Complex Measure D Takes On Big San Diego Redevelopment Issues
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Supporters say the plan promotes and manages the region's tourism industry. The complex measure would raise taxes, limit bayfront development and call for a major renovation in Mission Valley.
When former state lawmaker Steve Peace strolls through this Qualcomm Stadium parking lot, he sees possibilities.
"As the expansion of the river expands up this way and then melds into the recreational, simple passive sports activities. Soccer fields. And that sort of thing. And we get rid of all this asphalt. We make that go away," Peace said.
Under Measure D, if the Qualcomm Stadium site is ever redeveloped the 160-acre plot of land would become a university-owned research park. Peace sees a chance to create a lasting regional treasure.
Supporters of Measure D say it will promote and manage the region's tourism industry. The measure raises taxes, limits bayfront development, and calls for a major renovation in Mission Valley.
"It protects the taxpayers by setting strict spending limits, saying you cannot spend public money on a professional sports facility of any kind," Steve Peace said.
"Taking this single last large huge swath of property and preventing a replication of the mistakes that you see to the west. We can take this trolley and go to the west and see the overdevelopment, see the traffic impact," Peace said.
Ballot Measure D, at more than 70 pages, sets guidelines for developing the property in Mission Valley, for expanding the convention center and for the construction of a sports stadium in either of those two locations.
"The fundamental core value of Measure D is in increases the city council's bargaining position, the mayor's bargaining position and it protects the taxpayers by setting strict spending limits saying you cannot spend public money on a professional sports facility of any kind," Peace said.
Measure D allows for specific development, according to Peace, who points out that a yes vote for D doesn't require any redevelopment. The only guarantee, if the measure passes, is a hike in the transient occupancy tax to 15.5 percent.
That new money gets funneled to the city's general fund where it can pay for city needs.
"If nothing happens other than the (tourist tax) rate gets set at a rational market rate, that makes sense and treats the public more fairly, that's a good result and I can live with that," Peace said.
Measure D was put together by attorney Cory Briggs. He's a major financial backer as is JMI Realty. Both have loaned the campaign money which has led to a website and some modest web advertising.
Measure D deals with long running local issues
The idea has urban planners considering the possibilities.
"So I have very mixed emotions about it because I want to see some of these questions answered," said Michael Stepner, a faculty member at San Diego's New School of Architecture.
Stepner's background is in city planning and he said measure D addresses some long running issues in San Diego. He likes the potential.
"But at the same time," Stepner said, "I want to see the questions answered in not necessarily a ballot box measure. But something that is in context with a lot of other things that are going on."
Stepner's indecision about Measure D is not shared by tourism marketing officials, who don't like the proposal.
The measure changes how they would get funding. Individual hotels would have to opt in to fund tourism marketing and smaller hotels would carry a lighter burden.
Those wanting more of a say in the measure push back
Measure D is also getting pushback from the San Diego County Taxpayer's Association. Haney Hong says the measure is incredibly complex.
"And if you were to change any aspect of it, because this is a ballot initiative to change anything would require them to go back to the ballot box," Hong said.
The taxpayer protections are welcome but the association says a sweeping plan like this really demands more public input.
As is, Measure D eliminates flexibility if future city leaders decide to take a different course when it comes to Mission Valley, the convention center or a sports stadium.
"But I think that one thing is for certain. Should it pass, there's very likely to be legal disputes around this which then taxpayers would be responsible for covering," Hong said.
Questions have arisen over how many votes the measure needs to pass. Some argue it needs two-thirds support because it includes a tax hike. Backers say they only need 50 percent plus one vote because the tax increase goes directly into the general fund.
Either way, Measure D requires voters to do their homework if they want to cast an informed ballot and that makes it harder to win votes.
"The general tendency of people is to then check no. They don't want to agree with things that they aren't fully sure of. And so there's definitely kind of a tendency for those breaking toward unsure to vote no," said Stephen Goggin, a political science professor at San Diego State University.
And if things aren't confusing enough, there's the matter of Measure C. It also calls for an increase in the tourist tax to fund a stadium convention center complex downtown. If both measures pass, the one with the most yes votes goes into effect.
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