The City Council is scheduled to consider Monday whether to call a special election on Nov. 7 for San Diegans to vote on Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s plan to raise hotel room taxes to pay for expansion of the convention center, street repairs and homeless programs.
The decision will also impact another issue, the proposed “SoccerCity” redevelopment of Qualcomm Stadium, which is scheduled to come before the council a week later. That will also requires a public vote.
Faulconer included $5 million in funding for a special election in the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, but the money was redirected to other programs by City Council members who preferred to wait until the next regularly scheduled general election, in November 2018.
The mayor, accusing the council majority of “being squeezed by their political backers,” subsequently restored the funding, which he has the power to do. The City Council can consider overriding the mayor’s action this week, with six votes.
“I believe it would have been prudent to set aside the funding for a special election, and deliberate about the merits of a November special election at a future date,” said Councilman Chris Cate, a Faulconer ally. “That is why I support the mayor’s decision to use his veto power, and restore special election funding, so we may have a full discussion in the coming weeks.”
Faulconer wants his convention center plan to go before voters this year since construction costs are increasing and because most legal hurdles have been cleared.
The expansion plan was approved by the City Council six years ago, but the project has been tied up by court challenges since then.
The mayor revived the idea in his January “State of the City” address, proposing to raise San Diego’s hotel room tax to fund the construction project and create a funding stream for homelessness programs and fixing pothole-riddled streets.
San Diego tourism industry leaders contend that the largest trade shows are bypassing the city because the convention center no longer offers enough space. Other cities have for years been trying to lure San Diego’s biggest show, Comic-Con International, out of town.
The mayor’s office estimates that $10 million each would be raised for road repairs and homeless programs in the first year of the tax hike.
The SoccerCity plan by FS Investors of La Jolla calls for replacing Qualcomm Stadium with a smaller facility for professional soccer and college football, along with housing, offices, commercial space and parkland. It faces opposition from San Diego State University, which wants the land for expansion.
— From Staff and Wire Reports
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