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San Diego City Council Rejects November Special Election

San Diego City Council hears arguments for and against holding a special election in November, June 12, 2017.
Andrew Bowen
San Diego City Council hears arguments for and against holding a special election in November, June 12, 2017.

The City Council Monday rejected a plan to conduct a special election for this fall that potentially would have included Mayor Kevin Faulconer's plan to expand the San Diego Convention Center, along with the proposed SoccerCity redevelopment of the Qualcomm Stadium property in Mission Valley.

The 5-4 vote by the council likely pushes public consideration of those issues to the next regularly scheduled general election in November of next year.

Shortly after the vote, Councilmember Chris Ward released the following statement regarding the council's vote not to schedule a 2017 special election for a proposed Transit Occupancy Tax (TOT) ballot measure:

"The frustrating thing is that we agree on what we want. I have been a long-time supporter of expanding our convention center and strongly agree homelessness and infrastructure should be our priorities. We could be here today considering a stronger measure with enthusiastic bipartisan support, but the handful of remaining proponents have proven more committed to political games than actual solutions."

The council had two issues before it — whether to call a special election for this year and whether to place the convention center plan on the ballot. Since the special election was voted down, the convention center question couldn't be considered.

"This isn't ready to come forward, it just really isn't," Councilman David Alvarez said about the convention center proposal. "Shovels can't be ready, and cranes can't be ready, because the land doesn't belong to the city."

Convention Center Report
A report to the San Diego City Council details the mayor's proposed hotel room tax measure.
To view PDF files, download Acrobat Reader.

Faulconer proposed increasing San Diego's hotel room tax to raise funds to expand the facility by 400,000 square feet, and at the same time provide funding streams for homeless programs and road repairs.

Opposition came from backers of a voter-passed City Charter amendment that directs initiatives to general election ballots and organized labor. A major hitch in the mayor's plan is that the leasehold for land the center would expand onto is no longer controlled by the city, but rather an entity that's required by contract to build a hotel project. In the past, the mayor's office expressed confidence that the obstacle could be overcome.

In defending his plan, Faulconer told the council members that the city has passed on "far too many opportunities over the years."

In a statement following the vote, he said San Diego deserves better than what it received in the council vote.

"There is nothing more democratic and fair than holding an election so voters can make their voices heard," Faulconer said. "But the City Council majority has made the irresponsible and politically-driven decision to deny a public vote. Council members who say they share the community's priorities were given a chance to act, but they chose to do nothing."

Last week, the council members removed $5 million in funding for the special election from the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, but Faulconer responded by restoring the money, which he has the power to do, and slashing the office budgets of council members Barbara Bry and Chris Ward.

RELATED: Mayor Faulconer Restores $5 Million For November Special Election

The council scheduled a Tuesday vote on overriding the mayor's action, which would require six votes.

While the convention center plan is going back to the drawing board, the impact on SoccerCity is less clear. Well over 100,000 registered voters signed petitions in favor of the plan to replace Qualcomm Stadium with a smaller facility for soccer and college football, so the council next week will be tasked with deciding to adopt the plan or put it before voters.

The question of when it would go before the public would be determined at another time, according to the City Attorney's Office.

SoccerCity also envisions a park along the San Diego River, housing, offices and commercial space.

San Diego City Council To Vote On Special Election
The City Council is holding a special session Monday, and the fate of the mayor's proposed tax measure to expand the Convention Center hangs in the balance. Council members are being asked to call a November special election for the proposal.
San Diego City Council To Vote On Special Election
San Diego City Council To Vote On Special Election GUEST:Andrew Bowen, reporter, KPBS News

Our top story today is a San Diego city Council vote that could scuttle mayors -- Mayor Kevin Faulconer's plans to hold a special election this November. He wants two major projects to go to the voters this fall. Today's is about raising the hotel room tax to expand the convention center and to sweeten the pot the mayor says he would spend some of the tax increase on fixing roads and homeless projects. Things changed little bit on Friday the Mayor vetoed plans for the special election. They want $5 million before did not seem like he's cutting the money that the Council had dedicated into police said he will figure out how to spend it earlier when he negotiates with the union. Account money from the budgets of counsel districts one and three and counsel districts eight and nine. All of this is people that oppose the special election. This was seen as retaliation for the Council Democrats were opposing his plans. Today's vote is about whether to have a special election or not. The convention center will give us a breakdown of how much money would go to the convention center and how much would go to roads and helmets to homeless. -- How much to homeless. 60% would go to the convention center expansion. The homeless would get 18% of the funding over the 42 year lifespan that would raise about $150 million. The city has a lot of other important needs for the money if they raise the tax. This money could be spent on other needs. That is what the mayor and tourism industry is arguing that the extension is about growing our economy and tax base they have to turn down business from conventions and come to San Diego to see that the convention center is not big enough. The other argument is the cost of the -- expansion. This is the expansion we want to have it it's better to do it sooner than later. The argument against a special election is that they have typically very low voter turnout. This is just too big of a decision to have where we know based on our history based on every election that has ever been held that not that many people will actually turn up and cast ballots in that election. A lot of the opponents bring and measure all that passed last November and requires citizens initiatives to be voted on in special elections. The mayor is proposing something that would be initiated to the city Council. The argument is basically the spirit behind measure out. The intent is to have decisions decided in those higher voter turnout elections in general elections. Also an argument in favor of Faulkner's on measure to have it voted on in 2018 because two pulse been commissioned and made public and I found. How they overcome the fact that the majority had voted not to find it if it does not pass. He basically restored that funding so for whatever reason if they decide they do not want to have a special election after all the mayor has already allocated the money with the veto. Counsel can override the veto with six votes but it appears there's not a six-foot majority on the Council that would actually override the mayor's veto at this point. Is there any kind of guarantee that the extra money raised will go to the homeless and to roads. The office of the Council want to increase the funding that goes to repair and homelessness but they cannot do that until fiscal year 2035 so the 64% that is dedicated to the convention center is locked in for about 20 years. There is nothing in the measure that was the extra money will go to other needs. It would just going to the city. Nobody will be allowed to talk about it at the councilmember the FS investors 70 this vote because major league soccer will decide this year to decide big cities to expand and. They want that level of security their chance of getting a franchise with, less is better. FS investor says it is already too risky. The city Council decision today holds applications for the multibillion-dollar soccer development plan. Eric Anderson has more on that. Reporter: soccer city backers want to repurpose the 166 acre QUALCOMM Stadium site and the Murphy Canyon land were charges Stadium assets. They're looking to demolish the Stadium, tear up the parking lot and rebuild the area. Plans include 4000 homes River space commercial back and 23,000 seat sports stadium. It would become soccer Academy. There's a television ad that has been running for several weeks. The Stadium is a real fixer-upper. Soccer city will pay fair market value. They are trying to land a major league soccer franchise. The league is expanding by four teams soon close to a dozen cities are competing there was a local commitment to build the stadium. If there is no team there is no development. The deadline has been a constant talking point. Spokesman Nick stone. Here he is back in Mark -- March. This plan is effectively dead. They are voting to kill it. Also in last month in May. The soccer city project is on the docket until June 19. That is when city officials publicly debate the merits. City councilmember David Alvarez says he supports city -- putting soccer city on the ballot but not until November 2018. This is a pretty big decision. We do not have the land. Alvarez wanted to be part of the projects. The school pulled out of two years of talks of FS investors saying their needs were not being met in the negotiations. Meanwhile Alvarez says the called for referendums and initiatives to be placed on November ballot. Do we want a few of them to make the decision or the majority of them? Voters approved the charter change by a wide margin. It's his responsibility to abide by the decision. Measure L also permits initiatives to be added to special November elections. People should have an opportunity to hear this on it mayor. If we do not have a special election called for I think that will not allow us to actually have [Indiscernible]. He's looking forward to the discussion because he's already got a taste of the debate from his constituents. He expects a spirited dialogue because there are folks on all sides of this issue. The vitality of that area that would come from postal some like it because of the sports and some do not. The measure does not die if the special election fails. They can revisit it anytime over the summer. They also create the vote on June 19. They only give the Council two choices. Out right reported on the November 18 ballot. They would have to approve a special election this November.