The City Council on Monday voted down a plan to hold a special election in November, likely postponing Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s ballot initiative to expand the convention center by a year.
The action, on a 5-4 vote along party lines, will likely also push a ballot measure on redeveloping the Qualcomm Stadium property to next year.
The council had previously rejected funding for the election, but Faulconer used his veto power to restore the money. Then on Monday the council voted against holding an election, regardless of funding.
“There is nothing more democratic and fair than holding an election so voters can make their voices heard. But the City Council majority has made the irresponsible and politically-driven decision to deny a public vote,” said Faulconer. “Councilmembers who say they share the community’s priorities were given a chance to act, but they chose to do nothing.”
The ballot measure called for raising the tax on hotel guests to fund expansion of the convention center and provide money for road repairs and services to the homeless.
Mike McDowell, president and CEO of the San Diego Lodging Industry Association, said council members voting against the election “turned their backs on 184,000 San Diegans employed by the tourism industry, and 5,000 men, women and children living on our streets.”
City Council President Myrtle Cole committed that the council would discuss the tourism measure again in the fall.
At issue was the $5 million cost of the election at a time when funding was cut for other city programs. Opposition also came from backers of a voter-passed City Charter amendment that directs initiatives to general election ballots, and from organized labor.
Councilmembers also pointed to the fact that the leasehold for land the center would expand onto is no longer controlled by the city, though the mayor’s office expressed confidence that obstacle could be overcome.
“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.”
The second initiative, developer FS Investors’ plan for “SoccerCity” on the Qualcomm Stadium site, will be heard next Monday. The Council will have the option to adopt the initiative or take steps to place it on a future ballot.
The Public Land, Public Vote Coalition said postponing until 2018 public votes on plans for both the convention center and the Qualcomm site would ensure that the issues are decided by the largest number of voters.
“The voters have made it clear that they believe our most important decisions should be made when the most people vote,” the group said in a statement. “What could be more important than the future of the largest and most valuable piece of undeveloped publicly-owned property in the city? Additionally, a 2018 election on the FS Investors proposal would give the city time to move forward with an open and transparent process for soliciting competing proposals.”