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Mayor Faulconer Wants Hotel Room Tax Bill On November's Ballot

A view of the San Diego Convention Center from the bayside, June 1, 2014.
Michael Schuerman
A view of the San Diego Convention Center from the bayside, June 1, 2014.
Mayor Faulconer Wants Hotel Room Tax Bill On November's Ballot
Mayor Faulconer Wants Hotel Room Tax Bill On November's Ballot GUEST: Lori Weisberg, reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune

In his state Avenue address, the mayor said he would ask voters to approve a hotel room tax increase to finance the expansion of the convention center. That vote would take place in 2018. Yesterday, we learned the mayor would like to speed up the vote to November of this year. The proposal remains unchanged. Joining me is Lori Weisberg with the San Diego Union Tribune who reposted -- ported on the timeline. Welcome to the show. Thank you. How did the move for a boat this year come to light? It came to light, I was covering a board meeting. The Chief of Staff wanted to make a presentation updating operations on what is going on with plans are hopes for the expansion of the center. In his remarks, he broke news that we did not know, they are going to stick with the original plan that was approved by the coastal commission it was originally $550 million. Recently, they had cost updated by the architect. It is now between 630 and 685 million. Because the costs are going up quickly, they said construction cost is 3.6 main dollars per month. They cannot afford to wait until 2018. They are going to push for a special election in November. The convention center aches, it won a court victory in January. Can you tell us what that was and if it has anything to do with the speed up timeline? It has a lot to do with it. And even going forward, the attorney Corey Briggs filed suit challenging the California coastal commission approval in 2013 of the expansion. She said environment -- if violated rules for access and a judge said no. There was no basis for the claims. He tentatively ruled in the city, favoring the commission favor. The mayor was waiting. He showed up the hearing. They were waiting for the ruling to see whether they should proceed. Because it it one -- it went in the city a comment they decided to before. How high would push the hotel room tax? Back the tax is 10.5%. You need to add 2% for any hotels with 70 rooms are more for tourism marketing. The larger hotels have an effective rate of 12.5%. It would go up to three percentage points higher and can be 15.5% if you have that marketing charge. The highest break is for downtown hotels closest to the convention center. It is a graduated scale. Some of this money was supposed to go to street repair and homelessness also in the first proposal. Is that something that voters will see also in November when they vote? Yes. That is still part of the proposal. They acknowledge that it is the lesser part of what would be raised. The Chief of Staff said something like 17 to $17-$20 million per year for streets and homelessness at ask hotel rooms, as it grows, that revenue will grow but they have not given a specific breakdown yet. The mayor would have to get two thirds of the voters to approve it because this is a new tax. Most people would not have to pay the tax, right? Back right. If this does before, that would be part of the campaign messages that visitors will pay this. We know in the past that past efforts to get a two thirds majority for tax increase has not succeeded. I think they are thinking that if they couple it with popular issues like homelessness and road repairs, that may be the trick and it will sell. Table make the argument about Comic-Con and there is revenue on the city and that is the argument that they make. Two thirds vote in the San Diego area is a tough bar to pass. There is also a nether elements that we have not talked about. Actually, it is not talked about much. There is a competing project for the waterfront in the same area that the convention expansion would be in. It is called the fifth Avenue land deal. Could we see a nether legal battle zooming? I think so. I mean, the attorneys are representing that development group for project that would occupy the same sites and they have sent a letter to the mayor telling him to back off. You are interfering with the ability to process the plans and they are in the process and complete an impact report. He is try to this -- persuade them to downsize the project. They said no. They are willing to talk but the position remains the same and they want to see that project. I do not know if that is leverage for some kind of striking a deal later on but right now, they are committed to this project. They control the land and the city and the convention city. With the port as San Diego TV entity to decide that particular dispute? That would, they are saying the right things enable give the project is to. They will way everything when they decide that. They have the option to say the commission center expansion, they can say it is more important and we are not going to upper the project. That push to get it on the ballot, this a city Council have to prove that? First step would be the rules committee meeting and they will be asked to ask the attorney to draft a measure than that proposed ballot measure will come back to the city Council. There is time to make it for the November ballot. I am speaking with Lori Weisberg . Thank you very much. Thank you.

Voters could be asked to decide this November whether to fund a waterfront expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, officials with Mayor Kevin Faulconer's office said Wednesday.

The plan, initially announced in the mayor's "State of the City" address, would raise San Diego's hotel room tax by up to 3 percent to raise the funds necessary to finance the project, now estimated to cost as much as $685 million. Excess funds would be dedicated to other road repair projects and homeless programs.

"Given the urgent need to address the homeless crisis and repair roads, as well as the economic benefits expanding the Convention Center will bring to San Diego, we believe putting this on a ballot as soon as possible is in the best interest of the city," Matt Awbrey, Faulconer's spokesman, said.


RELATED: San Diego Convention Center To Get Major Upgrade

Civic boosters have pushed an expansion of the center for years now because the largest trade shows are bypassing San Diego for cities with larger meeting facilities. Competing cities have also been trying to lure organizers of Comic-Con International, who contend they need a larger space for their annual celebration of the popular arts.

The so-called "contiguous" expansion plan at the waterfront site has already been approved by the City Council and California Coastal Commission, but has been held up by lawsuits. A January court ruling that favored the city gave Faulconer an opportunity to revive the project.

RELATED: Will Proposed Ballot Measure Really Keep Comic-Con In San Diego?

The hotel room tax is currently 10.5 percent, with an additional 2 percent fee that funds tourism promotions. The top rate for hotels closest to the Convention Center would become 15.5 percent under the plan.


Awbrey said a proposed ballot measure will go to the City Council's Rules Committee next month. The proposal would have to be placed on the ballot by the full council, which would also have to call and pay for a special election. Two-thirds of voters would have to approve the measure for it to pass because of the tax increase.

RELATED: ‘Soccer City’ Economic Impact Could Be Huge

A special election could also open the door for an earlier public decision on a plan backed by a group of investors to build a hybrid soccer-college football facility, along with commercial development and housing, at the Qualcomm Stadium site.

The group, which has applied for a Major Soccer League expansion franchise, is collecting petition signatures for its plan. If enough valid names are submitted, the City Council would have to either approve the project or place it before voters.