Mayor: City Council Must Act After Convention Center Initiative Fails to Qualify

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A crowd outside the San Diego Convention Center. Photo by Ken Stone

With a ballot initiative to expand the convention center failing to quality, Mayor Kevin Faulconer vowed Wednesday to seek City Council approval to bring the measure before voters.

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A random check of the campaign’s more than 114,000 signatures by the county Registrar of Voters fell short and full verification of at least 71,646 signatures is now required. However, there isn’t enough time to do that.

“San Diegans are demanding that action be taken to reduce homelessness, repair more roads and keep our economy growing,” Faulconer said in a statement. “While I am disappointed the citizens’ initiative to tackle these matters will not appear before voters this fall, I will not be deterred from making sure these urgent issues are addressed and will ask the City Council on Thursday to place a measure on the November ballot.”

A special meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday to consider the mayor’s request.

Although backers of the initiative submitted almost 60 percent more signatures than required, the random sampling indicated that the number of those signatures that were valid was between 95 percent and 110 percent of the number required. Full verification typically takes 30 days to complete, but the deadline for making the ballot is Friday according to the city’s official election schedule.

“Colossal failure,” tweeted City Councilman David Alvarez, who opposed the measure. “Just spoke to @SDCityClerk to verify convention center measure not gonna happen in November or maybe ever.”

“More than 100,000 San Diegans have spoken,” said Laura Fink, a spokeswoman for the ballot measure. “Our coalition of homeless advocates, business and labor will support every available option to immediately alleviate homelessness, create jobs and repair roads. San Diegans simply cannot afford to wait.”

The proposed initiative would raise the city’s 12.5 percent hotel tax, which is paid by guests, to 13.75 percent to 15.75 percent depending on the location of the hotel.

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The tax increase would generate $6.4 billion, including nearly $3.8 billion for the convention center, over a 42-year period. An estimated $147 million would have gone to homeless services and housing in the first five years and $604 million for road repairs.

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