Complex Measure D Takes On Big San Diego Redevelopment Issues
This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Supporters of Measure D help voters back their prime to manage the tourism industry. The measure called the citizens initiative would raise hotel occupation taxes and calls for a major when a ration in Mission Valley. Eric Anderson has he tells. One former student lawmaker strolls through the Qualcomm Stadium parking on, he seems that sees possibilities. And expense of towards this way and then it goes into the recreational, simple sports activities. We get rid of all these asphalt and make that goal weight. He says this plot of land would become a university on a park if the Qualcomm Stadium site was ever redeveloped. Taking this single last large property in preventing a replication of the mistakes that you see to the West. We can go on this trolley and look down and see the overdevelopment and you can see the traffic impact. The ballot measure sets guidelines for developing the property in Mission Valley. It does the same for expanding the convention center and allows for the construction of a sports stadium downtown or in Mission Valley. The fundamental for value of Measure D is it increases the city Council's bargaining position, the mayor's bargaining position , and protects the text buyer by setting strict spending limits and saying that you cannot spend public money on a professional spent -- sport facility of any kind. The projects are not required. The only guarantee if the measure passes is a hike in the transit occupation tax. That money could sent to the general fund were it to pay for city needs. If nothing happens it is said at a market rate that makes sense and treats a public more fairly. That is a good result. It was put together by local attorney Cory Briggs was a major financial backer as his truck -- JMI Realty . I have very mixed emotions about it because I want to see some of the questions answered. Michael teaches at the new school and his background is in city planning. He says Measure D addresses some issues in San Diego and he likes a potential. At the same time I want to see the questions answered. Something that is in context with a lot of other things. 's indecision about measure -- Measure D is not shared by marketing officials. Individual hotels would have to opted to fund tourism marketing and smaller hotels would carry a lighter burden. It is also getting pushback from the Sandeno County taxpayers Association. The president says the measure is incredibly complex. If you were to change any aspects because this is a a ballot initiative to change anything would car them to go back to the ballot box. Uses the taxpayer protections are welcome to but a sweeping plan like this really demands more public input. As his Measure D a limited flexibility. Future simulators decide to take a different course. I think one thing is for certain that should a pass, there is very likely to be legal disputes around this. There are also questions about, he votes the best journeys to pass. Some argue it is a tax hike that requires two thirds. The increases for the general fund so only a simple majority is required. Either way voters need to do some homework to understand the measure. A professor says that is a problem at the ballot box. The general tendency of people is that they don't want to agree with things that they artfully sure a. If that is not confusing enough, there is a matter of Measure C and calls for an increase in the tourist tax to fund a stadium and convention center downtown. If both measures are proved by voters, the one with the most yes goes into effect. Eric Anderson, KPBS news. Joining me is Scott Sherman and represents district 7 which includes Mission Valley and he opposes Measure D. Your main objection to Measure D is? Specifically prohibits a continuous expansion of the convention center. From wanting to attract other large conventions is much more preferable than a noncontinuous convention space. This specifically excludes that. There is raising hotel tax, which is another issue. I think it will be declared unconstitutional if it does pass because I think adeptly violates the single subject rule that the state has for initiative measures. Way back to Comic Con and that their desire to have a convention center. They have said that they won not -- want that but they did not say they would leave over the issue. Do you think they would leave out of San Diego? Yes, I think the potential is role that they would move to a place that has a larger space. They said many times that they think it is the preferred way to go. Having been in the private sector for 25+ years and sold my -- a different conventions to have one space separate from the main hall is not a place I want to provide business because chances are a lot of people will visit the main hall not take the time to go to others. Many supporters of Measure D point to the provisions that would allow for technical stay in Mission Valley how much of your opposition is due to your previous proposal to build 6000 condo units instead of Mission Valley? Absolutely none. That is a thing that's been bothering me about the people talking about my plan for 6000 units in Mission Valley. What they fail to mention is I had three different plans out there. A high density, medium density, and low-density. The one they keep choosing is the high density. I showed what it will take to not have taxpayer money to do a stadium down there. There were options for medium and low density as well. They just wanted to point to the highest density, of course. As we've heard, some people are concerned that if indeed Measure D passes that it would be challenging -- challenge legally. Is also concern of yours? Yes, because there is a poison provision in there that if one portion of the thing is declared illegal than the entire thing is illegal. There are so many opportunities for lawsuit and legal on this. I think it is eventually -- they would find one thing out of the 27 provisions that would be illegal. Therefore notified the entire initiative. Thank you so much. You're welcome. Any time. Now my guest is Donna Frye supporter of Measure D. The most common criticism is how complex it is. Not just for voters to understand, but that it could run afoul of rules that restrict ballot measures to a single issue. Why should voters trust that the measure will be overturned? We have run this through many lawyers. Some the best election attorneys in the state of California. We have great confidence in their legal analysis of this. So 42% of voters are still undecided on Measure D. So is the measure to complicated? No. What is complicated is how we got here. That's what's complicated. What Measure D does is unwind a lot of the dealing that occurred and allows the public to vote on whether or not the tourist taxes should be increased. They did not have the opportunity. The last three times it was proposed to be increased they did not have that. It would become her some if changes needed to be made to the measure South because it would have to go through the ballot process again. Is at a valid concern? Know, the main thing that would have to go through the voters is if there was to be any money spent for a charger Stadium. That would require a public vote. Most of the other issues that this talks about goes through a very simple legislative process that if the hotel agrees and the city agrees they could move forward. Opponents like Scott Sherman say this could drive away Comic Con. Is Measure D worth the risk? First of all I don't agree with him that it will drive away Comic Con and in fact I have had some documents from the San Diego County taxpayers Association about this proposal and what it does. They say that this proposal has potential to bring a minimum of 17.6 million annually to the city of San Diego and has valuable restrictions on the amount of public funding that could be used in the construction of a noncontinuous convention center expansion. No public subsidy. Making it potentially worthy of support by the San Diego County taxpayers Association. Their board voted not to support it but I suspect that part of the reason for that and part of the opposition to this is that Mr. Sherman specifically is one prime components of increasing the amount of development in Mission Valley that would pretty much limit any kind of a decent size San Diego River Park and would increase the density in the Qualcomm Stadium area by 6000 condominium units. I think he probably has another plan in mind when he is talking about this particular issue. I've been speaking with Donna Frye. Thank you so much. Thank you.
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 toa 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.