion, Goldsmith also said the initiative could violate the single-subject rule, which limits ballot measures and laws to one issue.

The initiative says the subject is the responsible management of the city's tourism and entertainment-related resources, but within that framework provisions involve raising taxes, the future of the San Diego Convention Center and Qualcomm Stadium property, and direction to the Port of San Diego on using funds, he said.

About Goldsmith's assessment, Briggs told City News Service that "he is wrong, period."

Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who asked for Goldsmith's opinion, called the Citizens Plan "well intentioned," but that "the city attorney's analysis shows that this appears to be a plan that could tie up the city in court for years at great cost to taxpayers."

The Chargers plan to begin collecting signatures later this month on an initiative for the proposed downtown stadium project that is similar to the Citizens Plan in some respects. Team representatives met today with Citizens Plan supporters and, on Twitter, Briggs called the talks "productive" and said they would meet again.


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