By April Boling and Chris Cate
This open “memo” is addressed to San Diego taxpayers from the “No Downtown Stadium — Jobs and Streets First” coalition.
If voters approve the Chargers’ billion-dollar-plus stadium tax in November, San Diego taxpayers would pay for the new facility in a variety of ways.
Do not believe Dean Spanos, Mark Fabiani and their surrogates. The cost would NOT be borne solely by hotel guests. San Diego taxpayers would pay. The total amount is unknown, which is why Dean Spanos’ plan to raise our taxes by more than $1 billion is so risky.
In this open memo to taxpayers, the “No Downtown Stadium – Jobs and Streets First” coalition outlines several examples of costs San Diego taxpayers would incur. The following are in addition to the costs found in the Chargers $1.8 billion measure:
1) San Diego taxpayers would have to pay to replace Padres parking, as well as cover other infrastructure costs not included in the Chargers measure. The city’s lease agreement with the Padres includes approximately 1,000 parking spaces at Tailgate Park. The lease requires the city to pay to replace the parking should Tailgate Park be developed, and it would be if voters approve the Chargers tax measure.
Since the Chargers drafted this initiative without the city’s input, and collected signatures to place it on the ballot, the organization is not required to cover any mitigation costs dealing with infrastructure or traffic. These expenses would cost San Diego taxpayers tens of millions of dollars at a minimum.
“The claim that the city is on the hook if the Padres parking is lost is true,” Voice of San Diego’s Scott Lewis says in this new Fact Check on NBC. “The Chargers and the city would clearly like to solve the issue without turning to the city’s General Fund. Unfortunately, that’s not guaranteed.”
2) If hotel spending decreases for any reason, San Diego residents would be on the hook. There are many reasons tourism and hotel spending could decline, including lost conventions and an economic downturn. The city relies on hotel taxes to pay for a variety of services. If costs for the Chargers initiative end up exceeding hotel tax revenues, the city would be forced to make a choice: cut spending on street repairs and other services in order to make payments on the stadium bonds, raise taxes and fees on San Diego residents to balance the budget, or default on the stadium debt the city would incur under the Spanos tax measure.
The Chargers insist their proposed hotel tax increase would generate enough money to cover the public’s share of the project – roughly $1.1 billion or more than 60 percent of the total estimated cost – but that assumes visitors will spend a certain amount of money on hotel rooms.
Despite repeated requests, the Chargers have refused to share their assumptions so they can be independently verified. This is the same organization that left San Diego taxpayers on the hook for tens of millions of dollars due to the infamous ticket guarantee, and assured fans it was committed to San Diego while secretly putting together a stadium deal in Los Angeles with the Raiders.
The hotel tax is the third-largest source of revenue for the city. If tourism declines, so does the city’s revenue for street repairs, 911 dispatchers, after-school programs and other critical services. With Comic-Con and other large conventions lining up against the Chargers plan, the threat to our tourism economy, including jobs, is real.
It’s important to remember that the hotel tax is your money! We should not do anything that jeopardizes this valuable funding source, including raising it to pay for a stadium and an annex that Comic-Con and other large conventions are telling us not to build.
3) If approved, the tax measure on the November ballot would cut San Diego’s tourism marketing budget in half. Tourism marketing – our investment in attracting conventions and tourists – should not be sacrificed to pay for a stadium that brings the City little to no economic benefit.
We compete with other Western cities to bring large conventions and tourists to San Diego. These cities, including Las Vegas, spend tens of millions of dollars on marketing. We should not cut our investment in marketing while also increasing our hotel tax to one of the highest in the country, which is what Dean Spanos has proposed.
4) The proposed site is extremely valuable because it is one of the last pieces of developable land downtown, so using it for a stadium would eliminate millions of dollars of property taxes and thousands of permanent jobs. The 12-block site is capable of supporting 4 million square feet of private development plus park space. It should be used to continue the growth of East Village, to grow our local economy and create good-paying jobs within walking distance to condos, restaurants and mass transit. We should not sacrifice this type of smart growth and economic development in order to satisfy Chargers’ ownership.
To help protect neighborhood services and your tax dollars, as well as Comic-Con, tourism jobs and our local economy, please join our growing and diverse coalition. You can sign a petition, donate, help spread the word, and more at nodowntownstadium.com
Together, we can protect San Diego.
Boling is former board chair of the San Diego Convention Center and the city of San Diego’s Pension Reform Committee. Cate is a member of the San Diego City Council, representing District 6.
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